I have and always will prefer to be awake at night. I don’t care for the bustle of the day, or waking up early to see a sunrise I could magnify and brighten in a dream. I don’t pull all-nighters (well, all-dayers, in my case) because I cannot function without sleep. I have no fear of missing out on some activity when I sleep, and so I never evade the action of falling into a world I customize.
So please understand the look of slight annoyance I’ll throw you if you insist on telling me I must come out rather than get a good night’s sleep, because sleeping makes my day.
I don’t need vitamin D or a tan because the moon and those white distant stars are bright enough for me, and more hopeful—wouldn’t you agree? Stars shine, even in death. We cannot yet say or see the same of the sun.
If I had my way, the day would be a silent time for sleep and relaxation. The night would be the designated period of work and play and every home would have black-out window shades.
But when do we get our way?
I would say in our dreams—but my dreams are more complicated than that. For me, I have three types of dreams: sex dreams (which I have no control over), nightmares (which I have some control over), and lucid dreams (which I have complete control over).
I feel a sense of extreme comfort after experiencing each type of dream.
I wake up two or three times a night from these dreams, and each time that I wake my brain registers my world in this groggy, drunken, sluggish way. I wouldn’t say that I feel foggy when I wake.
I would say that I am fog when I wake.
In these moments, these moments that have a slow-mo Peter Jackson direction, I feel that I have been in Brazil for years.
It’s been 78 days.
And today—my 78th day—was my first real bad dark day.
Today, my colleague and I gave a short presentation on American beauty standards. The purpose of these presentations is to foster an hour and a half’s worth of conversation—to create an environment where the audience can verbally build on, in English, a topic of our choosing.
In reality, we’re just talking. We’re just practicing English.
The audience completes a short evaluation after the presentation. The feedback for today was positive, constructive—as always. But, there were two comments communicating that my half of the presentation was “heavy,” and a little too “serious” in comparison to the presentation on male beauty standards.
What does this mean in the grand scheme?
It means a few people would rather converse in English about a lighter issue—or it could mean they would rather talk about female American beauty standards in a way that downplays the gravity of those standards.
What did this mean for me?
A highly evolved, calculating, sentient, parasitic hybrid of embarrassment and anger somehow wriggled into my stomach and laid highly potent, live, time released eggs of emotion in my stomach and intestines.
I was ashamed that I had talked about the gravity of the situation in the United States regarding female beauty standards, a topic which is and maybe always will be, a much more serious issue than the current demands for male beauty.
I was angry that this issue was thought of by some to be less serious than it is.
I was ashamed that I had tried to offer an analysis about the beauty standards I felt I was subjected to as a female child and now as an adult woman. I was ashamed that I had shared what I felt to be the truth about American standards of beauty: that a white type beauty is preferred, favored, and demanded over a darker beauty, over black beauty.
When I realized some people were freaked out—were made uncomfortable—by my contribution on this topic, by my honesty, I was infuriated, and wanted to fall asleep and wake up in November.
I’m sort of running low on emotion—if you think of emotion as fuel and the body as a machine.
You know, I feel almost everything that you feel when and as you feel it.
If you hang around me long enough while you experience a concentrated emotion—you’re feeling freaked out, uncomfortable, feeling incredibly awkward—then I feel this way too.
If you’re incredibly angry, incredibly happy, incredibly sad—I will join you wherever you are.
This is not a choice.
I don’t enjoy hanging onto the back of someone else’s emotional rollercoaster. I am simply built to feel emotions acutely, maybe because I do not have a wide emotional range of my own.
So, if you are around me and your blood is surging a specific emotion, that emotion becomes mine. I adopt it, along with my own. I have to feed and care for those emotions like children.
Uppers, downers: they both have an effect.
Sometimes I run out of resources. My emotional poverty in these situations causes tears, or it resurrects some cutting and cruel streak of ruthless honesty that I must tackle to the floor, or it causes me to leave you as soon as I can.
Today, I feel emotionally poor because today was emotionally rich. I experienced a healthy serving of my own emotions, as well as the emotions of others.
I’m not bitter, just tired.
Sometimes I wish I could dream instead of wake.
Waking brings such a burden, such friction, such seriousness—things no one wants to share with you, unless of course, you’re willing to ease some of their burdens. . .and even then, it’s hard to find someone who will listen to you, absorb your problems and expect nothing in return.
And, besides, everyone tells me what a marvelous dreamer I am, how well I sleep, how beautiful I seem when I’m alive in some other place unknown to conscious perception.
They tell me that when I first wake, I grope around in reality, as if I’m confused, utterly confused, about my existence in waking life—bumping into doors, letting cups fall in mid air as I place them two inches away from the kitchen counter, thinking I’m placing them directly on some solid surface in some other star-lit dimension. I walk in a zig-zag pattern, like a lazy moth flying haphazardly to and from a neon light that illuminates the dark night.
