I had a lucid dream last night

(Another 15 minute flash-fiction from my writing group. We got a sheet of prompts inspired by Mary Oliver; I put the ones I used in bold.)

I had a lucid dream last night—I’d been trying for a while. Mid-dream, I walked outside and saw the ground curve up vertically and then curve over me as if I were in a hollow cylinder, a la Rendezvous with Rama. I knew then that I was dreaming.

On the rare occasions I dream lucidly, I’m impressed with the fidelity of my surroundings. Awake I can’t imagine a tree so lifelike and present as while I’m asleep, when every leaf on the mountain is aflutter. 

Everyone around was made for me, but acts nonchalant as if they don’t want to clue me in. It just so happens that wherever I am, the world comes after me. It offers me its business.

When I realized I was dreaming, I saw the people walking with me as skilled actors. I saw them through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly. Oh lord, how shining and festive is your gift, the mind, if we only look and see it.

I am always trying to figure out what the soul is, and where hidden, and what shape. I decided to tell a dream-character—-my mother—that they didn’t exist because they were an actor in my dream, like a hand-puppet I controlled with one of my own hands which was itself asleep and numb.

Her eyes flared like matches. “You lie!” she shouted, and I woke up. Maybe I was close to discovering something.

I drank water and returned to sleep, and regained lucidity immediately. I ran to some dream-characters and said, “You don’t exist.”

They laughed. “Sure, sure.”

I took an online course about Buddhism where I learned of no-self, the idea that there is no self. When I told my mom she doesn’t exist, does that mean I also don’t exist? In dreams, the vessel of my ego is only one tendril of myself. My self includes the mountain of fluttery leaves and all the characters around me. My mothers shouts “You lie” because disowning the self is fighting every impulse of my literal being. But the other characters, who said “sure, sure,” are a more subtle distraction from no-self. “Maybe the self doesn’t exist, so what? Tomorrow you’ll need groceries. You body has desires from which a layman’s grasp of the nature of the mind cannot free you.”

Suddenly, as I drift awake, I live in the open-mindedness of not knowing enough about everything. My dream only shows me that I am not a human experiencing the universe, I am the universe experiencing a human, a human who sometimes has the opportunity to shed his sense of self by getting a glimpse behind the curtain. All that must be done, is done.

(I enjoy trying to use as many prompts as possible, but I think my own ideas shine through clearly. See you next time!)


The Painting

(I wrote this in fifteen minutes for a writing group. The prompt was “I doubt she’ll remember me.”)

“I doubt she’ll remember me,” said the painter. I asked what he meant as we walked through a throng of people into the museum. “I meant what I said. Look at all these people. Crowds come to admire her. I painted her, but I’m just one man among many.”

I wasn’t sold on the idea. “Paintings don’t remember anyone, let alone forget them later.”

“You don’t know her like I knew her.” The painter and I cut through crowds photographing exhibits with their cellphones. “When I painted her, she spoke. When I added lips, she told me why she was smiling. When I added eyes, she told me how she saw the world. And I responded by obliging, painting what she told me to make sure I got her just right.”

Finally we pushed our way to the painting. I resisted gasping; the sparkle in her eyes and the laugh on her lips made it feel like the portrait was meeting me for the first time. I was speechless for our introduction.

Soon the flow of people pushed us to the next exhibit. I asked the painter, “did she remember you?”

The painter nodded, tears in his eyes. “She greeted me like an old friend. She hasn’t aged a day.” Before leaving the museum, we wandered through the gift-shop. I bought a poster of the painting, but the painter scoffed when I showed him. “That’s not the way I remember her,” they argued. “A soulless copy just can’t cut it.”

I hung the poster in my apartment anyway, but now I understand the painter’s point. The poster greets me every morning as if for the first time, and it’s hardly a conversationalist.

(We often think artists produce art exactly as planned, but more often, I think, art in the making directs the artist toward its completion. Have you ever started a project, then realized your initial plan couldn’t be completed because the project demanded something else?)