Manipulations

John Cameron Mitchell, the writer, director and lead actor of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, has come to visit us at our house and talk to us. Unfortunately Liadain and I are living with my mother and sister so I have to wait until really late at night to get some time alone with John to talk to him about things. I can't really remember what I wanted to talk to him about, I just had this feeling from seeing the film that he was a very interesting person so that's probably why he popped up in my dream.

We're talking in the living room downstairs, and for some reason he has taken his top off and approaches me from behind. I'm sitting down on a stool, and he leans against me from above, gently, like an enquiry, "Do you want to do this?" I feel kind of attracted to him, but it's mostly just because I like him a lot, and besides in the dream I'm just as in love with Liadain as in real life, so I just don't move, and he gets the message and walks away again. There's an awkward silence, and then he says,

"I want to know what kind of person you are. Are you aware of what you do? Do you understand the complexity and sensitivity of other living human systems?"

I think for a bit about what he means, and I realize that he thinks I'm toying with him - trying to be all attractive to make him fall for me, and then ignoring him. He thinks I don't believe other people are as real as me. I don't want him to think I'm that manipulative, and I find his question interesting, so I think carefully and start to reply, but then my mother and sister come running down from upstairs.

"Alan, watch out, he's an eighth house sun, he's ruled by Scorpio, he wants to kill you!"

I reassure them that John doesn't want to kill me, and they go back upstairs. Next Liadain comes down, wondering why I haven't come to bed with her. I tell her that I'm talking with John, and she glares at him suspiciously before going back to bed.

When everyone's gone I say to John, "I wasn't trying to toy with you. I know how people react to me but I wasn't trying to use that to make you like me."

I woke up repeating, "I don't want to toy with you," and the dream must have had some kind of effect on me because I kept thinking about John's question when I was on the bus on the way in to work. My first reaction was to feel guilty - yes, I am a bad person, I was toying with his feelings and trying to manipulate him to like me through sexual attraction, I've done this with many people and they've been really hurt. But I thought about it some more, and I realized that I wasn't lying when I told him I wasn't toying with him. And I realized that I had no reason to feel guilty about people who've accused me of this in the past. It's a game - someone is attracted to you or becomes obsessed with you, and they want you to give them something to make them feel good, like a relationship or sex or whatever they think they want from you. And if you don't give it to them, they get angry with you and call you manipulative or bad, because obviously you did something to make them fall for you. Their obsession gives them a claim over you in their own minds.

I've had people pull this number on me several times, and it has really confused me because my instinctive response has been to blame myself. So John's question is something that many different people have asked me in different ways, because they think I've hurt them or neglected them in some way. They accuse me of not believing, in some way, that other people are important. My mother and sister, friends, ex-girlfriends - many people have accused me of this, just because I won't play their emotional games or pander to their soap opera dramatics.

So I ended up feeling angry with John for pulling the same number on me. Shame I woke up out of the dream before I thought of it that way and could tell him to his face.

 

The Dark And Smiling Face

I was in my old house again, living with my mother, and some of my old friends from school had called over to play cards and drink. I was showing some of them my computer while the rest of them were watching television, and I showed them a website like E2 where I was posting articles on famous chess players. One of them asked "What about Etienne Bacrot? and I typed in his name and brought up a java applet of one of his games. I explained, "Etienne Bacrot just won the French  Championships.

The guys were getting quite loud, and I knew that my mother would be trying to get to sleep so I turned down the volume of the music and the TV and went upstairs to see how she was. I saw that her bedroom door was open and the light was on, and when I poked my head around the corner she said "Hi there," so I went in.

"Sorry about the noise, I'm just kicking the guys out now."
It's fine, don't worry about it. I see you disconnected the Internet and then dialled in again."
"The first call was from a mobile so we dialled in again from the land line, it's cheaper.
"Oh, that's good. Before you go downstairs again, will you do me a favour? Tell me if you see the dark and smiling face.
"What's that?"
"Oh, I thought I told you." She laughs. "The doctor showed me how to tell if I'm sick."

She gets out of bed and we walk to the top of the stairs together, and she waits while I go downstairs and look back up at her. She's half-naked and grossly fat and pale, and she hunches forward so that her belly pushes into a strange, contorted shape. As I stare at it, the folds resolve into a smiling face with dark eyes.

"I can see the face."
"Is it laughing or smiling?"
"Just smiling."
"Okay, I'm still sick then."