They tell me it’s heartbreaking, watching me exit the world in which I belong, to enter the solid world of reality, of light.
I’ve been dreaming of my grandfather frequently. Sometimes he’s asking me to lock all of the secret doors in his house before he travels. Sometimes he is a younger, fatter man and we’re at the beach again—back when I had blonde ringlets and my world was seven miles long. Sometimes we’re sitting at dinner together, somewhere in Brazil on the back porch of an American beach condo one would never find in Brazil, and I’m facing that old scene of my childhood of marsh and sea reeds blowing in the wind, my Poppy grilling burgers on the porch with a green grill that stands on four short legs a half foot off the ground as my grandmother creates another cozy house in the digital world of Sims.
My other family members are there, too.
In these dreams I do not feel too much of anything.
I do not feel too serious, too heavy, too relaxed, too beautiful, too white, too freckly, too red-headed, too American, too Brazilian, too calm, too independent, too individualistic, too loving, too helpful, too kind, too young, too successful, too good with languages, too sleepy—too much of anything I have been told I am here in Brazil.
I just feel understood and accepted, with the perfect amount of everything I need to make a beautiful, peaceful sleepy world drenched in rain and sea salt.
Because sleeping weather is rainy weather and sea salt truly is the prime ingredient of dreams.
But dreams are just dreams. They don’t mean much and they don’t last long.
And this is true only because the day takes preference. It is considered more important.
And I will always hold a grudge against it.
In my dreams, and always in my nightmares, I detect and feel such concentrated happiness, from some unknown source—some strange land or strange thing—that I wake up with a remnant of that joy and I grasp at it as sit on the toilet in the morning, long after I have emptied my bladder, my left elbow making a red mark on the top of my left knee, my eyes still closed, the sounds of a Brazilian town’s downtown falling through the bathroom window with the hot breeze.
Unlike most writers, I can only write well when I’m happy. When I’m elated, I can twist and turn narratives like old winding Brazilian streets.
When I’m sad, or someone else places their burdens on my shoulders, or I’m made to wake early and exert energy along with the sun, my fingers fall away from the keyboard, and, if I force them to type, they hit the same key, and I feel I’ve contracted some small elusive reflexive madness that replaces its own madness with a concentrated and prickly boredom—so that my madness goes mad.
Perhaps I share too much.
But, let me share this with you: just today, I went to a park with my Brazilian boo and his brother and his fiancé. I was turning over all of these new leaves. And I turned a large orange one, with brown, crinkled edges, and it was dirty in the middle and big enough to feed hundreds of shimmering ants with lime colored backs. It was nutritious and it was dying and it would soon become a collection of invisible particles that would never remember being orange and brown and would blend into the dirt and maybe be the stuff of the next large tree some new woman in the future observes.
And I decided that I can say anything I feel as long as it is the truth, the illuminating truth, not the fleeting truth of human judgement or condemnation that one feels throughout the day.
I can sleep soundly in illumination, but not in judgement.
So I’ll tell you about my days in Belo Horizonte, the largest city in Minas Gerais state, because they began so early, and I was always so tired during the day, that the entire Easter weekend I spent there seems like a dream.
There was the hippie fair that Sunday with blocks and blocks of the strangest things: booths of color splashed instruments, of little girls’ Sunday dresses, of purses with equally measured strips of leather hanging from the zippers, of canvas book bags with painted Brazilian flags on the front pockets, of heavy dangling wooden earrings, of incense burners disguised as small kitchen scenes, of women’s bejeweled sandals that never exceeded size 7, of fried balls of codfish and corn, of sausages and cheese skewered with sticks, of figurines of beautiful busty black women, of paintings of birds and mandalas, of every little object you can create in a dream. Shopping and picking things out for friends with my meticulous, overly specific eye at 8:00 in the morning was a lucid dream and a nightmare at once. . .and because my Brazilian was there alongside me, being helpful and sexy and gently placing his hand on the left or right side of my rib cage—depending on which side of me he was standing—to guide me on a straight path—me being too sleepy to walk correctly—,the day could be considered erotic as well.
And those days when we went to a public park and took photographs of the play hobbit house built there, cool and dank filled with hobbit shelves and hobbit stools and hobbit doilies—and those days when I sat at the kitchen table with his mother and his brother’s fiancé and his mother told me in a loud, deliberate, endearing way that my body was Brazilian and beautiful—and those days when those horrid Betim pigeons woke me with the sound of their pigeon feet curling around the horizontal bars outside of my window, with their humming and flapping and desire to wake with the sun.
All these days seemed like today, and every day seems to be the same day for me.
If I never wrote a word I would never remember these days, just as people never seem to remember their dreams.
And I write these blogs and I still can’t seem to figure what is more important, the dream or the day—and which should we remember; and are they same; and would I like to burn brightly or shine in a cold and secret way?