The night before, I read her blog post about two red dresses at the Oscars. One was a simple and elegant cut with inlaid floral stitching at the top. The other was like silk bunched up with your fists and dipped in boiling tar then left to dry. ML described it saying the woman wearing dress number two appeared to have just risen from laying driveway tar and wasn't that dried tar down her dress? "This other babe - I'm not exactly sure who she is and I'm not sure I want to..." After reading her descriptions, I remembered that ML's husband, Gale had spent a summer laying tar. It was not a move he made to follow his bliss or fulfill the call of his soul. It was to pay the bills and put food on their table. It was to fill the gap.
Last night I was standing in the spot where my childhood kitchen once was. It wasn't the same house but its location was set in that exact spot. I looked out at the dark and aged wood house across the street - one whose bushes I accidentally backed into when I was seven and sitting in the driver seat. I released the brake and back we went up over the curb and into the bushes. If you look out of the window where I stood in the dream, you can see that house and if you stand facing it on the sidewalk where those bushes once were, you can turn to the right and walk a few paces, then veer left into a cul-de-sac. Our friends, the Roses live a couple of houses in and somehow, in the dream, I had stored important belongings in the basement of their house. I hadn't seen the Roses in years - I'm talking real-life here - until their faces suddenly appeared at Mike's funeral not so many days ago. In the dream something important to me was stashed in their basement and I watched from a window where my childhood kitchen once stood.
For a moment as I watched, there was a pocket of silence in the world. It ended with a sonic boom from outside the window and far above to the right of me. Smoke and dust and then a large chunk of some nondescript object bigger than a boulder came crashing to the ground. It smashed into the Roses' house and obliterated it. After a beat in the dream, I was standing where their driveway once was. I could see the object was the front of an airplane fuselage cut off at the nose. There were four elaborate, throne-like seats as cushioned as living room recliners and all four crunched together like a deranged rubik's cube: the seats in first class. Strapped to them were the skeletons of dead men. Their skins wrapped tight and shrunken and black like tar or the crust of petrified trees to their bones. Gnarled wiry twigs of scorched and entombed hair stabbed here and there in crooked twists from their skulls. Dead. As dead as anything I've ever seen. And all those precious goods I'd stored here in this spot were ashes and burning and turning quickly to stone. Dead.
After that I was with other people. Friends, but faces I don't remember now. We were bunkered in some kind of basement tenement beneath a parking garage in what might as well have been New York City. The garage had one of those winding driveways up to the surface. Some welfare-type officials were going door to door handing out small wads of cash. At one point I was visiting a government office. The official who, was surprisingly kind and efficient informed me or maybe I just gleaned it from conversations happening around me, that there was something big happening all over the country. A shadowy force had risen to empty everyone's bank accounts. The official showed me a ledger demonstrating that every person from sea to shining sea had been left with exactly one penny in the bank. This force was crashing planes and destroying houses, leaving forests of ash and upheaval.
Then I was back in the tenement being handed what amounted to twelve dollars. I knew I needed to find an ATM and check my own account and some inkling told me that because I had switched from Chase to my Utah credit union, things would be okay. (Don't ask. It was a dream.) Sure enough, when I finally hiked up the winding drive and made my way to a somewhat ransacked Duane Reade across the street, my balance showed up on the screen and told me I had a few thousand dollars. Not enough to buy a grand hotel. But enough to live and to help a few others get where they needed to go.
I woke up. I looked up at the morning light peaking through the blinds and said to the universe, "I have a little time before this happens, right?" It was a calm voice. And more awake than usual for me so early in the morning.
I got up and took the train downtown to visit with my therapist, Lee. ML referred me to him years ago and he knows me better than most people on this earth. I told him my dream and many other ditties circling around my grief and my anger and confusion from the past several months. Of leaving New York and quite literally weeping the entire plane-ride to Salt Lake City. Knowing the road I was on was unknown territory. Lee and I have already talked a bit about LA and of B. And of staying with my sister and the boys and with Mike as he wound his way into the dark.
Some of what I've taken away from all this is the meaninglessness of almost everything. Yeah yeah yeah, here's the "I've learned something today" part of my post. (Actually, I'm still reeling from it all and fumbling around like I'm playing dot-to-dot and my writing muscles are as flabby as - well - they're feeling wimpy and out-of-shape, so If what I say sounds maudlin or sappy, too bad. Live with it. You'll have to meet me part of the way with your own bloody imagination.) I am tempted to be comfortable with a few dollars and to freeze the rest of my day in numbness. To remain silent and to express none of what my soul tells me to but so many others say is worthless crap; or worse, a burden to fragile souls. Do not paint your way through this, these voices say. Do not laugh or run around wild or even write this silly pile of words. Paying the bills matters. Yes. Making money matters. Yes. In the great scheme of things: they are utterly utterly meaningless. God does not trade in money. (God does know how to earn money though, trust me. Among other occupations, thus far I have witnessed God playing the keyboard on broadway and transcribing music, booking travel for people, writing books and teaching several languages including French, English, Dutch, and German; painting and taking pictures. Playing entrepreneur. I'm sure there will be more...) What I'm saying is that ultimately God trades in the expansion of the soul. In joy. In charity. This is the currency of a benevolent universe. The rest: skeletons once beautiful and once beautiful to behold and that once filled the gap, wrapped now in the petrified skin of what once was and is no more. Dust. Dead. Dead Dead Dead.
Like I said, I 'blame' ML for this with her damned tale of One Dress Two Dress.
And Birdman. I just finished watching it. I blame his look at the window and the texture of his skin just before the last frame of the film. The blood and risk of creating. Of running through Times Square in your underwear. The risk of leading your own life. And the risk of who you let in it. Of who stays and who does not.
To both Birdman and ML I say, “Thank you.” And also, “That schnitt was clucked up and scary. IS clucked up and scary.”
Oh yes, the Fiat... There was an old crow at the fiat dealership today. "Prophet birds, Boy." It reminded me of LA. I saw an inordinate number of crows flapping around and squawking from my October rooftop there. And I chatted with B of wanting to take up bird watching so I can hear the call of several kinds of birds and form their shape in my mind by the sound they make. "When I finally do go blind altogether from this stupid eye disease, I'll still be able to see them." He thought that was sweet. It's possible he gagged a little too but hey, my peripheral vision sucks so who can say...
In my therapy session today, I also recalled to Lee that I had stood in a New York subway car with Richard Bushman not long ago and rambled on about how it was becoming clear to me that if we actually believe the theology we claim to and in the universe we claim to, we cannot but choose to invent our own distinctive religious voices and paths. Each one of us. Everyone. Everyone else is a counselor large and small. Terrible and great. Wise and befuddled. Beautiful and wonderfully hideous. The last choice has to be ours. And the moves. His reply: "Well yeah."