Dream friends

Twice lately, in my dreams, I created friends who I knew would disappear when I awakened. Each time, I held them tightly and said, “You are real here, but when I wake up, it will be to a world in which you have no reality. There will be no house in which I can visit you; there will be no grave to mark a life that used to be; and there will be no one else on the whole earth who has any memory of you.” The thought that they were imaginary wrecked me because where can a better friend be found than in one’s dreams? For their part, they accepted their fate, telling me that they could not leave me because they came from me, and were me.

I knew this was true, but I wanted more. I wanted to see and touch and hold them, and the wrinkled face that met me in the bathroom mirror did not remind me either of myself or of them. The dream was the reality, and the face was the alien. Or so I wished it to be. In reality, I knew that the face was a constant (or at least as constant as anything in my life), and that the dream creatures were so ephemeral that I could not even count upon seeing the same one twice.

My last dream friend was a blind man. The previous day, I had consoled myself about my knee problem with the thought that things could be worse—I could be blind. That night, in my dream, a blind man took me by the hand and led me through many dangers. He could do this because he saw by wisdom while I only had physical eyes.

Oh, but I look so old when I get up! The face that first greets me looks ten years older than my normal face, which means that it will my normal face ten years from now. The years roll on despite my protest and disbelief. Only yesterday, I was a boy. Now that boy is like a recently remembered dream person who I can almost reach out and touch, but not quite because we are separated by realms rather than miles. It’s as though he exists in an overlapping universe that I can only see from the corner of my eye. When I was that boy, old people said life would be this way, but no boy would have believed them. If an old man appears wise, it might be because that is the only respectable role left to him; so it is to wisdom I aspire.