This morning, I had an extremely long and detailed dream, but it’s got a great story to it, so I promise you it’ll be worth your while to stick with it and read it all the way through to the end.
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I’m riding in a yellow pickup with my high school friend K. We’re driving through the parking lot of a strip mall, near DepotForHomes and a sporting goods/outdoor equipment store. Somehow I’m sitting on the left side of K, while he’s driving, all scrunched up against the steering wheel. We pass a restaurant, and I see a cute young woman walking on the sidewalk, wearing the restaurant’s uniform. “Hey,” I tell K, “it’s my favorite waitress!” A huge police car zooms past us on the left, loaded full of about eight male and female trainees in uniforms. I say to K, “What do you say we switch and sit on the correct sides?” I watch the police car turn around the corner, the trainees not paying us the slightest bit of attention.
K asks, “So we can wear our seat belts?”
“Yup. Drive really super slow for a sec.” I slide over to the passenger side, and just as I do, a guy jumps into the truck with us, points a shiny silver revolver at me and barks at K to drive. Suddenly, mayhem ensues, and a few things happen almost simultaneously.
Two cars crash into each other, and the drivers get out to yell at each other and survey the damage.
Two other guys are loading a large, oak shop table and two enormous toolboxes into the back of their ancient blue Chevrolet pickup. There is a canopy on the back of the truck, and the guys have the little screen door open, but the table is obviously much too large to fit through the tiny door, and probably won’t fit in the truck at all. The guys start to argue with each other, even coming to blows. One goes over to grab a toolbox, but it’s too heavy for him, so he drops it, sending tools and little ratchets rolling every which way across the parking lot. He curses and runs back over to his friend, throwing punches and yelling at the top of his lungs.
The formerly blue sky turns extremely hazy, with large brown clouds of smoke billowing from what appears to be a burning building somewhere nearby, but I’m unable to see the source of the smoke. There is enough happening that I decide to look into that later.
The three of us in K’s truck are stunned by all this activity. Police cars begin to arrive, and K and I seize the opportunity to jump out of the truck and run. The gunman points his revolver at me and pulls the trigger, but it clicks harmlessly. I grab it from his hand, push him out the passenger’s door and slide out the driver’s door, in order to make a mad dash for the sporting goods store and get out of this mayhem. I see the gun lying on the ground in the parking lot, shining in what’s left of the sunlight. I pick it up because I feel that at least if I have it, that’s a much safer option than if one of these maniacs in the parking lot has it. I walk quickly with it in my hand for about ten seconds before I realize that I don’t even want it, and I probably shouldn’t have even touched it in the first place, because now my fingerprints will be on it. I drop it on the sidewalk and go around the corner of the building to the entrance of the sporting goods store.
As soon as I’m through the sliding glass door and inside the store, I have a small breakdown. I walk past the checkout lines, rubbing my eyes and trying not to cry. A woman customer I pass says, “Sir? Sir?” I ignore her and keep walking toward the back of the store, toward the bicycles. I turn into an aisle and there is a heavyset man in his fifties sitting on the floor, legs splayed out in front of him, playing with a toy of some sort from the shelf. I put my head in my hands and take a deep breath to get myself together, than turn and walk back out through the store. My cell phone is missing, but I still have my cards and ID and about twenty-five dollars in cash.
* * * * *
This is the point where the dream takes some weird turns, and sort of refers back to a dream I had earlier this week, in which my Honda was being repaired, so I had a clunky old American car to drive, which I couldn’t even see out of because of the way the windshield was designed. It was almost like the window in a tank. I narrowly avoided being in about ten different accidents, got lost in a run-down part of town, and I misplaced my phone and ID, so I spent the night in an all-night diner befriending a young waitress [Remember when I said to K, ‘Hey, that’s my favorite waitress’? Well, she’s the one I was referring to.] and a homeless couple, who were very sweet and took it upon themselves to look after me, inviting me to stay with them in their shelter. They were under the impression, for some reason, that I was of South Asian descent. Of course, right? I dunno; it was a dream. Speaking of dreams, it’s time to go back to the current one; there’s plenty more to come. Hang in there.
