I woke from a dream a few weeks back with a sense of wonder about how everything worked out much better than expected throughout. I still clearly remember the dream, the kind impulse leading to oddness and incoherence, the escalating danger, the surprise happy ending. There was every reason to anticipate the worst, things looked worse at every turn — instead, it turned out well for everybody, man and beast alike.
It used to be, prior to our current bellicose, threatening, highly infectious epoch, that sometimes grim-looking situations turned out fine. The unlikely thing happened sometimes and everyone walked away relieved instead of skittering sidewise like agitated crabs on the ocean floor. In our present moment, most of our hope for this kind of mutually beneficial outcome is forgotten.
The encounter where everybody comes away better than they were before was commonly called a win-win scenario, something that is almost impossible to remember, the black and white, toxic way things are now. Surprise happy endings are really not that rare, they certainly weren’t in the past, but this dream hit me with some force, reminded me how unlikely any kind of humane resolution to anything seems in our troubled, troubling, increasingly violent times.
I generally don’t remember dreams in any detail after I’ve had them, this one stayed around for a few days afterwards, is with me now weeks later. I intended to write it out and eventually made a note in my drawing book days that I didn’t need to even look at before writing this. The only detail I forgot was the owner’s threat to call the local police on me — the law and common sense being completely on his side.
I was in the large enclosed porch, or maybe an unfurnished room with floor to ceiling windows. It was in a stranger’s house, a place I wasn’t supposed to be, I was trespassing. When I passed I’d seen there was a dog in there, alone, seemingly trapped, and in some distress, the door to the room was unlocked, or at least easy enough to pop open. The dog seemed traumatized, did not approach me, but watched me, cowering. There was no food or water anywhere to be seen. I was trying to figure out a way to help the poor devil.
As I puzzled over what to do about this dog, in a place where I didn’t know anybody (it seemed to be a small seasonal community, perhaps Cape Cod, during the off-season), a guy walks in the door on the other side of the room. He’s got a dog on a leash, he’s glowering and at the same time seems slightly sheepish. He was a short, stocky black man who reminded me of Cleveland on Family Guy, only he was angry and defensive.
As I began telling him about the dog he admitted that the dog used to be his, that he’d abandoned the dog. He looked guilty when he told me that, but also determined not to take any shit from me about about it. He didn’t know why he did it and he didn’t want to talk about it, was trying to be a tough guy but was obviously hurt, somehow. I told him I wasn’t from around here and asked him if he knew anybody who might be interested in rescuing or fostering the dog, maybe a local vet.
Suddenly the owner of the house, an imposing looking white man in a plaid flannel shirt, entered through the other door.
The scene was set for something bad to happen. The white guy was not happy to find two strangers in his place, trespassers, sitting, engaged in a tense conversation, as if one of them owned the place. He stood at the other end of the open room, demanded to know what the hell we were doing in his house. He may have had a shotgun, if not pointed at us, at hand, it might have been a baseball bat. He was about to call the police, told us he’d let us explain to the cops (his good friends) what the hell we’re doing in his house. I was at a loss for words, start gesticulating toward the dog, began to say something.
The man looks at the dog, as if seeing it for the first time, and it is clearly love at first sight. The dog immediately goes over to the guy who starts petting the dog and ruffling its fur. The man is happy, the dog is happily wagging its tail and gladly accepting the affection. The sheepish, angry black guy leaves quietly through the opposite door with his dog as this is going on. I’m sitting there, relieved to no longer be a suspect or in any jeopardy, watching the man and the dog happily enjoying each other. Everything is suddenly clear, the right thing is happening, no need to explain anything to the man and his new best friend. If anything, the guy will express gratitude toward me when I get up to leave.
I remember a great feeling of peace, of being in a universe where everything is in its place, for the right reason. The feeling was with me when I woke up. It is with me, a little bit, as I write these words.
I woke up (this was maybe three weeks ago) thinking “damn!” and feeling amazed about this dream long after I woke up. It has stayed quite vividly in my memory ever since, very rare for even my best dreams.
I wonder how long it has been since I pictured anything besides troubling, dangerous things inevitably turning to shit, the worst playing out in an escalating death spiral, inevitable as the next bit of widely broadcast lying propaganda enflaming angry, stressed out people on both sides.
The possibility of love and connection and things working out wonderfully for everybody — it hasn’t really gone anywhere, odd to say. It’s just that we’re living in disorienting times, beaten down by a long relentless war to keep unfairness firmly in place and we can hardly remember a time when it wasn’t this relentlessly bitter and threatening, no longer even dreaming of the possibility of things not being exactly as angry as they are right now, or worse.
You’re in trouble, you explain (no words needed), you are understood, no longer in trouble. Instead you get to watch the first flush of new love playing in front of your eyes, everybody getting what they need. Not a bad win-win, I’d say.
NOTE (from my drawing book):
dog adopted by guy about to call cops
former owner had no excuse