Alan Arvesen (aarvesen) wrote,
Alan Arvesen

In Dreams

One of the most moving quest lines in the World of Warcraft is a level 60 quest that takes you all over the Plaguelands. Essentially, you find a lonely old man in a cave, who eventually ends up being a disgraced paladin, whose child has succumbed to the Legion and now leads that Scarlet Crusade. When you finally, after many quests, confront the child, who is of course a man, he has a moment of clarity and tells you...

For so long, I have been a puppet of the Grand Crusader. What reason was there to fight against what the Scarlet Crusade had become? It has been decades, yet the memories of my father; those precious memories, they are what have kept me alive.

I have dreams, stranger. In these dreams my father is with me. He stands proudly at my side as I am inducted into the Order. We battle legion of Scourge, side by side. We bring honor to the Alliance, to Lordaeron.

I want not to dream anymore.

Take me to him.

Still chokes me up.

For years, my standard stress and anxiety dream has been "finals are next week and I haven't gone to class all semester". I can pretty much pinpoint when I'm stressed out because I start having these kinds of dreams again. Usually, I'm at the same age that I am now, and usually I am skipping some class that I felt bad about skipping in undergrad (such as difficult calculus or chemistry). I wonder to myself in the dream, what is going to happen to my 3.75 GPA? Maybe I can cram enough in to learn this all? Where is the syllabus, shouldn't I be in class right now?

At one point I had this dream so often that I made up a rhyme to try to remind myself that I was not in fact dreaming. I'm a fairly lucid dreamer; that is, I often know inside of a dream that I am dreaming. I can occasionally bridge the gap between waking and sleep and remember something from my real life. The rhyme was pretty simple: something like "I am not enrolled in class nor am I failing fast." It was pretty bad, but it did help a little bit in the dreams.

These days, my stress dream seems to have shifted instead to a fear that I am not feeding Erica appropriately. I would wake in the middle of the night and ask Michelle in a flush of panic about some ritual that I was supposed to be performing in order to feed her. Or protect her. Or something. These aren't really dreams, they are more in that "hypnogogic" state where you are barely awake and barely asleep. So I have a hard time articulating exactly what I am fearful of, and Michelle just tells me to go back to sleep.

But I still have other dreams.

A few nights ago, I dreamt that Michelle and I were up on campus at UT. We saw a little boy by one of the buildings who looked alone. We talked to him, and figured out that his parents were inside the building. Inside was a library, but it wasn't his parents, it was a baby sitter who was studying for class. She thanked us for bringing him in. Then there were lots of kids around, and someone told me I had a beautiful daughter; what was her name? In the dream, I couldn't remember, and I had to ask Michelle. Then the other end of the hallway, that wasn't leading to a library, turned into a convenience store. In the store was a bunk bed, and small children were crowded into the beds, rolling over each other and giggling like a mess of puppies.

The store expanded and became as big as a walmart. I looked out the big windows and saw it was sunny outside. "That's strange", I thought, "it should be dark outside still, I don't remember the sun rising. A-ha, I bet I am dreaming." As I walked down an aisle, I looked away from the windows, then looked back and it was snowing. "Yes, I am most definitely dreaming", I said to myself.

This is an interesting thing about lucid dreaming: once you become lucid, you have to keep yourself calm. It's exciting to know that you are dreaming, mostly because you can control the dream, but it's easy to become too excited and wake yourself up. It is also easy to fall back out of lucidity and just begin plain old dreaming again. And, oddly, you are prone to "false awakenings" while you're dreaming, where you think you've woken up but really are just moving into another dream.

With all this in mind, I try to keep myself under control, and I wonder what I am going to see. If I am outside in a lucid dream, I always try to fly somewhere (this may sound weird). Since I was inside, my next favorite thing to do is to walk up to people in my dreams and scrutinize their faces, trying to see how detailed they really are (quite detailed) and seeing how they react when I tell them that I am dreaming them (usually with a laugh).

As I walk by the window, I look over into the next aisle and I see my old friend Brian Buck. Brian died about four years ago from cancer, and as it moved along it kept eating up parts of his body: an arm, a hip, and finally everything. But Brian here is like we were in high school, fully limbed and wearing an old green army jacket that I used to wear. He waves at me, and I am so happy to see him.

We begin to walk, and I tell him, "now I'd like to see Pete", who was another of our high school friends. And of course Pete walked around the corner, and all three of us were seventeen again, laughing away.

We walked to the corner Pete had come from, and around it was a bar that looked like a Hooters. I said something about Brian having two arms, and he told some old joke. I told him his joke was old, but that "that's the good part about being dead, you get a pass on it." The three of us thought this was enormously funny.

Next to us in the Hooters, there was a table filled with hair metal looking guys. They were all singing "Smooth up in ya". The three of us joined along in singing with them. I was thinking to myself that I had to keep my exuberance down to keep the dream going, but I felt so profoundly happy to be here with my friends, at least one of which I would never see again, and doing something we would never be able to do.

I felt a literal tug on my sleeve, and I knew the dream was ending. I told Brian and Pete goodbye, that it was time for me to go.

I woke up, falsely, back into the hallway by the library, and Michelle and I discussed what we were going to do that day. And then I woke up in my own bed in real life. Michelle was awake with Erica in herrood, and I went in and told them the story.

Brian and I drifted apart after undergrad. He ended up getting married to a woman I didn't care for, nor she for me. Michelle met him on a trip we took to New York in 2002, just after the towers fell. He had lost his arm by this point but not his hip and things were looking like they were in remission. We ate dinner somewhere with our buddy Michael Henderson and, I think, his now wife Lisa.

I don't feel guilty about drifting; that is what happens to people, and drifting is a two way process. After Brian died, I honored him in my own small way by naming a new computer after him. I still play WoW, and indeed played that very quest line, on Briandavid, which still chugs away most nights.

I do, of course, miss him, and think of how irreplacable a life is. All of those times we spent, just sitting around his kitchen with his scary dog Zeus, or joking about how cars work (he was a fiendishly informed mechanic), or the ridiculous over education we all endured in undergrad (he was a film studies major at NYU), all "those moments lost, like diamonds in the rain." Good old Roy Batty.
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