Monday, May 28, 2012

Into a Memory

I'm finished school. For now, anyway.
Grad school will happen in a year or so, but until then... well. We'll see. :)

With all this spare time I have now (it's actually not that much, but I'm no more busier than I was before), I've been having such long dreams again. They never really went anywhere, because I'd been dreaming more frequently nearer to the end of the school year....but I missed them. I'm not sure if you know what I mean.
I think I just missed the feelings that come with dreams so strongly, sometimes.

There was one dream in particular, a couple of weeks ago, in which I found myself in my old house. It was as if it was present day - I was back from school for the weekend, so I didn't bring any clothes with me. I would just use whatever clothes I left at home.

I went up to my bedroom and opened the closet. There were all my clothes from when I was younger. 11 or 12 years old. A shirt I'd never thought about since it was either given to cousins or donated to some charity hung on a plastic hanger. I touched it, and it still felt as smooth as the last time I wore it. It was one of my favorite shirts; I liked the way it made my arms look. I'd forgotten about that.
There was a faint scent of moth balls coming from somewhere on the shelf above, now closer to my head than when I was child. A Halloween costume of a magician's assistant was in the same place I always kept it. I forgot about it at one point, growing up. But by the time I remembered it again, I was too big for it. I never wore that costume. Yet there it was in the back.
Even my old shoes.
Waiting for me.

Now that I think about it, I again can't remember what some of those clothes looked like. But when I opened that closet and saw all of that, there was no inkling of a doubt that I was looking at my old wardrobe. I became so aware of myself that I knew I was dreaming.
And so I explored that memory. It's as if I was sucked into a picture. Where would the boundary end? How far could I go into the closet before everything got blurry?
Sure enough, the closer I moved to my sister's side of the closet, the less often I found items that meant something to me. I could feel myself falling back into the dream as a passive dreamer. But if I stayed in my area, I could change that closet as much as I wanted to and I felt no weight of the dream. Nothing was in danger of being completely changed when I moved things around. Every item of mine was so thoroughly defined in color, texture, fabric, wear and tear...simply from memory. In fact, the longer I stayed there and moved my clothes around, the more surely I felt the carpet beneath my feet and smelled food cooking downstairs and even felt the warmth of the window sunlight falling on my leg.
I felt like I was in my house.
And I felt so out of I was invading someone else's mind. Breathing someone else's air.
In dreams, as I'm sure many of you have experienced, words might not actually be spoken or thought. Language doesn't work the same when you don't have to physically speak to communicate.
So I didn't actually think any of this word-for-word. But I suppose it went through my mind in a blink of an eye somewhat like this:
This isn't me. This is who I was. I don't know if I've changed or by how much, but I would rather not find out so bluntly from my own younger self. Please don't walk into the room. If I'm different, let it come as news from someone else who's also grown up and changed. Not you. Not me. 
Luckily, I woke up in bed right as I felt her presence growing stronger in the hall, accidentally summoned by my own thoughts. Scared awake.

One of my good friends from when I was that age (and who did grow up and change, as we all do) gave me a present the other day: a book about the psychology involved in architecture.

So attentive are our eyes and our brains that the tiniest detail can unleash memories. The swollen-bellied 'B' or open-jawed 'G' of an Art Deco font is enough to inspire reveries of short-haired women with melon hats and posters advertising holidays in Palm Beach and Le Touquet.
Just as childhood can be released from the odour of a washing powder or cup of tea, an entire culture can spring from the angles of a few lines  
- Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness 
 (yes, it is the book from "500 Days of Summer" if you've seen it) 
I'm not sure if I like dreaming of memories. Even still-frames like how that dream felt. That makes me feel even more trapped, because there's really nowhere to go.

And I know there's nothing to be afraid of in being told that I've changed. Of course I've changed; I like to tell myself they're for the better. I guess I just don't want to meet my younger self and find out that I'm a disappointing adult. If I forgot that I remembered those clothes and shoes, imagine what I could remember of my own self that I'd forgotten. Where did I think I would be in 10 years, and have I reached it? We like to think of the past as if it was awesome -- and it was. But then there are things that happened. We didn't just play around as kids until the sun set, scuffing our knees and yelling. We observed things. We learned. And we thought - a lot. We had our own opinions of things, whether or not we shared them with others.
If I spoke with her and she seemed to have a mind of her own (a thorough definition such as my shirts), she could speak for herself without a problem. I could move her around and she wouldn't change her mind. I could ask her questions and she would answer. But I didn't know what she would say. I might get stumped. Then what?
The memory of a person, even if it's subdued, makes that person......real, in a dream. And possibly unpredictable. That's what I realized as I went through my memory closet.

That's what terrified me.

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