Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Have You Any Dreams You'd Like to Sell?

I work in one of those modernish offices that eschews cubicles in favor of an "open" floor plan. Except we still have plenty of offices and a weird layout, so the result is something like long rows of cattle stalls, each fitted with a built in desk and waist-high partitions, separated from other rows by big chunks of traditional office. Looking down along my row I can see the entire assistant caste. Everyone with a corporate card sits invisibly behind a door, surrounded by four real walls.

There's no lunch room, either. At around one I can look down my row to see everyone chewing and staring at their screens, bovinely bored with a gob full of Au Bon Cud. I can hear, very faintly, the Goo Goo Dolls issuing tinnily forth from the computer speakers of a girl five desks down the line. And, first thing in the morning, when I sit down and fumble around on the ground for the diabolically flat power button to my computer, and turn my head to the left so I don't squash my face on my desk while I doing so, the first thing I see is the guy who had an awkwardly romantic guest spot in my dream last night.

I've been dreaming like crazy lately, and apparently indiscriminately. I didn't think I'd thought about this particular row-mate twice, but it seems that he's buried deep enough in my stupid head to make him my seat partner on the school bus of a field trip I've never taken, with people I haven't seen in years, to a campsite I've never visited.

We shared a bunk. We've spoken once.

Looking at this guy all day feels dishonest. It's like I know a secret about him, or like I overheard a really scandalous rumor and it's all I can think about when I see him. I want to tap him on the shoulder every time I walk to the printer and spill my dirty, subconscious guts. "Hey, remember me? I gave you that ISBN that one time? Yeah, well, the other night we went camping, and one thing lead to another...just thought you should know. Also, do you have packing tape? Thanks."

I've been sleeping with the television off, which is a rarity for me. For as long as I've had a TV in my bedroom, I've only been able to sleep if I can see a flickering blue light on the other side of my eyelids. It's easy to have vivid dreams if you're dozing during reruns of the Cosby show; it's not unreasonable for Phylicia Rashad to make a cameo appearance in your second-grade dance recital when she's actually lecturing Theo across your bedroom.

But in a completely dark bedroom, the co-workers and old classmates and dead relatives and bizarre, once visited locales that appear in your dreams are entirely of your own making. Which makes it all the more awkward to pick up your print outs next to your R.E.M.-state guest star.

I actually passed Phylicia Rashad the other day on the street, on the fifth anniversary of September 11th, on my way to the large corporate headquarters of the company that owns my publishing house, a fifteen block trip I was being paid to make on a really gorgeous fall day. She was wearing a silk outfit that tied like a kimono, all black, with a dragon embroidered on the back. She was alone.

This one time, in the middle of September, I was paid to take a walk through downtown New York City, to deliver some books to an office, and wait at a crosswalk next to Mrs. Huxtible, wearing a kimono, looking serene, like she would probably give me a hug if I asked her.

For serious, for real, someone pinch the fuck out of me.

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