In the dream, my wife Stephanie and I walk through a neighborhood trying to get home or to some place we are staying instead of home. The neighborhood is vaguely familiar a place from my past, overgrown with time. It is run down. There's no danger yet, but I need to get out.
We come to a building too big to go around. It's a semi-public building, almost empty. We move through rooms and doors. Was it a mall? An apartment building? A warehouse? A door opens into a shop, upscale clothing marked way down, an earthy feel. There is no shopkeep and no other customers. As Stephanie looks through things I flip through odd shoes in a bin. Upscale customers appear. How odd that they are in this neighborhood. The houses are empty and crumbling.
Wedding dresses hang in a window looking into the sun. I hold an ugliest hipster shoe, green suede with rough stitching. A guy picks one up and tells me it's a great shoe. He talks on and on. I tell Stephanie we need to go.
We start up a steep gravel path that is a shelf hung from the side of a mountain. We meet three poor girls walking two dogs down the mountain. Stephanie befriends both the girls and the dogs. I hang back. The girls move down and we climb. The mountain is steeper, the path is precarious. I worry that I'll fall. Stephanie walks as though it were a path around a pond.
I remember our dog. "Did you take her out today?" Stephanie says no. I'm thinking of the dog from my childhood who is staying with Stephanie's grandmother, though she has morphed into a landlord we had in the nineties. We are headed to her house. Stephanie knows the dog is fine. I don't. The old woman wouldn't think to let her out. The dog is too polite to pee inside. She's suffering because I neglected her.
The mountain has become impossibly steep. I'm crawling. The path drops off into miles of deadly gravity. The sight of it freezes me. Stephanie is gone. She breezed up the path, around the curve at the top, toward home. I have to follow. I climb to where the path wraps around. I can't see the other side. I can't see the path behind. I see only the fall.
Stephanie made the turn without a thought. I'm supposed to be able to do the same, but I don't believe.
I try to go on, but the danger is too great. I can't go forward or back. I wish for Stephanie to come back. I think of the dog. I wonder how those girls and their dogs made it through. I hang on desperately.
Right then I remember Stephanie in the building with that shop. "This place needs a supermarket," she said. "Some place to buy food. To make it a neighborhood. Don't tell me this place couldn't support a supermarket."
I responded, "of course it couldn't."
It's a dying, forgotten place. People live there and a supermarket might make the place worth living in, but things don't work that way. The overgrown neighborhood will decay like the past and become dangerous. I lived there as a child. It felt safe then. Like home. But it was always slipping toward something dangerous and unforgiving. Nothing can change that.
My grip is failing. I hear the gravel giving way. Stephanie has gone. I hope that she loves the dog. I'm going to fall. It's a sure thing.
Four twenty-eight in the morning, I wake myself from the dream into the darkness of proto-morning. Birds sing. Stephanie breathes quietly in the bed out of which I have already climbed. A breeze through the window breathes across my skin. I'm walk downstairs, trying to get over that mountain to some place I can call home.
The only idea that makes any sense to me in the fog of this lingering dream is to sit at the computer, and though I don't have any idea what this all means, put it into words. Waking from the dream, I write on.