Here’s a dream from last night.
A disused porch is reduced to a passage from the kitchen at the rear of the house to the yard; we rarely play there any more. There’s not much of the house that I’ve ever known, just the kitchen, though I know it well. My brother G is excited for a party at the house tonight. The party is soon and I’m anxious. I can see that no preparations have been made, and the house is fragile and worn, barely standing. People shouldn’t come here. They should go elsewhere.
The kitchen is clean and presentable. I stand in its door looking at the mess on the porch. For the party, we can just close the door, but that would block access to the yard, and it’s better to have people outside the house. I start to move broken furniture and withered plants to open a path. The junk can be pushed aside so no one thinks to bother it or explore beyond it.
I find a ball of flowers on a strand. It occurs to me that I can unravel the ball and drape the strand over the junk, making it look deliberate, like a festive ruin. My mom is at the kitchen door, saying this is right, that’s how it used to be done. I’m angry and bothered. Let’s not think this can be fixed, I think, only made a temporary passage. It’s still a bad idea that people are coming.
My brother pushes into the porch, making his way to a sink in a corner near the yard, disrupting piles as he does so. He wants to wash up and brush his teeth. He’s oblivious to disrupting my tasks. I’m annoyed but keep it to myself. I’ll wait until he’s done to resume. He’s using a complicated electric toothbrush that is filthy, its parts stored on a plywood shelf more suited to a garden shed. He’s talking over his shoulder, excited about the party.
In the corner, I see a small toilet with water in a disgusting bowl. The seat is partially covered by a glass shelf holding a withered plant. I think that I could cover the shelf with more junk so no one sees the filth or tries to use the toilet, but I find myself moving the pot to clean the shelf and the toilet bowl. It’s not useful but at least it doesn’t look repulsive. My brother lifts a foot into the bowl and flushes, repeating to wash both feet. Now I think I should removed the glass shelf so those who use it won’t be injured. Someone standing could piss into the small space left by the shelf, but no seated person could use it. A woman, oblivious to me, sits on the shelf and uses her fingers to direct her stream into the space. I think, well, if that’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for me.
My brother and the woman leave. I clean up after them, resenting the extra work. A friend of my mom’s sees me cleaning the parts of my brother’s toothbrush and offers to give me a new one. I resent her intrusion but reply politely that I don’t need a new one, I’m only cleaning an old one. She replies that I need one as well. I take it, thanking her, and return to my task. She suggests I try out her gift. I begrudgingly examine it before admitting that I don’t understand the attachments. She shows me how it’s used and, I admit, it’s nice to use. Only now I need to clean the shelf, which I had intended to skip. I try to group the items I find: toothbrush components, shoeshine kit, sewing items.
People wander into the porch as I clean. A large man in black pants and a cheap white shirt looks around. I know he is providing security for the party and I feel love for him; still, I want him to move on. Hearing a noise in the yard, he pulls out a handgun, pointing it into the darkness. I’m annoyed that his will keep him on the porch. The noise is revealed to be children playing in a field beyond the yard. The man puts away his gun.
I move to the next corner, crowded with untended plants. Two kids in fairy costumes join me. I move them away from fragile, dry plants, offering them a narrative detour in their play, indicating another area where they can explore. (This is the only interaction I initiate in the dream.) I notice a small sprig and move away some weeds to plant it. Now I’m weeding the pots and sweeping up around them.
I remember the strand of flowers, still a ball attached to the parts I’ve already draped. I return to lifting it over potted trees. The lower leaves are just about my head; above are spindly dead branches. Mom returns to the door behind me with friends. They encourage me to lift the strands over the dead branches, reminding me that this is how it used to be done. I feel another surge of anger. I can’t make this how it was or better it, I can only make it more passable. Still, I stretch to raise the stands higher and see that it does look nice.
The kids are playing in the yard. I can hear guests talking and laughing in the kitchen behind me. I’m alone surveying the porch. I’ve tidied it completely. Nothing new or fancy, just clean, lived in, cared for. My brother joins me, happy. He tells me I’ve done a good job, adding he’d never before noticed that the floor slanted. Of course not, I think: no one had ever bothered with upkeep so no one has seen this space in our lifetimes. There’s nothing I can do about the sloping floor, I think, as though to a rebuke. Anyway, I like the way it sags. As my satisfaction in the completed tasks gives way once more to anger, I decide to wake up, though I’ll miss the party.
Waking, I remain in bed, eyes closed, revisiting the dream, holding the anger and then letting it go. I reflect on these words: let go of the things people take from you.