I wake with confusion and then I begin to understand. I know what this dream means and it has a lot to do with my lack progress on the memoir lately. I suppose it could be rewritten as a short horror story:
I’m on some sort of campus and I can’t find my classroom. I walk in circles around the buildings and finally find the room on the second floor of an old brick building. I sit in the chair – the kind we had in high school – single seats for right handed students with a cubby underneath for our books. Eric squeezes in next to me.
The teacher gives us an assignment to write. I have no paper or pen. I ask the lady next to me for a piece of paper. The pudgy lady with long black disheveled hair says, “I can’t give you this. It’s special paper,” as she grasps her notebook.
“Can I have just one piece of your special paper?”
Reluctantly she hands me one sheet of lined notebook paper. “But I have no pen,” I say. “Can I borrow one of your pens.”
“You don’t need a pen for the special paper. Just write it in your head.”
Ten minutes later the instructor interrupts our writing. “Times up. Put your pencils down. Who wants to share first?”
Eric nudges me. I whisper, “SHH, you can see I have nothing. Hopefully she won’t call me on it.”
The woman a couple of rows up stands. She speaks an unfamiliar language. The instructor with a knowing nod says “it’s okay. You will understand this one.”
The woman walks out of the classroom. We wait in silence for the door to open. She reappears with a stroller. She removes her wig and clothes down to a Speedo swimsuit – It turns “she” is a man. He has tattoos all over his body including his bald head, speaks the strange language, and begins to perform acrobatic tricks. As he goes by my desk, I gasp at the infant in the stroller. He is wearing only a diaper and has tattoos all over his body, matching the mans. Looking closer, I see the tattoos on the baby are painted on with markers.
The class sits in silence, mesmerized by the magic of his act. Who could follow that?
The instructor calls on me. I tell her I have no paper.
The woman next to me says, “You have the story. Put this in some water and drink it. Then go to that copier in the corner and press the green button.” She hands me a one ounce travel container filled with pink powder. I pour it into a glass and add water, drinking down the sweet liquid. Like a robot, I go to the copier and push the print button. Two pages come out with scattered blocks of writing, as if someone tore up my piece and glued it into a mosaic. I try to make sense of it as I head to the front of the classroom.
But wait. The copier is not finished. I watch in horror as a ream full of colorful pictures print out on 11×17 paper. When I think the copier is finished, I gather up the paper, apologizing to the instructor for using all the paper. I try to explain but she looks at me with frustration.
The lady with the special paper is gone. I’m looking through the paper we have now spread out on the teacher’s desk. It seems to be distorted pictures of my life. Red hats, mom, dad, friends, cars. The copier starts up again. When it shuts down we have a carton of 11×17 paper.
“I’ll call in our science teacher and see what she thinks,” the teacher says.
“No, let me piece this all together. Let me take it home and work on it. How much do I owe the school for the paper?” I ask.
“Nothing. This is impossible. She dismisses the class. But no one wants to leave. Instead they gather around a long table where we have begun to spread out the papers. Everyone is grabbing at pieces of my distorted life, mixing it up. Frantically I try to keep them in order. “Please don’t mess with them. I need to figure this out.” I catch one lady walking away with one of the papers. “Bring that back,” I stammer. “That could be the missing piece.”
“It is,” she says. When she turns, l see It’s the lady who gave me the potion. She crinkles up the paper and I grab it from her.
I look for a box to put the paper in. There is a huge stack of boxes by the wall but none of them fit the amount of paper I have. Near the copier I find a bigger box. I’ll take it all home, paper the walls with it, I’m thinking.
The class returns to their seats. The teacher stands at her podium “We still have 10 minutes left. I guess I’ll share my story.” She begins to read and stops after only a few indecipherable words. She brings out some glasses and a tissue. “I can’t get through this without crying.” Her short blond hair begins to grow. Moments later she stands in front of us with a crop of spikey green hair a foot long. She crumples to the floor.
After a month long break from blogging and church, I have returned. Pulling off the Grove Shafter freeway at 27th street in Oakland on the way to church, I was pleased to see that the Chase billboard has been replaced but it was disheartening to see the growth of the homeless camp. I missed the camp photo op so I guess I’ll have to come up with a 1,000 word blog post to describe the area. Just kidding.
But, I do have a couple of observations. Judging by the content of debris that oozes its way into the streets under the freeway, I suspect not all of the mess is the work of the homeless. It’s unlikely that car-less pedestrians with shopping carts are capable of hauling eight foot sofas and heavy appliances to the area. Someone is dumping their crap in the street at the expense of the homeless. What are these thoughtless trash dumpers thinking? Do they think their are providing comfortable beds for the homeless.? Do they think the homeless can tweak the appliance innards into working machines? Or perhaps they consider the shell of their old refrigerator to be a “tiny house.” More likely, they don’t want to pay the fees to dump legally. The issue becomes more complicated for the life of the homeless when the city comes by and blames them for the mess.
Meanwhile, under the freeway, off the street, there is a huge empty lot, surrounded by barbed wire topped fencing. Perhaps it would be possible to open the gates and allow this community to migrate over there? Lend them the area and responsibility to live their lifestyle without the burden of everyone else’s garbage. Add to their dignity with a couple of portables (yes, I mentioned before that there are problems with that). But how about this? Give them some maintenance responsibility and if successful provide this reward: Japanese shower.
Okay, enough of a rant. The photo above most likely has nothing to do with homeless. It’s about a dozen blocks away from the camp. I just thought it was an interesting piece of art. Or is it graffiti?