February 25, 2009

Bedtime Stories

I can lay down in bed, but I know I won’t sleep. I can turn out the light and draw the heavy curtains close against the city glow, but I know I won’t sleep. I can feel the warm blankets against the bare skin of my legs and the soft, sweet-smelling hair against my neck. It is still slightly damp from washing this morning. The center of the thick braid I wore all day never dried. I can feel the small, pleasing weight curl up against my back, only faintly purring. I can close my eyes and even dream, but I know I won’t sleep.

So I simply lay still in my safe bed and dream. I dream of places never been, people never met, conversations never held, lives never saved. Never dreams that could come true. Well, rarely anyway. No, only dreams that would never be - fantastic dreams, fanciful dreams, and horrible dreams. Often dreams that don’t even include me. These are stories of lives never lived, worlds that never were.

I have held entire movies in my head, entire novels, entire trilogies. I have worked out plots night after night, some year after year, refining characters and details and emotions. Sometimes I see it as if on a television screen, sometimes as if I am running in the midst of it, sometimes only in words. Sometimes scenes start to blur, loose coherency, and I realize I am asleep. Sometimes I let it go and remain in sleep and sometimes I throw myself back into the fray, finding the best solutions in my lucid mind.

I have always done this. For as long as I can remember, which is back to the time when we lived in Trip. We moved from there when I was four, so as far as I am concerned, that is always, my entire life. I wonder if I did this in my last one too. They gave me a keyboard in eighth grade and I started writing them down. Most of them I let go. Some of them my mother kept. A few I am still working on. One or two are finished, if only in my head.

It is one of the two things I have always done, aside for breathing and eating and sleeping, of course. I have always told myself stories and I have always drawn myself buildings. Really, I think they are the same. Building is just another way of storytelling.

Sometimes, most times, this is escapism, the drawing and the telling. I want the emotional high I cannot find in my rather ordinary life. I want to escape the emotional lows I fear to feel in my ordinary life. I would like to claim I escape less now that I know what it is, but in truth, I just know what it is and that is all the further I have gotten. But sometimes, every once in a while, it is exploration, it is learning, it is understanding.

Have you ever had an imaginary conversation? I have and do. I have described modern physics to Leonardo Da Vinci and democratic government to Queen Elizabeth the First. I have told Martin Luther King Jr. that a black man was elected president of the United States and Katsumoto that Japan fought a war with America and gained a great friend. I have explained to The Doctor that he has no self, and who should understand this better than he who is currently on his tenth self, and failed to explain how the internet works to Legolas. I also told Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius that they were all idiots who managed to set architecture back fifty years at least. Trying to explain how something works, even to someone who is not really there, is a wonderful way of figuring it out for oneself.

Other times they are just stories, but stories through which greater problems can be explored. Why would someone fight? Why would someone kill or die or go to war? Is there ever a reason? How can we cure hate? What will happen when humankind moves among the stars? If we could change the world with a thought, would we? How do we deal with power? How do we deal with love? Can we forgive even the greatest of atrocities? If a person could live to be a thousand years old, would they be crazy or would they get over it?

These are the “when did time begin?” kind of questions – the “not useful for one’s edification” questions. In other words, thinking about them too much will only serve to drive one mad because there are no real answers to be found.

Oh, but it will be a fun drive – goodnight.

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