How does this work?

Among things that I was not thinking about last night when I went to bed were out-of-state weddings other people I know have attended and ineffective raingear I have owned. Instead, I was thinking about procrastination and Rome (Geoff Dyer book I was reading), the effects of slow, loud guitar played backwards over ethereal vocals (the Sigur Ros album to which I was listening), the reason my stomach was growling (a martini, a bowl of edamame and a dish of chocolate pudding does not a satisfying dinner make, though I had been very satisfied by putting the pudding into a verified 1950s pudding dish my mother gave me) and how I really should get out of bed and write down the line that had just come to me, since like a one-night stand, there is no guarantee that a line will be there in the morning. But apparently at some other level of my being I was thinking about out-of-state weddings other people have attended, because that is what I dreamt of all night long.

I have many plane tickets jammed into the pocket of the completely-not-waterproof Gore-Tex rain jacket I gave up wearing years ago. Just as they always did in real life, the little notches on the left-hand edges of the plane tickets get stuck on the edges of the pockets. The tickets are for a complicated flight pattern from New York to North Carolina to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am to fly to these places to attend weddings. At the airport on the first leg of my trip, I wait by the baggage claim for a while until I realize I have not checked any baggage. I am annoyed. What a waste of time! But I do have a backpack that I brought as carry-on luggage, which I take over to an unused baggage conveyer and completely unpack. I become absorbed in many projects having to do with the stuff in my backpack, and suddenly I realize I’m not in North Carolina, but only in Washington, D.C., waiting for a connecting flight. The flight is in ten minutes and I can’t pack my backpack in time. I am not going to make it to North Carolina or to Milwaukee after that, but suddenly I realize I don’t even know who is getting married in those places, anyway.

I woke up with the sinking feeling of having wasted a lot of money on unused plane tickets to North Carolina and Milwaukee. And then I remembered–it was not me, but my friend Megan who went to weddings in North Carolina and Wisconsin, last year, or the year before. I was familiar with this knowledge only in the vaguest of terms–“Haven’t seen you for a while, Meegs!” “Oh, Luke and I were at a wedding in Wisconsin.” So why is my subconscious mind using these details, seemingly meaningless in my own life, to project experiences into my conscious mind while I sleep? Why am I not flying or winning Olympic gold in the uneven parallel bars or replacing Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider? Why am I getting stuck in the airport on my way to Milwaukee?

I know the theories on this matter. There is some deeper, hidden meaning in these seemingly meaningless details. Some meaning that I only I and perhaps Sigmund Freud could discern, about anxiety, lateness, time, out-of-state weddings. Except I do not readily discern these meanings. I don’t understand, and what I don’t understand is a product of my own mind. How are we meant to understand anything anyone else says or does if we don’t even understand ourselves? How does it really work in there? How is it that information we never dwell upon is floating around somewhere, accessible to the subconscious mind? How can it be that the concerns of the subconscious are so radically different than our own? Does the subconscious choose what it chooses for a reason or is it random? Is it that much smarter than we are? Is it that separate? Is it for us or against us?

I’ve had many dreams that are no-brainers. People I admire beckon me into boats and empty bathtubs. People who broke my heart lead me up mountains and abandon me there. The old, literally textbook teeth-falling-out and naked-in-homeroom nightmares. Trying to drive a car from the backseat (recurring), tunneling under a barbed-wire fence, digging my brother and I out of a concentration camp. My parents are senators and I am a young Congresswoman and I give a speech that leads to the impeachment of Bush, except Congress meets at my grandparents’ country house. I hail a cab in London and the driver is the waitress at the sushi restaurant we frequented in high school, and all the waitresses at the restaurant are part of a an international narcotic sting operation and have set me up in a coke deal, etc., etc., etc.–but it’s the ones in which the mundane details I didn’t even know I knew about other people’s lives become mundane details of my own life that confuse me sometimes. What does it all mean? What’s going on in there?

Time for my coffee, scourer of the subconscious. Coffee exists so we can forget our dreams and live in the now. For some of us, that’s a relief. For others, it’s just as bizarre.

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