Living in a Dream

I dream a lot.

I often can’t stop myself from the persistenceness of thoughts. They come like waves upon the beach. I have dreamt of alternative pasts, prospective futures, the moments that fleet my fingers, and those seconds with weighted chains. I lose myself to the simulation of reality that renders me a flickering fire in a world of spectres, shadows on the wall.

Some may theorize that dreams serve as a way to process information at our most restful period. We stitch together data like scrapbook pages, taking a face from years ago, a song we heard before bed, lines from our favourite movies. Dreams can also be tales of agency or lack thereof. How often we hear of lucid dreaming and the ability to control our thoughts? What of the predicative images that harken to prophecies and visions of the future? We struggle for direction, whether we have freedom and will, even when we are inside our own heads. And we are often not alone either. We communicate with others. The voice of the dead can speak beyond spirit realms and they continue to resound even when we wake. But we also communicate with ourselves: the layered selves, translucent and pearlescent like the skin of an onion, blooming.

Today, I dreamt of my instructor, the one I am TAing for this semester. I have been thinking of him a lot. On the chance he (or anyone else I know) appears in my dream, I try to purge them. I cut their silhouettes from the screen and leave a hole in my wake; to know they were there but to expunge my emotion with them. But today was different. The dream became a vivid performance of cruel optimism (to borrow from Laura Berlant). I felt myself living a fantasy romance. I felt myself falling in love.

To fall in love with a virtual stranger is to fill an empty shell with yourself. He became what I wanted him to be. He invited me to his apartment and apologized for the mess–everything was meticulously placed but his winter boots, kicked off by the front door. He looked at me over the top of his glasses. Appraisingly. I’ve got a bottle of wine in my arms–no, it’s a six-pack of beer–and I put it on the table. He’s got a small bed, one pillow. Perhaps even in my dream, I am an anthropologist, combing through his imaginary things, trying to piece together who he is to me. He is his itchy sweaters and his unfretted brows. He is his booming lecturer voice and his deep, backhanded compliments. He is his restless hands, his tactile, reaching hands, and his invasive proddings. He is his dismissiveness and his pretentiousness. He is all of these things, the bad and the good, and I am propelled to him as I glide on the air.

And as we kiss, I feel nothing. No relief, no warmth, or ache. I act out the motions of making love with limbs like concrete and cable, suspended over the water, and when we are done, I crumble into myself and hug my legs to my chest. I am disgusted by my weakness. The temptation of fantasy was too great. I couldn’t stop myself. I had to have him. These are excuses. They try to cut the pain, the hollow chest that knows nothing like this could ever be outside of this room, his room, in the far reaches of my mind.

Sometimes, I confess these things to other students. I know it’s wrong, I say, but I can’t stop fetishizing him. And so they laugh, and they say, I know, I do the same thing with my supervisor. It’s the power structure–it makes it hot. We end up chiding each other for our choices, mocking and over analyzing our interactions over cups of coffee in tiny cafes, tucked just outside of any prying ears. And we bring up Plato and Socrates, who encourage these kinds of relationships between students and their teachers. We debate the sleaziness seen in Call Me By Your Name, and hope to god we don’t end up falling so hard that we end up like them. But in the end of the day, they say, It’s just a dream. The moment will pass.

But in my bed, I think it over, again and again. I visit his home and kiss his head. It is the last time. I wake at my alarm and meet him to discuss midterms.

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