She goes back to her room and I get rid of my friends and go to bed.
 

The Carnival and the Prison

Liadain and I were at a carnival, riding the roller coaster, and I've never been on a scarier ride. It went up really high and plunged down into this deep, dark pit, and then it went upside down in this terrifyingly fast loop, and we were all screaming, and it kept accelerating, so that the cars would tilt as we swerved around the corners, and then finally everything went blank.

When I came to we were in the water up to our necks, and the roller coaster was above us. I grabbed Liadain, and we clung to the car and started kicking for shore where a lot of shocked-looking people were waiting for us. At first I couldn't work out what had happened. Hadn't we just gone for a swim? Then I realized that we'd fallen off the roller coaster into the water. One of the carnival attendants helped us out of the water and told us what we had to do to deal with the shock - "Don't eat anything, and you can only drink this mineral water." He handed us a squashy bottle. "This water?" "That one." I drank some. It tasted vaguely lemony. Liadain seemed fine, and I only had a couple of sore places, but I had this feeling that we should have been far more badly injured, judging by the height we fell.

We left the carnival to head for home. We had a long journey ahead of us, through several towns with strange names, and in one of them we had a run-in with the police. I can't remember exactly what happened, but we ended up being framed for a murder that was committed by a military man called General Miller. We had a travelling companion, General Miller's daughter, who we thought we were friends with and she helped set us up. We were taken to the police station and were awaiting trial, and were feeling pretty depressed about it, when I realized that I could get out of my handcuffs. I took them off and went into the next room where General Miller's daughter was sitting. She watched me approach, scared, and I punched her. Or at least I tried to. My hand kind of slipped off her face. I tried hitting her several times, just to get the message across that she'd done a really terrible thing, then I grabbed her. "I didn't even get to hit you properly," I said, "but we're going now." I turned around and Liadain and I left the police station. One of the officers tried to stop us and I said "We are just going to walk out of here and you can't stop us. These charges are total bullshit and everyone will know about it. There's nothing you can do."

They followed us out of the station, but there was a large crowd outside for some kind of celebration, and I started shouting the names of the police officers as they followed. Finally I yelled, "And I'd like to thank General Miller for our stay in prison!" and they quit following me. I think I'd hit the jackpot with that one - he was an important man and they didn't want him exposed to any scandal. As we passed through the police station gate I felt a strange itching on my ankle, and looked down to see a pink tattoo appear there. It was the word "FREE" and a symbol of some kind, like a bird. I asked someone in the crowd about it, and they told me that it had appeared there because I'd taken control of my own destiny. I looked down again and it was already fading.

Finally we got home, except home wasn't really home, it was my old family home, and my mother and father and sister were there, as well as my old friend Lean and her parents. I'd hardly got there before I wanted to leave again, and we decided we'd go out for the evening, but my mother wanted me to water the garden. So I thought, anything for peace, and I went outside to try and get the hose working. I couldn't seem to attach the nozzle correctly, and my mother came outside and was standing over me as I tried to do it, criticizing me angrily, so I pushed her away roughly and told her to go mind her own business. This sent her into a panic because she thought I had tried to hit her, and she ran around the side of the house waving her hands.

I decided in a resigned kind of way that I'd better go get her and apologize, and went around the side. She was in tears, and she'd grown, so that she was now about a foot taller than me, and very big. She was still panicked, and she was holding a mobile phone. "I'm going to call General Miller! I'll tell them all what you're really like!" I took the phone from her and hugged her, afraid that she might actually do it. "I'm sorry I shoved you, but I wouldn't really have hit you, I was just play-acting." She seemed to calm down a bit, and shrank to her normal size and went back into the house.

I finished fitting the hose, and started spraying the bushes and the grass, and then I noticed my dad watching me from the kitchen with a puzzled expression. I looked at him, and then looked at the hose, and the garden, and realized how stupid this was. I was just pandering to my mother's irrational desires to make my own life easier, and I suddenly felt ashamed when I saw my dad watching me do it. I turned the hose off and went back into the house. "I'm not going to water the garden today. It rained twice today, there's no need." My mother replied angrily, "There was a lot of wind!", and I said, "Yes - it was stormy. Everything got very wet. We're going to go out tonight, and if you think about it and you still think the garden needs watering, then I'll do it tomorrow night, okay?" She seemed to accept this. I added, "By the way, Liadain and I got thrown out of a roller coaster this evening, we're lucky we weren't badly hurt," but no one was really listening, so we just left.
 

