1500 ladybirds arrived on my doorstep, a gift. There were so many spots and wings and tiny legs. I waited for the chaos of their exit-but they barely stirred-- only a low cooing and the restling of grey silk feathers. I decided they were waiting for directions so I pointed to a tall oak in my front yard and they flew as one into the tallest branches, then became silent once more.

Then a breeze came up and a song settled down from the branches-lilting like a flute but with a lower tone. If I closed my eyes I could almost hear a woman's voice reciting lines from a children's poem I knew when I was little. Almost, but not quite.

When I woke I looked outside and the trees were all winter bare. I called a friend and asked if she had a nice birthday.

Yes, I got a songbird, it's beautiful.

I had a set of three dreams last night.

Wyoming

I was travelling through Wyoming with some friends. Along the way, I was comparing all the mountains to determine which one I thought was the coolest. Coolness was a function of how much it stood by itself, how tall it was, and how snow-covered it was. Eventually, we got to a hotel for the night. We checked in and then drove around looking for a restaurant.

When we got to the restaurant, we started to play a game. I don't remember much about it except that it involved building tall towers out of blocks. I wasn't happy with how the game was going so I got up and left to do something else. When I got back to the table, everyone had gone. I decided that I would just walk back to the hotel, except that it was now raining and I could barely remember the way.

I started out by walking, but the rain was really coming down so I was able to float. I went down roads and across rivers and along railroad tracks. I was lost. Eventually, I came to a sign that said "Welcome to West Virginia!" This wasn't where I wanted to be, so I freaked out and turned around. I don't know how I made it back to the hotel but I did and told everyone about how I had gone to West Virginia.

Stairs

Ted, Nikki, Logan, and I were all at some sort of daycare center or elementary school. We had some questions that needed answering. After we got our questions answered, we needed to leave and go do something else. (This part of the dream is pretty fuzzy at this point.) So we got to the exit, only to find that it was a gigantic staircase down to the road. Even worse, the staircase was made out of stacking circular shapes on top of each other so that they overlapped. The amount of space on each step was very small. Even worse, though, was that each step had lots of pots on it with cacti in them.

As we descended the steps, we were careful not to step on or knock over the pots. Regardless, a lot fell off and there was a fair amount of getting stuck by needles. I started off by going one step at a time but later, I would jump from one step to another one much farther down. On one jump, I landed in a really big pot. It seemed that no matter how many steps we climbed down, we never got any closer to the bottom. Also, Logan couldn't stop singing "Brown Eyed Girl".

Movies

I was in a movie theater with some friends watching a movie about the Cold War. It was composed of several individual parts which I assumed would all somehow come together at the end. The movie was done documentary style, with narration done by a real-life Atlanta news reporter.

The first chunk of the movie involved a bus travelling down a highway in what was assumed to be the Soviet Union. However, there were lots of English-speaking people on the bus. There were trains going by out the windows. It looked very much like a cheesy "This Is How The 80s Will Look" exhibition at Epcot or Tomorrowland. Anyway, one of the passengers on the bus got upset at how things were going so he took over driving. There was a man in a wheelchair on the highway's shoulder up ahead. The passenger decided he wanted to run him over so he did, while all the other passengers cheered him on.

The second movie clip took place in southwest Africa. It was right outside the boundary of some sort of U.S. zone of authority so there was no way we could retaliate. There were a bunch of crushed busses, cars, etc. stacked up and burning. Men were walking around in hazardous duty suits watching everything burning. The narrator made sure to state that the men even used "chimpanzee gestures" so nobody would know what they were saying. Somehow, this was all captured on live film because it looked like a broadcast.

The third movie chunk was by far the shortest either because it was short or because I can't remember. It involved someone attempting to hack into something at Microsoft. The end.

But that's not all. There were commercials in this dream. During the commercials, I would go to this huge above-ground pool with a bunch of other people. I could jump way up in the air and do all these crazy flips and rolls. I could even hang up in the air for a long time, as if gravity was less at the pool than everywhere else. But I always came back down. Sometimes I landed in the pool and sometimes on the ground.

