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10:36 a.m. - Sunday, Sept. 07, 2003
\"Escaping Reality?\" You Bet I Am!
A memory from sixth grade: a question-and-answer session at the end of an anti-drug lecture. One of the students raises his hand and asks: "Aren't people who take dope just exscaping [sic] reality?"

As if there were something intrinsically wrong with escaping reality.

I mention this because Saturday morning I awoke from a dream of great peace ... no, it was from another avatar of my recurring dream, the one where I discover that my house, or the house I'm contemplating buying/renting, is much, MUCH bigger than I thought it was.

In this dream, it was my grandmother's house in that small town in Missouri. I was thinking of buying it so I could quit my job, go live there and write. That in itself would be paradise. But in looking over the house, I kept discovering rooms that I hadn't known about. In reality, O Lord Our God Reality, the house was tiny, with curtains instead of actual doors on the bedrooms; only one floor; no attic; a cellar, which I saw only once, that you entered by opening the slanted doors in the ground beside the house and walking down into the very earth itself -- earthen floor, earthen walls with shelves anchored in them.

Tiny, barren and desperately poor. God knows if that house is still standing.

But in my dream, it was increasingly large, with a full second floor, a full basement, and what is more: full of people. My grandmother was there -- she's been dead thirty years -- and so was my mother -- dead sixteen years. Two little girls, some sort of distant cousins, were playing upstairs. Other people to whom I really wasn't paying much attention.

Even odder: my grandmother was nice. In reality, I have very little memory of her -- principally, my only memory of her is of her scolding me because I rinsed out a glass that had had milk in it before using it to take a drink of water. She begrudged me the water I had used to rinse it. "I have to pay for that, you know," she said.

But in the dream, she was asking me if I remembered how she used to prepare a certain dish for me. I didn't, actually, but I played along, praying that if she decided to prepare it again for old times' sake, it wouldn't turn out to be something unspeakable, like pickled livers.

She showed me some kind of trophy that an uncle of mine had won in school, dated 1896 (chronologically impossible), and I looked at it, fascinated, as I am by any relic of that side of the family, since they're all dead now except one aunt and my father. The trophy was oddly modern-artish for 1896, which I found all the more interesting.

My grandmother also showed me something from her own school days, dated 1882, and I found it odd to image her a little girl in school. I've never even seen a picture of her in which she wasn't an old woman.

The house, proving to be much larger than I thought, and richly furnished with antiques (too richly; I was thinking I'd had to sell off some of the stuff); the adequate yard (since I wanted a tomato garden); the benign presence of relatives who were, surprisingly, neither nasty nor dead -- all of these made up a reality that heaven would find it difficult to compete with.

And then I woke, to real reality. To my own tiny house, which will never surprise me. To my job, which I can't quit. To a long list of dead relatives. To my own constitutional inability to tolerate the physical presence of other human beings.

Tell me again, what is so f*cking great about reality?

 

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