There is an old tin filled with watches that he shows me – each unique – each linked to a time in his life as he recounts a story. He may not realize, but he speaks with a wistful smile.
There is a key on a small wire with a thin blue ribbon threaded through it – found beneath a stack of papers while cleaning off a dresser. It fits none of the locks in my house, and sits on a table in expectation of recognition – or disposal.
There are phone calls to accomplish a simple task which has oddly become next to impossible. I am placed into a queue then disconnected, or transferred to a nameless voice mail where I leave a message that is never returned.
Oh, there’s nothing unusual in any of this. You call back, you wait again, you hope to connect to someone who can assist, without being referred to another business unit, another extension, another tangled process that leads down a pointless path, gobbling up time and depositing you nowhere.
These past weeks, the days and nights have scurried or dragged or both. I feel as though I’m alternately advancing through an obstacle course triumphantly, or groping along a low-walled labyrinth.
In the maze, I can see where I am, but I cannot see a start or a finish. This seems to be nothing more than the contemporary machinery of scheduling, logistics, overcrowded timetables, and the routines – or non-routines – of an all too common daily juggle.
My dreaming reflects the rhythm of my days as if featuring a nightly series of companion plots: I star in suspenseful episodes for the few hours I actually sleep, and temporary tales dissipate quickly on waking. Still, they leave a residue of stairs to face, doorways to cross, light switches I struggle to reach, keys that don’t fit their locks, and a sense of time – escaping.
Symbols, Steps, No Stops
This morning, I pulled myself from another such scene. I repeatedly scaled the same stairway (in the dark), searched blindly for a lost object (on hands and knees), and was keenly aware of handling thick layers of scattered papers and cotton batting, only to determine that other options would be required.
I was eventually able to find a light, observing my surroundings as something attic-like, and I descended a stairway into a small store reminiscent of an old five and ten. There, I purchased a combination lock with some sort of key in addition to its series of tumblers marked by single digits.
Then I climbed up a back staircase to a small apartment which was apparently mine. It had been left locked or unlocked – I’m uncertain which – but that was part of the night’s dilemma.
Steps, and more steps. Not quite being able to make out where I am. Always additional climbing to be done, and no opportunity to stop or sit.
As for other dreams in the past week?
They include fragments of temporary housing in foreign countries, storage units that need to be organized, spaces where people mill in and out – friendly enough – but all of them, strangers.
There has been nothing ominous in any of these nightly passages – only the impression that each task is followed by another without respite, weariness accumulating, and a steady stream of new names to learn that has taken place among stairways and corridors.
And there are locks, doors, and timepieces.
I am always impressed when dreaming delivers its insights to inform daily living. But in these most recent instances, no answers are offered. Instead, this mirror of my waking activity: logistical juggling, technology problem solving, and on certain days – going up and down stairs and through hallways in a client’s building.
Yet I wake again with the sensation of having engaged in physical labor and mental gymnastics. What possible purpose could this serve?
Surely I’m not alone in this odd parallel mode of dreaming.
I set aside my musing (and my annoyance), pluck my only working watch from a white porcelain dish which holds three others – each unique, and each with a story that makes me wistful.
I open my two laptops side-by-side, knowing already it will be a two laptop day.
I open my appointment book and note the critical items.
I check my cell. I check my lists.
And I glance again at the kitchen table. There, a small key sits, and I wonder how long before I divine its secrets.