* * * * *
I walk outside the store and discover that it’s now about two hours later than it was before, and the sun is beginning to set. The people have left the parking lot, and there are only a few cars left, including the Chevy truck with the canopy. The screen door is now broken and hanging at an angle from one of the hinges, as a result of the fight between the two guys. There are tools and broken glass all over the ground by the back of the truck. K’s truck is nowhere to be seen, and neither is the gun. I’m looking everywhere for my phone, cursing the fact that I can’t remember anyone’s phone numbers anymore, even those of my closest friends, because of the way phones are automated these days. I’m trying to recall even one number I can call, but I am unable.
I walk back toward the store, and the homeless couple are coming out. “Hey,” the woman tells the man, “it’s that nice Indian guy from jail.” I tell them that it’s really good to see them, but I decide not to correct them about the jail thing, or the Indian thing. “Is everything okay?” she asks me.
I tell her the abridged version of what happened, and they take me back to an old two-story apartment building that they and a few other people appear to be squatting in. They show me the upstairs, and I recognize two of the rooms. I tell them, “I think a couple of my friends used to live here.” I look around a bit, then walk back downstairs to an empty bed I’d seen in the foyer next to the door when we first came in. I’m suddenly extremely sleepy, and lie down on my side, facing the door. There is some sort of construction work going on in the foyer, with two or three workmen bringing materials and tools in and out, making it very difficult for me to get any rest. One of them sees me and starts to taunt me. He looks directly at me as he pulls down a flag from the wall. He makes a snide comment about it, trying to elicit a reaction from me, but I just say, “I don’t know what that is either, to tell you the truth.” He makes a couple more goading remarks to me, but I calmly reply to each of them. My voice sounds strange to my ears, and I have a slight tinge of an accent, which changes with every sentence. It morphs from Southern into English into Australian. The guy walks outside, and as he does, two young women who are friends of my waitress friend come in. I sit up on the bed, and when they see me, their faces instantly light up. Smiling, they walk right over, plopping themselves down on the bed with me, and sort of over me too. It’s hard to explain. I put an arm around each of them. One is shorter and slightly better looking than the other, and we’ve always had this amazing chemistry between us. The three of us hug and start talking quickly and excitedly, asking how the others are, and how the waitress is. The girl I have chemistry with takes my hand and kisses my fingertips. I reach over and put my hand on the front and side of her neck, then kiss her head through her hair. She sighs, takes a deep inhale of breath and says, “I could stay here like this all day.”
“Well, you know how I feel about that,” I tell her. “I’m all for it.”
Suddenly there’s an older, very heavyset woman with a missing hand who appears next to me, pushing a box of flowers in my face, trying to get me to buy some. “They’re only $18.50 a piece,” she says, flashing a grin with many missing teeth.
“I wish I could help,” I say, “but I’m in the same situation that you are.” I think but don’t say aloud, at least you have flowers you can sell. I turn back to the two young women, who are starting to get up, so I remove my arms from around them. They stand up and we say our goodbyes, just as my homeless woman friend comes in the door. She asks me if I need anything, and slips a five-dollar bill into my hand around the thermal coffee cup I’m holding. I put it back into her hand and say, “No, really, I’m okay. I’m missing my phone, but I do have cash. Besides, you need that money.” She says something else and says she has a place she wants to take me. I raise my coffee cup to find the five-dollar bill that she had surreptitiously stuffed underneath, so I smile to myself and decide to just shut up and keep the money. I stand up and we go to meet her guy at the strip mall where we’d already been.
They take me to a door, which opens onto a stairway. A wizened old woman is sitting a few steps up, which puts her at our eye level, and she says, “That’ll be three dollars, please.” The homeless couple starts to walk up the stairs, and I look up to see that there is a door at the top, which is open, and inside there appears to be a tiny bar.