Back To School

I was in school, preparing to do my final year exams again, but this time I was only going to be doing English and Irish. My mother  was annoying me, trying to help me and tell me what to do in my English paper, and I was worried that I was going to do badly. I was thinking, "How embarrassing, I have a masters in literature and I'm not going to get an A in the Leaving Certificate exams in English..." I'd had an insight earlier in the dream into why I never got the highest marks in my university studies - I'd been reading Liadain's essays, and I realized that she was objective about her sources in a way I never was. If she thinks a commentator or writer is full of shit, she says this in her essay, whereas I never did this - if someone said something I agreed with, I would use this in my essay, and if someone said something I disagreed with, I would ignore them.

I left the class room to go to the toilet, and found myself wandering through the basement of a strange building, lit by dim lightbulbs. The walls were pale and kind of slick, like sweaty old school basement paint. I entered a large room like a firing range, where a man and a woman were testing an experimental laser cannon. The woman shot a human-shaped dummy in the chest with a handgun, and the man used the laser cannon on his dummy. The laser burned a huge hole in the dummy's chest. The man went on to explain that even though the laser was powerful, the handgun was a far more efficient weapon in terms of "destruction per pound" and simplicity of design. I thought "I want a handgun!" and then left the room.

I found my way out of the basement and back to the classroom, where a substitute teacher was supervising my classmates as they talked and wandered around the aisles. I saw my old friends B and F but I felt no connection to them at all, and no urge to talk to them. One of the other guys in the class told me to sit down next to him and his friends, and I did, thinking that this was all very strange, but glad to see them all again. It was as if the teachers and the lessons were all irrelevant, and always had been, and we'd all been there just to interact with each other. I'd missed them.

Secret Staircase

I was in my family's old house, staying in my sister's room while she was away on holiday, and while I was snooping through her drawers I found her hash stash. I knew we were going over to my granny's for dinner later, so I took some and rolled myself a joint. The hash was old and dry and crusty-looking, but I didn't care.

When we arrived at my granny's house (I must have been quite young in this dream, because my mother and father were together) they met us at the door and I hugged my granny. My uncle was there, the one who I idolized most of my young life. He was relaxed and happy to see me, and offered me a cigarette. It was badly rolled and bits of tobacco kept coming loose in my lips. I was going to smoke the joint with him, but then I remembered that I was off marijuana, and I reluctantly threw it away.

We talked about board games for a while, and then he said he was going upstairs, and that I could come if I wanted, because he didn't have any work to do for tomorrow. I knew my sister would be jealous that I was spending time with my uncle, because everyone liked him and he was her godfather, but I didn't care. When I went upstairs I discovered that he had taken over the entire 1st floor of my granny's house. He had lots of interesting stuff in his room - the shelves were covered with gadgets and sleek black stereo equipment.

I took off my boxers and was wandering around upstairs naked, when I heard my father coming up the stairs. I started trying to pull my boxers up again, but they kept getting caught in my feet. Desperately I yanked them up just as he came into the room, and tried to look nonchalant, but he didn't even seem to notice. We were leaving, and on the way down I discovered the cutest thing - a narrow little secret white staircase going from the top floor of the house down to the ground. I didn't know how I'd never noticed it before, with all the hundreds of hours I'd spent in my grandparents' house. I got so excited running down it that I jumped too hard and banged my head off the low ceiling. My grandad felt my head with his fingers - there was a big lump.

Later, the dream is much hazier. My father, my uncle and I were making a big bed, plumping the pillows and smoothing out the duvet. I think the bed was for my mother to lie down in. Something had made her very sick. Or maybe it was me. My head was badly injured and I felt ill and dizzy. I might have lain down in the bed and passed into a deeper or shallower dream, because suddenly I was swimming through a bright, clear cavern covered with coral and underwater plants. I pulled myself forward powerfully. I could breathe water just like air. I could dimly remember my story - I was on a great adventure, and I'd been hurt somewhere along the way, but I was recovering. I was a warrior.
 

No Fingerprints!

I was on holiday in Europe with a group of friends who I didn't know very well, and my mother. One of my friends was gay, and the others were trying to set me up with him because they thought that I was gay too. I'd been going along with it for some reason, but I didn't want to do anything with him. We were in Amsterdam in a dark coffeehouse/nightclub, and we were just leaving when I decided to go to the toilet, and the guy followed me, and stood too close to me at the urinals. On the way back I knew he was checking out my ass, and it made me self-conscious, so I walked faster, pushing past people, as if I was putting on some kind of tough-guy performance.

