Last night I dreamed about being a spy again for the first time in years. In high school and college, it was a recurring theme, usually involving an assassination assignment.
Last night’s dream also involved
- A “deformed” girl and her mother, likely inspired by The Glass Menagerie
- Time-travel to the past and future of my secret agent partner’s life, in which he married said girl, lived on the floor of a kitchen in her mother’s apartment, and was very happy
- Being in prison with my best friend
- Running from a timed bomb in an elevator that didn’t work so well
- Being obliged to download and use an annoying Android app on my iPhone (I am not a religious Apple-ite in waking life)
The three of us – my partner and I and a South American spy we’d picked up along the way – had been wandering for quite some time around what we’d thought was a long-deserted prison in Cuba.
The South American spy was a middle-aged mother who told us about her “deformed” daughter whom no one wanted to marry. We’d decided to join forces with her because we shared similar missions but also because it was just the three of us on the whole campus, and we’d run into her repeatedly anyway. It was the polite thing to do.
She was quite careless in her search methods, however, and had accidentally set off two bombs already. I was growing a bit annoyed with her, but my time traveling earlier in the dream had revealed her importance in my partner’s life (he would marry her daughter someday), so I accepted that she would be with us for a while.
The prison was a repurposed elementary school that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since school let out for the last time several years ago. Low ceilings; doors covered with colorful, chipped paint; worksheets, flyers, and posters strewn along the tiled floors and bulletin boards; and desks jumbled together in a corner in every classroom.
We were searching for something (I don’t know what), when we found ourselves in the middle of a crowd of newly incarcerated prisoners being herded along a wide hallway. We thought this had been a deserted prison, but unfortunately for us it was still functioning.
And we were now essentially inmates. They didn’t have our names on any roster, but guards flanked the herd on all sides. So we had a choice between staying anonymous in the crowd and risking being noticed if we changed direction. We chose to bide our time.
By nighttime, I’d resigned to the idea of being stuck here for a few decades. Resignation is the most common emotional state in my dreams. I think it’s common in dreams to take what comes at you. Or perhaps my unconscious mind is compensating for not getting to feel resigned much in waking life. Perhaps it has fantasies of settling and compromising, just once in my life.
The guards let us walk outside for the first and last time in our prison sentence. We climbed down the cement stairs into a cement courtyard. The only plants within the courtyard were the weeds that grew through the cracks.
On the north side of the courtyard, the prison building obstructed the view of the river Seine and a park trail where civilian tourists walked. On the west side, a filthy electronic billboard towered over us.
The billboard showed a cartoon of an elderly lady standing over a toilet in a public bathroom, talking to a prison guard. Her speech bubble said in Spanish, “Before prison, I had a disdain for public bathrooms. But now that I’ve experienced prison, I delight in public bathrooms!”
It was supposed to be a meme for the guards’ entertainment. But it encouraged me to look forward to my appreciation of every little thing after I got out of prison. At least I assumed I’d get out, eventually. Although, if I thought about it too much, the conviction broke down a bit. So I stopped thinking about it.
I turned to my childhood friend S (who was now fellow inmate) and said, more confidently than I felt, “Don’t worry, we’ll get to spend this time working on ourselves and practicing getting out of our heads. When we get out, life will be so much more awesome!” She was skeptical, but still good-natured about this whole imprisonment thing.