Teebs posted about dreams the other day and it got me to thinking about my own. I think I've previously written in this space about the way I dream at night. Unlike Mr. Half, I don't dream about accomplishments or abilities. I'm unable to summon the kind of fanciful attitude--even when unconscious-- that allows me to achieve greatness. In my dream life I never become a leader or a famous person. I can't seem to remember that, because it's a dream, I can do the impossible. I don't take control of any situation. Ever. I'm incapable of flying.
The dreams I remember usually find me at the mercy of forces that move me like a chess piece around the board of life. In them I'm usually trying to extricate myself from a situation involving a bad choice or mistakes that cost me indepenence and that threaten my safety and that of those I love. Fear and regret are constant themes and the nightmares which don't feature me running from danger or dogged by authority figures that would tie me down and limit my physical, emotional or intellectual movement are few and far between.
I never dream about my childhood or early adolescence. I don't dream about high school. I'm like a person who has experienced a traumatic head injury and my memory will only go back just so far. My sophomore year of college is where it starts...maybe because I probably didn't start thinking for myself until then. It's the year I made friends with guys from a particular dorm...one of whom would end up being my husband.
My one consistent dream theme is this place: J.C. Hotard "Hilton" Hall on the campus of Texas A&M University. It mostly involves a scenario wherein I've forgotten to Q-drop a particularly challenging or boring class and I've just stopped attending class at all. (I used to dream that I'd forgotten to check my mail for so long that I could no longer remember the mailbox combination, but that's another post) It's a few weeks before the final and I need to find the professor and beg for clemency...either that or begin a cramming session of such spectacular proportion that food and sleep become minor annoyances, rather than necessities. But every dream that involves college finds me walking/driving/running/biking in a northward direction to the Hilton.
"The Hilton" was a guy's dorm. Built in 1923 it originally housed men and women who worked in the Food Services department for the university. It didn't become Dorm 13 until the 1950s and it didn't get air-conditioning until 1981. It was the cheapest dorm on campus and, esthetically speaking, it was the crummiest. Still, it was surrounded by two grassy lawns and trees. It had those cool windows that cranked open and outward. On Spring evenings you could turn up the stereo, prop your feet up on the sill, drink a cold beer and feel the breeze on your feet. The Hilton was also conveniently located a stone's throw from The Dixie Chicken.
It was rarely silent there. Sound traveled down the uncarpeted first floor and up the concrete stairwells. Guys shouting or laughing or singing...badly. One guy in a first floor corner room played the soundtrack to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" almost constantly. The sounds of people watching "M*A*S*H" in the tv rooms or that of someone bouncing a basketball. People playing volleyball in the yard or grilling burgers outside the RA's room.
Christmas featured fir trees hung upside down from the ceiling in hall windows and decorated with lights and women's underwear. Bong water ritually dumped out of the windows produced spectacular results of a horticultural nature. When the men of Hotard conducted a panty raid, they made sure to call on a couple of southside men's dorms which harbored a good portion of the campus' "frat rats", a fact that allowed them to pretend-- with wicked antagonism--that these guys were panty-wearers as well. And when the yearbook called for each residence hall to name a sweetheart, the Hilton's residents decided one particular year on the dorm's housekeeper, Louise.
Mr. Half's room sported charcoal sketches on the cinderblock wall. Steely Dan's "Bodhisattva" blared from the speakers. The first time I ate venison was in a stew he made for me on a hotplate in his room. Don't ask me how. In these dreams I'm trying to get back to a place where the lights are always blazing...even at night. Where you could always find a friend and a bit of interesting conversation. A place where the curfew rules were lax and women were always welcome. Some of my best studying was done there. The guys who lived there back in my day are, of course, long gone. They're scientists and engineers and university professors. And one just left a position at the Pentagon. Regardless of political affiliation or socio-economic status, they would all tell you that there was literally "no place like the Hilton". In fact, when the circa-1923 doors were replaced with new ones, one former resident kept his. It now functions as the door to one of the bathrooms in his home. Mr. Half rescued the plastic number #109 from the door of his freshman year room.
I can't tell you why the source of my best dreams center on a place I never lived. What does it mean when I say I've thrown away my own dorm shirts but that I own two vintage Hotard Shirts and bought a third one that says "Save Hotard" when the university threatened to turn it into office space? It's a threat which became a reality last year. Perhaps it's because Hotard was a place where I began to get the impression that maybe...just maybe.. guys had a better shot at a bigger life than girls did. More freedom. More latitude to experiment and make mistakes and perhaps I'm thinking that getting back to Hotard will allow me to grab some of that freedom for myself.
Maybe--in those dreams--I'm just trying to get back to the beginning. Maybe I want to see the way we used to be...Mr. Half and me...untouched by worries of kids, paying for college, overwork or getting older. Maybe in one dream I'll change my major before it's too late and become something that actually makes me happy. Maybe I'll learn to be brave or original or daring. Or maybe I'm just looking for a young, long-haired guy with a red beard and an earring ambling towards me with his hand outstretched. When that happens, it'll be the best dream of all.
Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud...
Where do you go most often in your dreams?