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  • James Eichenlaub

Rapid Eye Movement!


Welcome to my dream


My mother stood there in a room I did not recognize and asked me, "Are you going to school today?" I just stared at her for a long moment and then ducked past her because she died more than forty years ago. Why is she here now asking about school? ... Walking down the hall, the lockers on either side were huge. Well, as school lockers go, anyway. More comparable to small closets, when the doors opened, a light from inside reflected on the floor, causing it to become translucent with glistening flakes of silver embedded deep inside the marble. 'Is this Altoona High?' I asked myself. If not, I have no idea which school it is, where it is, or why I'm here. Oddly, I sensed more than smelled the delicious odor coming from the cafeteria so that it may be Milton Hershey School for boys. ... Three of us were running up the narrow metal staircase that led to the parapet above. I have been here before, but where is 'here'? Are we in a lighthouse? We stood at the rail high above the school and looked across a narrow, grass-covered valley. On the other side was a vast, clerical building. There was a longing inside me concerning that building, an empty feeling of loss. There is an empty longing for that building. Why? ... Then, as we walked together, the people crowded about me were familiar, somewhere, at some time had I worked with them? There were no faces. I just 'felt' who they were, but from where and when? I moved away from those that made me uncomfortable. I knew they didn't like me.


Where were we going, and why? That was another question? Together, crowded on a nondescript sidewalk in a strange city, we moved slowly along, and I could hear the murmur of their voices, all familiar voices talking but saying nothing intelligible, but things I wouldn't say I liked hearing. ... Somehow I sensed that they, all of them, are far more educated and far more likely to succeed. An overwhelming feeling of insecurity flooded through me as I recognized how very little I knew about any single thing in life. Having little or nothing to offer by comparison, how can I ever compete? My mother would be so disappointed. There she is again, my mother, but why? Why was 'she' here? ... Running this time through those sparkling marble halls, lights from the lockers illuminating, I had quit; dropped out as it were. I'd told someone, somewhere, that I was done, leaving, finding something new.


Suddenly, I walked into a large cafeteria without actually traversing the many staircases required to get there. I looked behind me into a cloud, somewhere down a corridor, a staircase, and yet another corridor. Again, dozens of people were familiar to me from every facet of life, executives and managers from the companies I'd worked for, old military buddies of my Navy days. ... My old boss, and probably the closest to a friend of anyone in my career, was Mike. He sat there among them and stood to greet me, the only one to do so, and with his familiar and genuine smile. As I tried to shake hands with others to say goodbye, some accepted, most would not. Instead, they stared at me blankly, offering a deep and hurtful feeling of rejection. ... Now I'm running again, me and three others, one of whom was a male I seemed to recognize, coaxing me back onto the parapet. I couldn't see his face, but I instinctively knew him. "We have something to do there," he said, "something before you leave!" I felt lightheaded and out of breath as we emerged through the opening at the top, a nondescript feeling of doom or danger. ... Once more, we leaned against the rail and looked to this time, a spreading, meadowed valley below us that replaced the narrow grassy space from before, a stark change in earth and sky. The sky above was dark with clouds, and the air smelled of rain, a sudden draft of cold air.


There across the valley, just as before, sat "the building!" Strangely, taller, wider, full of glimmering dark windows that reflected the silhouette of us, a crowd that wasn't there previously reflected as we stood at the rail.


The beautiful building, now surrounded by elegant landscaping, tall flowering trees, and fountains, exuding the appearance of erudition and intellect. ... "All you want to do is stare at it!" I shouted as a feeling of hurt and betrayal washed over me, and they all began laughing. "Keep in touch!" I heard as I charged toward the dark opening to the staircase.


Leaping down the narrow stairs, skipping over dozens of steps, I jumped from one floor to the next until I found myself running up the long silvered corridor toward a group of large oak doors. Each door had a dozen or more small, sparkling glass panes and shiny brass hardware.


Bursting my way through, I ran down the long concrete stair to a tree-lined street. I looked back and saw Keith Jr. High School, my old middle school of ages ago. I looked left, and then right, up and down the empty tree-lined street, and then it ended. ... It wasn't yet daybreak, and I lay there, pushing away the feeling of loss and anguish, knowing that dreams often reflect realities. Which is the reason I struggle to retain them and why I put this one in writing, albeit the revelation of any dream is a bit embarrassing and painful to the soul. Still, much of it appears to represent the realities of life and the ominous admission of regrets and failures. ... "What dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause. There's the respect that makes calamity of 'so long, life.'" (Hamlet, W. Shakespear)

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