6 Unburned Pieces of The Mind
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My Pygmalion Dreams

During the night, I am given to some rather strange dreams, almost all of which have to do with women. Someone once told me I should write these dreams down. But I usually don’t unless it is truly out of the ordinary. Many years back, I bought a book on how to interpret dreams. I gave up on trying to interpret mine. I found I could no more interpret my dreams than I could my life. But at least with dreams I don’t concern myself whether I make sense of them or not. I categorize them as either amusing or weird. Sometimes I reflect on them, sometimes I don’t. But the dreams I have of women have a special category all their own. I refer to them as my Pygmalion dreams.

Last night was a good example. In my dream, I was sitting on my couch listening to Linda Ronstadt’s “Blue Bayou” when someone knocked on my door. When I got up and answered it, I found myself looking at a young woman in her mid-twenties, though no one I knew or recognized. “I was on my way to pick up a pizza at Jack’s when my car broke down. Could I borrow yours?” she asked. “I’ll bring it right back.”

“Sure,” I said. I handed her the keys, which strangely enough just happened to be in my hand. She never came back. Me? I woke up in a panic. Realizing that it was still dark, and seeing I was still in bed, I felt relieved that I hadn’t actually been so obliging. I felt even better when I went to leave for work this morning and saw that my car was still parked where I had left it. Yet even still, there was something about this dream, something oddly unnerving that put me in a real conundrum of sorts as I drove to work.

An even stranger dream was one I had many years ago. I was out walking on a beach when I came upon a naked woman lying on the sand. I never had such an experience like that, and as usual in these kinds of dreams, I felt a sense of panic. I didn’t know what to do. She didn’t seem startled by my presence and looked up at me. I wasn’t sure if I should turn around and walk back the way I came, or just keep on walking by, trying as best as I could to ignore her. But I couldn’t help staring at her. Pure white, radiant, adorned in jewelry, with long flowing brown hair, I found myself trying to figure out how I could possibly introduce myself. “Ah, I was just out for a walk, and I couldn’t help noticing . . .” No, no, too apparent. “Oh, hello. I just happened to parachute from a plane and wouldn’t you know it . . .” But as more often than not with dreams the subject ends up changing long before a solution is ever found, and so when I decided I would just walk right up to her and introduce myself, the scenery had changed and she was gone.

In these dreams, the women who appear are usually in their mid-twenties, early thirties. Usually there seems to be a peculiar familiarity with how they manifest themselves. The woman who shows up at my door and asks to borrow my car, the woman who appears naked on the beach, innocuous and beguiling. Yet nothing ever comes of them, just snippets of unanswered questions, I suppose, of why I failed in my relationships and marriage. With the women who I encounter in my dreams, I find I am completely trusting and accepting. Entirely relaxed with who I am, I don’t find any request odd or unusual. Yet in my day-to-day life, I don’t think I have been as trusting as I thought myself to be. Most times, I would find myself weary or guarded in my relationships, and in my marriage, I struggled with balancing my priorities with the demands made on me by work, my ex-wife, and our two children. What I didn’t realize then is that relationships—work, school, friends, marriage, and children—need to be attended to every day. It’s as if these dreams, these women who appear to me, serve only to give me shades of feelings or intentions that I had been oblivious to, or have not yet come to fully understand.

Perhaps it is because when it comes to love, I have shown myself to be a total idiot, a fool of fools. I am a hopeless romantic, and have been quite skilled in making the smallest infatuation into the love story of my life. Relationships have always been such an enigma to me. I grasp the ideal of being in love, but the reality of actually being in love, and being able to grow in love, I have found to be an unsustainable, illusive tendency. Feelings are hurt, accusations of being inattentive or playing games are made, and then when all is said and done, two people sit across from each other at the table over dinner one night, wondering how they got in such a mess with something that at one time seemed so full of promise and hope. Such as it was with my ex-wife and I. Fortunately we have come to a quiet understanding over the years while our son and daughter grew up. At first, it was an uneasy, awkward friendship maintained more out of civility toward the children rather than out of any mutual feelings of likeability toward each other. Because of the children, though, we stayed in contact and found a way to discuss the larger issues of parenting without being oppositional toward each other. But that was it.

However, since coming back from California after I went out to attend my daughter’s high school graduation, it seems both my ex wife and I have found a way to let go of the hurt. After arriving in Arroyo Grande, I called to let her know I made it in okay. She surprised me by inviting me over for a cup of coffee. I was reluctant at first, and wasn’t sure how I would feel meeting her husband. But I went and soon after being introduced to him, any feelings of awkwardness were short lived. Our daughter’s now attending college and our son is in Army boot camp. My ex and I email each other to share any recent news we’ve had in regard to our young adult children. The tone? Not reserved but cordial.

As I wrap up this day, it occurs to me that maybe the dream I had about loaning out the car wasn’t so crazy after all. I let her have the keys without question or hesitation. And as it turned out, I didn’t have anything to worry about afterall, because in the morning, my car was still there. It would seem, then, that in the absence of questioning and hesitation, of creating expectations, I am beginning to find a quiet acceptance of others, and myself, and that is all that really matters.

By S. L. Cunningham