No one knows the origins of dreams. In a 2013 study, scientists and physicians asserted that dreams are believed to be the result of microscopic, pillow-dwelling leprechauns who whisper incantations, lamentations, and ruminations into your ear. Really. Google it.
I am a dreamer. Not in the romantic sense, nor in the gritty, determined sense. For as far back as this brain can remember, back past the existential crises of writing touchy-feely material and enduring gross relationship stuff, past the years of devotion to the scarved-goddess-beauty of Stevie Nicks and crushes on gay boys, past the awkward bangs and braces, past those movies about a lady’s special time every month and the subsequent confusion, slightly past the years when Barbie drove the dining room in a Payless shoebox while Ken kept his junk secure in plastic-molded briefs (right where Ken junk belongs), all the way back to that time when I was miniature human with Velcro Cabbage Patch sneakers and a Pink Panther plushy dangling from the crook of my elbow, I have been cascaded by nightly piñata bursts of visions and emotions. Once, I lived on a desert island with the least fatherly version of Cary Grant. That was nice. And then there are the all of the sweaty nights when my front tooth falls out and I wonder if I can play that off in public. “It’s cool, everybody, ” I say as I try to stick the tooth back into my gums. Tornados, pantslessness, phones that will not call 911, a voice that will not sound. My sleepy-time norms.
My mom got sick in December, and the specter of grief found my restless brain. Graphic images and hard circumstances rolled from the night and into my day. She passed away, and I don’t know if it is in dreams or reality that we feel less powerful. In my dreams, Mom was my moon, and I wondered what would happen to my oceans without her gravity. She was a petite person, a doll who I protected, carried through biker bars in Calgary, carried to the precipice of a great canyon and back again. She is the smiling phantom, here and gone again. Hope and grief again. But I keep living, which means I keep dreaming.
When friends who don’t remember the worlds within worlds within their heads hear of my evening odysseys, they say, “You should write those down.” I wonder if it’s because they are entertained or hope to find a chronicle of my descent into madness. I have been considering growing a beard, getting my name off the Satan-ruled interwebs, and taking to the hills to live in an old school bus…but really, I’m very stable.
On this day, this Tuesday morning after a night of early bed, there was nothing to explain renewed vigor and energy, nothing to explain why Don Henley’s Dirty Laundry suddenly felt like a sweet groove after the morning jokes on Akron’s classic rock station, nothing to explain why Lady Dog’s coat looked extra glossy and her poop breath smelled less offensive. Nothing but the breeze of a dream that floated through my night.
Everything is ready to go for the Amish furniture show that my boss organizes annually. The Amish guys have all moved their best, handcrafted furniture into the expo center, and it is almost time to welcome the public. My coworkers and I have stuffed the books with glossy exhibitor photos into complimentary tote bags, and we have had our morning donuts. I am ready for this day. My coworkers leave me as they attend their tasks, so I settle at the information desk. A shortish guy with graying hair comes through the front doors and asks me, “Can I still place an ad in the exhibitor’s show book if I don’t have booth space.” I’m such a sucker. I hate to say no, hate to hurt feelings. But no, I tell him, the show book is for exhibitors only. He lowers his head and tells me how far he has come, how much it means to him.
I can’t stand to hold all of this man’s disappointment, so I ask him to wait, to let me radio my boss. I squeeze the walkie-talkie button down, knowing what the answer will be. “Tony Danza wants to know if he can place an ad in the Amish furniture exhibitor guide.” My boss replies with a firm no. Furniture exhibitors only! I see Tony. He has his hands in his pockets, shoulders slumped. This is just what he needs, he tells me. This exposure to a totally new audience will turn his career around. I thunk down that walkie-talkie and stride out of the coziness of my information booth. Full of righteous conviction I shout at him, “You are Tony Fucking Danza! People love you!” I poke his chest with my finger and force him to acknowledge all of the awesome things about himself that I see. Tony Danza doesn’t need to advertise. Tony Danza doesn’t need to infiltrate the hordes of Ohio Amish who didn’t fall in love with him in the 1980s because they were quilting and racing buggies. Tony Danza doesn’t need anything but faith in Tony Danza. And then I throw in a, “Hey, Angela,” that sounds so authentic I almost think I am Tony Danza. If a super-potent pep talk doesn’t jar this small man back to himself, memories of Judith Light’s shoulder pads definitely will.
I wait to see the impact, if my words carry any weight, and I think they do. I felt my words came from a deep and powerful place. Tony sways a little side to side, rubs his hands together and claps. He says that I am right, he knows it. This is what he needs, this renewed belief in the magic of Tony Danza. Not some stupid ad in a furniture book. He starts toward the doors. I want to say that Tony turns back to me, bites his lip, and punches the air, but he doesn’t. He struts out of that expo center to reconquer the world, and I feel solid, hopeful, excited for a world in which Tony Danza can show us who’s the boss a second time around.
The magic of dreams doesn’t cease when our eyes open. Those emotions spill into our conscious lives whether we want them too or not. Maybe you wake up angry with your partner or clinging to a special kitty. Only in your dreams are you tight-cheeked enough to manage the Freddie Mercury ‘stache and leather pants simultaneously. And you can’t really fly.
When I look at the stars dappling the evening sky, I sometimes feel like a cord pulsing in harmony with a stretching universe. Other times, I am this pale bit of a girl looking out from a field into an openness she cannot comprehend. What am I, and what the hell is that? And what am I again? There is this same bewildering expanse within me where some mix of my elements bears dreams. Mad, rampant, crazy dreams. Constellations of sweetness and sadness. When my conscious mind tallies the struggles, my subconscious manages to reveal that there are still bits of my soul wallowing in an internal sun like obese cats after a nip orgy. My subconscious binds me to my backbone again. I am Tony Fucking Danza. I remember that now.