I have a new lover, an orthodox Jew, a professor, a good, kind, honest, gentle man. We spend a lot of time in my apartment, which is in Paris, or Prague, or Berlin, or London, where I am on fellowship. As usual, I have brought far too many books.
I lug shelves and shelves of books around with me in my dreams, and here is another room filled with volumes I rarely open, but feel a need to have around me. They comfort me. They also slow me down. Moving is difficult.
My new lover manages to travel through the world with far fewer tomes than I do, and I respect him for this, believing that he is more intelligent and wiser than I am. Yet one of his students catches him saying, “I have had to speculate because there are no books on drugs,” and points to an enormous, cracked black leather tome above his head. The spine reads “Drögen” or “drugs” in a language we don’t know well but which my lover knows well. I am awed by him because he speaks French and Polish and Spanish and Hebrew and German and Arabic fluently while I am losing my German and French.
We are thinking about getting married. I overhear his parents saying, ”it’s all right, but they just don’t have that spark,” the joyfulness that has kept them together for so many years. It is true. We don’t delight one another, but we are pleased to be together, and we are good for one another. And he is warm, good enough.
It occurs to me that I have never seen his apartment. I know very little about him. He agrees to invite me over to spend the night, but this throws the whole family into a whirl. Suddenly sisters and female cousins turn up. I begin to suspect that they live with him, and maybe also his mother. It will be all right, but people and schedules will have to realign for this enormous occasion.
Meanwhile I feel like going for a walk, a long walk. He suggests that I take the path across the mountains, from which there are beautiful, sweeping views, over to the ocean and my homeland. I love the idea and set out.
I see him ahead of me on the path, which runs through a crowded city street. He is with a friend, a male friend. I call out to them, “wait for me! I’m coming!” But I am too slow and they are soon lost far ahead. I hurry to catch up but never do.
The path changes from a narrow dirt line worn by thousands of feet in the grass; it winds through forests, where it sometimes runs in red brick or yellow stone obscured by soil and pine needles. It crosses streams and stretches across hills waving tall, pale grasses, rising up through lonely, rocky mountain passes and swerving so steeply up muddy slides that I can barely summit them. It threads through cities and towns, where I lose track of it, because it has been paved over. Again and again I ask, “where is the path? I am looking for the path, have you seen it?” Most people have never heard of the path, but occasionally I meet someone who caught sight of it, behind her, or “over there,” or “just on the other side of that hill.” I stumble around lost and anxious until I find it again, its reassuring red brick partly hidden in grass or debris.
The path grows longer as I travel, always alone, although many others, including my lover, have taken it before me. But it is much longer than I thought it would be, and far more dangerous.
Children ram their sleds into me as I stagger up into the mountains. They are boys, nearly naked, and they have three, sometimes four, long, bony legs twisted all together, like tree roots tangled across the path, obstructing my way. I fear them. They effortlessly race up the mountain that I, toe-hold by fingernail, crawl up. The summit is too slippery and steep. I can’t make it. One of them catches my outreached hand and pulls me to safety.
I travel on and on, losing and finding the path, fearful and fretful most of the time, calm when my feet tread steadily and surely on the path. I know I must stay on the path. The path is my only hope, the only way home. To the people I meet on the path, I say, “I must find the path,” or “I am following the path.”
I cannot see him, but I feel the presence of my lover watching over me. The journey is perilous but he has stationed helpers and friends along the way. I meet with many challenges and tragedies and frequently fall into despair and weeping and pain. Yet every time I think, “this is the end, I will not make it, I will die here,” someone who knew my lover appears and helps me to find the path again. Thus I travel alone not friendless.
I need clothing to stay warm and come into a store where I acquire a short, knit dress that I wear over a long, cotton gown. Underneath I have a long-sleeved white tee-shirt. One of my lover/protector’s friends pays for them.
I have to defecate, but there are no conventional toilets in this country, which is vaguely France. One has to squat in a shower-like room that has no door for privacy and very little toilet paper. It is embarrassing. I think I have only pissed but one of the people I am with points to a pile of blood and feces on the floor where I squatted. I do not think it is mine. I thought I had finished with bleeding, I say to myself. I am unconcerned and leave the people and wander through an ancient city jumbled with gothic churches and shining, chrome office buildings, open plazas with tables and chairs and gardens, narrow alleys and dark, massive, 19th-century apartment buildings.
Running from robbers, I turn into a bakery, where I see cakes and wonder if there is anything less sugary to eat. I need food. I have money but the shop-owner refuses to take pounds or dollars. I have only a few francs. One of the men working there pays for me and invites me to drink a small bottle of wine with him. The baker gives me some tickets for trains and buses in that country.
The best way to follow the path is to walk on it, but it is allowed to travel by train or bus that runs alongside the path from time to time. Resting on a bus, I glimpse the path disappearing across a high grassy ridge along the cliff, near an ocean. The bus travels swiftly inland, away from the coast. I plead with the bus driver to stop and let me off. “Be careful!” he calls out to me as he pulls away.
Two suspicious cars I spotted from the bus as we passed them now pull down the road I am following back to the hill where I think the path lies. They trail behind me and then stop, blocking my way. Three men and two women with dark hair and mean eyes jump out and confront me. ”Where do you think you’re going?” I am afraid to tell them. I don’t remember how I escaped them–perhaps I dodge into the bush.
I worry about the time passing but know that somehow my lover, who now feels more like my protector, my guide, even my god, will enable and empower me to reach my destination. The angry people from the cars are still behind me. The boy with the tree-root legs who helped me before suddenly appears beside me, running. ”We have reached it!” he shouts and then throws himself into a portal that looks like a television screen that swallows him instantly. I jump towards the screen but stumble. The car-people are breathing in my ear. I leap once again towards the screen and find myself on the other side, where I find the boy and an old gentleman with a neat white beard.
We have reached the destination but the path does not end.
The old gentleman clothes us in silver and gold chain mail and we are transformed into fat round little spheres with legs and arms and square heads. Then we morph out of our suits and are ourselves again, and but our little, warrior selves are still running around our feet in their chain mail. Then they transform into woven gold stallions with woven silver knights astride them. It symbolizes our achievement, or advancement to some spiritual plateau.
I am running a dress shop and put my woven gold and silver figure on my desk, but the desk it dirty so I go into the back room to get paper towels and water to clean. I tell my employee, a middle-aged woman at the front desk, to watch the shop. She leaves the room, however, and a robber comes in and steals the statue.
I don’t know who has stolen it but one of my friends intervenes and helps me to catch a couple speeding away on a motorcycle. They crash and the statue comes rolling out from under their clothing. We take them to court.
While dreaming these scenarios I awakened several times, knowing that I had not finished the dream and desiring to return to it. When I finally awakened, my mind was filled with a deep longing for “the path.” I had a splitting headache and a severe, allergic reaction to the red wine I drank the night before. I felt angry with myself for drinking so much and wished that I had found a better way to cope with my discomfort the previous day, when, instead of dealing directly with my worries about my son and sense of loneliness and confusion, I went to a bar with a girlfriend. There I saw a lot of my old drinking friends, and it was truly lovely to see them again.
It seemed to me that this was a simple dream about needing to stay on the path of health and well-being, aka, the path on which I choose to sit with my discomfort and pain instead of numbing myself with wine.
Still, in recounting it here, I see much mysterious symbolism, and many other messages that I wish to consider.