Two weeks ago I was sitting in a salon in Cape Town, anticipating being back in Canada. One week ago, I was sitting on my white faux-leather sectional having a glass of Shiraz with Terry, glad to be home.
Today, I wish I was back in South Africa.
I wear my heart on my sleeve – which is perhaps why I think everyone’s looking at me lately. I have a profound joie de vivre and am cheery most days. Then there are days like today.
The nightmares continue. Last week I was cracking jokes like usual and this week I trudge through my workday with a heavy heart. A couple nights ago I dreamt I ran into Terry at a party, only he suddenly looked like a guy I knew from high school. He drank too much and for some reason I was responsible for taking him home, which happened to be my grandmother’s old house. I carried him in my arms and set him on the counter like a bag of groceries. But he was rude and abrasive to me, so I left him there. The next day I read in the paper that he was a famous American football player who assumed a fake identity to escape the limelight and was living in Canada in secret, even from his ex-wife and 8 year-old son.
All of that would sound incredibly ridiculous if it hadn’t become so common for me to dream about the people I spend time with mysteriously morphing into other people with absurdly different personalities who harbour important and hurtful secrets.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the dream of the man in my hostel who held a gun to my head. He wouldn’t go away even when I offered him my camera and wallet. He came back, again to my grandmother’s old house and tried to break into the back door, while I tried to convince police on the phone I needed help.
And there have been other dreams too – sometimes I’m the one holding the gun.
It’s been six months since I mistakenly found myself at what I thought would be a relaxing women’s weekend, only to discover I’d shown up at a silent retreat, a rather comical and serendipitous event that I think in retrospect I will credit with being one of those rare turning points in my life.
What did I really want from dating? I asked myself there. Marriage, I was suddenly sure of. Kids (gulp), I was less sure of, but still sure of. And something else, something that has become a theme recently: agency.
I want to be someone’s partner. If he was going to drive, I wanted to hop in the passenger seat as a navigator, the one holding the map, and not just someone along for the ride.
That’s because now (apparently) being along for the ride has come to mean something terrifying to me. I am seriously distraught, at least at a subconscious, dream level of not having any control in my life or my relationships: of not being able to even distinguish who people are, without them turning into someone else.
The mosaic on my wall is a collection of snapshots taken purely with my sense of humour, like the nymph tickling Apollo’s bum – that always makes me giggle for some reason. They are the moments between my broken hearts: those rare times when I was happily and contentedly single; ironically, moments when I was not hung up on someone or something or another.
But now humour has become a defence mechanism – and even a distraction. I don’t want this project to be cute and superficial – a girl dressing up in numerous outfits and staging silly poses.
I can’t escape from the scenes that play out when I’m asleep. I can’t laugh about the absurdity of them – not when I’m being assaulted, hunted, called names, yelled at, and when I’m confused about where I am and who I’m with. If I want to be okay, I need to understand what I’m afraid of.