From the bottom of the stairs, I call up to my friends, “Are you sure? We don’t really need this.” I’m trying not to reveal too much about our situation in front of the old woman, who is peering intently at each of us in turn. The homeless woman says, “It’s okay; I’ll pay for you.” I walk up the stairs and go through the door. Inside is the smallest bar I’ve ever seen, and all of the walls are pure white, with no pictures or signs or anything. The room is about eight feet deep and thirty feet wide, and the bar runs the entire width of the room. The establishment’s name, ‘The Red Room,’ is painted onto the mirror behind the bar. I think to myself, Why is this place called the Red Room, when it’s all painted white? I start to ask my friends about this, when a door opens on the right side of the room. It appears to be a ‘green room’, where bands hang out and relax when they aren’t playing. I wonder where a band would even set up in this miniscule bar, and suddenly realize that IrishBand is scheduled to play here in a few weeks, and that I should talk to the manager about that. I look into the green room and laugh to myself as I think, Wow, a green room in the tiny, white Red Room.
We decide to go back to our apartment building, and they go their own way. I decide to walk around outside for a while and explore the grounds. I go to the side yard to look at the plants and flowers, and just as I come back around toward the front of the building, someone on the balcony of the building next door sees me and calls out to a person I can’t see. “That’s him; the perp.” I step back into the side of the yard, and then come back around to the front nonchalantly, as if I hadn’t heard anything. “There he is again,” the man says, and I look over at him as I walk up the front steps and into the building. An older man in his seventies is in the foyer, looking at me from under the brim of a weathered baseball hat. I set my jacket down on the bed and sit down. “This place yours?” the man asks me.
“For now, I suppose.” I reply.
He pulls out a walkie-talkie and speaks into it as he walks out the door. “Yeah, all his stuff seems to be here.” Suddenly the place is crawling with young cops, all men, who are joking and high-fiving each other nervously. They seem to be the same trainees who were in the car that passed K and me while we were in the parking lot at the strip mall. They all start to ask me things at once, and one of them pulls the silver revolver out of his pocket to show me. “Why’d you drop your gun?” he asked. “What the hell were you trying to do? Did you think you could get away with it?”
I’m getting annoyed with all of this, so I say, “Y’know what? You guys obviously have lots of questions, and I’ll be happy to answer them all, but let me just tell you my story first. That should clear everything up for you.”
One of the others asks me, “You mean about the double killing and the fire?”
“I don’t know anything about that,” I say, and start to tell them everything, about the gunman and the billowing smoke, and the fact that I don’t even like guns, and I should never have picked it up in the first place, but that it was safer in my possession than anyone else’s, or so I thought. I also tell them about the two guys fighting over the tools, and how they had a “drafting table of some sort”, which the main interrogator suddenly reaches around and produces. He unfolds it and sets it up next to us. “That’s the one,” I say. The police had brought it in with them, but hadn’t mentioned it or the tools. This lends credence to my story, and I can see that they are starting to be swayed. Then I tell them about the homeless couple and how they’d been looking after me since I’d lost my phone and had nowhere to go.
The interrogator tells me with an exasperated tone in his voice, “We’ve been trying to call you for the last two days straight.”
“I’m sure you have,” I say, “but now you know why I didn’t answer.” I tell them about the tiny white Red Room with the huge green room in it, and they all chuckle a little. I decide not to tell them about the two girls or the waitress. No sense getting them involved unnecessarily.
A female plainclothes officer comes forward, smiles ever so slightly and says, “Your story has a very coherent narrative.”
“Thank you.” I smile ever so slightly back at her, and continue the final part of the story. “I intended to go investigate the source of the smoke, but obviously I haven’t had a chance to get back there yet. Do any of you know what happened?”
“It’s out,” a couple of them answer. “That’s all we know.”
I start to pack up my few belongings, jacket, sweater, hat, and phone. Somehow I have a small duffel bag filled with a complete change of clothes, which must have been another gift from my homeless friends. “So that’s it? Are we all good to go now?” I look around from person to person. “Oh yeah. Can I catch a ride back with somebody?”
The interrogator says, “Sure thing, but she wants pizza.”
I sit down on the bed again, completely exhausted. “I don’t care who ‘she’ is, I just want to go to sleep.”
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There, you see? Well worth your time to read it all, no? FYI, it has taken me over an hour and a half to write this entire thing out. 2900 words.