When we left the coffeehouse we suddenly found ourselves in Paris. We wanted to go sightseeing, and the first place we went to was a huge art gallery which looked exactly like the Louvre, but for some reason I thought there was a way to get into 'the Louvre' from inside this place. I wanted to spend the day in the Louvre but no one else did, because they said they would get too tired from walking, and their necks would be too tired from craning to look at all the paintings and statues.

One of my friends and I split off from the others to look for 'the chapel of Camille Saint-Saens', a small chapel the size of a suitcase built by a priest of that name. On the way there we climbed weird off-kilter marble staircases and passed through huge rooms filled with paintings and artifacts. Every room was decorated like a palace. We couldn't find the chapel.

Eventually we emerged into a gigantic two-level gallery full of tourists. On the bottom level, in the centre of the floor, the famous pianist Evgeny Kissin was playing the biggest grand piano I had ever seen. It was dark brown, and so perfectly polished that he would glare at anyone who approached him to try and touch it. "No fingerprints!" As he reached the climax of the piece he was playing, his head tilted upwards so that I could see his face. His eyes were closed and he was grinning. When he finished, everyone clapped, and he bowed and smiled broadly, and said "The genius Mozart will play again at 4pm tomorrow!".

Meeting the guru again

I found myself in America, back on the Mountain of Attention sanctuary in northern California. I'd been away for a few years, and it was both weird and great to meet all the friends I hadn't seen in all that time. I was nervous about meeting my guru again, but it turned out pretty well - he was young, in his early thirties, and we greeted each other like old friends. It was as if I'd entered a temporary time warp, and been allowed to see him as he had been in the 1970's, before things went sour. He was informal, warm and funny, and we sat together and talked about life and enlightenment.

I told him about this other master I'd been to see, and he was very interested - he wanted to meet him. I was thrilled that things were so good between us, and that there were no hard feelings about my having left, so I told him to meet me in half an hour and we'd drive to see the other master. I wandered around for a while talking to friends. I'd been afraid of meeting some of them, because I thought they might be angry with me, but they all hugged me and welcomed me.

In half an hour he hadn't showed up, so I went through the main building looking for him. There was a big group of people gathering in a room in front of an empty chair, staring straight forwards. I asked what was going on, and they said, "The guru is going to give Darshan." I was disappointed, because it seemed like things were just going back to normal, whatever "normal" was in that place. I went back outside in time to see a large black limo pulling out of the sanctuary, and I knew he was in it.

Things had gone sour. It was time to leave again.
 

Monsters and Islands in the Sky

I'm in the streets of a strange city, at some unspecified time in the past or future. It's hard to say if it's even on Earth, because everything is mixed together so strangely - the architecture is Greco-Roman, with low, white, columned buildings, wide streets, plazas and statues, but there are cars and restaurants and horses and the people are dressed in 20th century clothing. The sky is a pure, perfect blue and the air is hot.

I've been chosen as the prey in a national sport, as punishment for some crime that I can't remember. I can't remember exactly what the sport is, until I look into the sky and I see the head and arm of a gigantic monster, just like the Rancor from Return of the Jedi, but far, far bigger, a mile high, with eyes tens of metres across staring down at me. This is the game. This monster is to catch and eat me, and the citizens of the city will know that justice has been done.

I run and hide in one of the buildings. I know instinctively that there are certain rules to the game - the monster is intelligent, and will follow these rules. It is an embodiment of the judicial forces of the city, and it will not just randomly crush houses and kill indiscriminately in order to get me. It can only kill me, and it will take as long as it takes.

I can feel it trying to reach inside the building to pluck me out. It seems to be able to grow and shrink as it pleases. I nearly dive into a waste chute heading downwards from one of the walls inside the bulding, which is full of old clothes and baskets, but a sign on the wall says that it is full of acid. I leave the building and run across a square into a maze of narrow alleys.

Later, I'm ascending a hill which is completely covered with houses - a densely populated, elevated quarter. Somewhere along the way I've picked up a companion, a woman who says she can help me escape. I'm in no immediate danger from the Rancor, which I can see in the far distance searching a different part of the city, but the realization is starting to sink in that I can't elude it - the monster is tireless and immortal, and it will never stop hunting me, and one day I'll just be too tired or careless or forgetful, and it's hand will reach down out of the sky and grab me at last.