Ma Soeur Sourire appeared to me and sang:

Tanganyika, nyika, nyika
And the isle of Zanzibar
Became something more
In 1964, without the threat of war
They're now Tanzania
They're now Tanzania

It was, of course, to the tune of Dominique. And I'm having trouble getting it out of my head now. I'm rather hoping it's something I heard somewhere else once upon a time, but it does bear all the hallmarks of how the Unconscious amuses itself when the rest of me is sleeping.

I checked the date in the World Almanac and the whole of the little ditty seems to be mostly true.

The man who was my best friend through four years of college, and my constant companion for much of that time, died before reaching his 33rd birthday. I have not tried to write about him here—I don’t think I could describe our relationship. I have never known anyone like him. I have never felt with anyone quite the way I felt when we were together, as friends or later as lovers. The fact that we did not stay together does not lessen the impact he had on my life, on my being. I will remember his heart when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits.

By the time of his death, a week before his birthday, we had grown apart. He had married and was living a few states away, and I was living with my new love, and we were both busy with our grown-up lives. Our communication had dwindled to phone calls a few times a year, to mark key events—like birthdays, or his wedding plans, or the release of a new Star Wars movie.

At 11 o’clock one night my phone rang. It was a mutual friend, who left a message on my machine urging me to call her, without explaining why. Instead, on instinct, I called Benjamin to find out what was going on--only to be told that his heart had failed and he had died that afternoon.

A day later I flew north to be with his family, arriving in time for the Quaker memorial service. A few days after that, I flew home. Not much more time passed before I started dreaming about him.

At first, in my dreams, I didn’t know Ben was dead. I would wake up sad, but oddly comforted to have been with him. Please don’t think I believed I was communicating with Ben; I knew these dreams were just spun from my memories. But they helped, nonetheless. Here was a person who had been so incredibly important to me, will always be important to me. I had had to accept his death, but at least, it seemed, I would be with him from time to time in my dreams. Waking thoughts of him, so full of the feeling of loss, were often painful--but the dreams were not.

After a few months, when I dreamt of Ben, my dreaming self was aware that in real life he had died, was going to die, and I had to find a way to tell him. Those dreams were less comforting, and I often woke up crying. One night it was particularly bad:

I had gone to my parents’ house, and Ben had stayed home in our apartment. I tried to call him using my parents’ rotary phone, but couldn’t manage to dial. I tried using my cell phone, but still couldn’t reach him. Suddenly, I remembered that we were no longer living together, and called his new number, at his apartment. Still no answer. I tried another number, and finally someone answered—a woman. I asked for Ben, and as I was speaking, remembered everything. She was his wife; he had died; I was confused, and calling and upsetting her.           I woke up thoroughly shaken, with tears streaming down my face.

At this point, it has been a little over three years. Time does help the healing process; whether we like it or not, life goes on. What I find odd and unexpected, however, is that now my dreams that involve Ben don’t, really—I dream about someone else, someone to whom I say, “You remind me of my friend who died.” In terms of the workings of my unconscious, it is though I have taken another step away from him, or perhaps merely from the awfulness of his death. No matter how long I live, however, even if he disappears completely from my dreams, he will remain a part of me.

Those who we have truly loved, we will always love. And that which was deeply felt, we will always feel. Death can take all things save one—Love remains, for love alone is real. *

* from a sappy sympathy card, but the sentiment helps.


Postscript: It has been almost five years now.

Gale Harold, who plays Brian Kinney on Queer as Folk, has Ben's mouth. I find myself watching episode after episode to catch glimpses of familiar expressions.


And again:

This summer, for about two weeks, I began dreaming about Ben again. I woke up suddenly, night after night, disoriented, with an aching sense of loss. Finally, not knowing what else to do but feeling that I had to do something, I contacted Ben's father. In his first e-mail reply, he told me about a mutual friend of ours from college who was going through distressing times. I contacted her, only to find that she had been wishing she had someone to talk to--wishing Ben was around to listen and give comfort.

Ben wasn't around, but he sent me.

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