We pass a famous theatre where actors perform Shakespeare's plays on a balcony hundreds of meteres above the street, and we go from there into the warren of buildings that cover the hill. It's almost like the entire hill is a hive of people, honeycombed with houses and streets and shops and lit by torchlight. People who we talk to seem willing to help me, but there are also people pursuing me, who want to give me up to the monster, so we have to keep moving.

I reach the far side of the hill, where the city ends and the landscape opens out to something like the Arizona desert, with high, jagged mesas and lightning storms. It's getting close to sunset. I swim across a small pool of water to stand on the city wall, and I realize I don't want to become a wanderer out there. I want to stay with the people I know and love. So I decide to remain, and take the chance that the monster will catch me.

Days later, I'm in a restaurant having dinner with some friends, and when we come out I look up into the sky and I see an island floating there, green and blue and white, like a child's version of heaven up in the sky. Clouds all around it spell out its name, which I can't remember, only that it began with an A. Then I see the Rancor again. I realized I could always be found because I was electronically tagged, and whenever I paid for something, like in the restaurant I had just been to with my friends, my location would be broadcast to the authorities.

I wanted to give up. I thought I would just let the Rancor kill me and get it over with, and in that moment I saw the reality of my own death: no certainty, no heaven or hell, no inevitable return, and the loss of every companion, all my loved-ones and friends, all memory and familiarity, sucked into the universe and washed and forgotten. I was too afraid then to give up, so I ran again.
 

Tyrannosaurus Rex

      In a return to the kind of dreams I used to have all the time when I was younger, my family and I were being chased all around a gigantic house and garden by a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I don't know where it came from. It started off quite small, but soon it was huge, slavering and thunderous, like something out of Jurassic Park. It ate my dad, who for some reason was a total stranger to me, so I wasn't as upset as I should have been when I saw his head and upper body disappear into the monster's jaws. I was trying to find Lindsay to make sure she was safe, but then the Tyrannosaur came after me. For a long time I was able to elude it, hiding under beds and behind doors while it stalked heavily through the doorways of ballroom-sized bedrooms.

      Eventually, though, it found me under one of the beds, and started roaring and trying to push its jaws under the bed. I cowered all the way back against the wall, and it couldn't seem to move the bed, but then it started shrinking again. Its jaws became smaller and smaller, and it wouldn't be long before it was small enough to fit underneath and come to get me. I decided I preferred a cliffhanger ending to getting eaten, so I left the dream.

      I was 'pushing hands' with a small Chinese girl who was expert in Tai Chi. Even though I'd never done it before, I found it came naturally - all you have to do is follow the natural flow of energy in your body, the way your arms want to move along the path of least resistance, the way you can feel someone else's flow and spiral around it with your own.

      I got too excited once, and used too much strength. She frowned at me, and I said "Sorry," because I knew that I was there to learn about energy, not to demonstrate how much stronger I was than her. We pushed hands together for a while longer, and then the lesson was finished, and so was the dream.
 

The Place Of Dead Roads

There are two cowboys in the desert. The older man is teaching the younger one to shoot, goading and slapping him, making him fire wildly into the sky, making him fire along the line of his bare arm so that the powder flash burns his skin and the bullet passes through his hand. Finally the younger man is driven past his natural deference, and turns around with a murderous, surrendered calm and levels the pistol at him.

The older man kneels and bows his head, mumbling "good boy, good boy..." He doesn't know if he's going to die or not, but he sees the iron will and the despair in the boy's eyes, the acceptance of manhood. He wasn't teaching him how to shoot, he was teaching him how to be a man, and the lesson is over.

The boy realizes what's happened, and lowers the gun. The old man asks him how he found his answer, and the boy shows his the wounded stump of his hand, where the old man had made him shoot. The boy says "This is my answer - what use is it?", brandishing his bloody hand angrily. The older man says "It's your answer, it's no use to anyone else, but it's worth everything to you."

They look up into the sky and the boy sees the madness of measurement, dividing the sky into fixed disks to be turned and manipulated, as if in the measurement of astronomical distance and stellar properties the measurers might escape the confines of the universe and its laws of mortality and fixity like Kim in The Place of Dead Roads, shooting a hole in the sky and watching it all come crashing down. The boy knows now that the bullet isn't important, just the will that would drive it and the understanding that would hold it back.