I had strange dreams I had to get up & outline on paper, just to purge them. I am sure some is the result of reading Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and “Anansi Boys” as of late…. so this essay will be a recounting, strange and discordant as dreams often are. I have added nothing to smooth the story line that didn’t actually occur in the dream, yet am sure by this morning I have left some things out by process of waking diffusion.
I often have lucid dreams, those in which one is variably aware one is dreaming. This one is stranger yet, as some of the experiences were so vivid as to be only first person experiences, yet at other times the dream entered a narrative where I spoke and told this story to him, this Literary American God, who did, yet did not resemble any living man. I have never dreamed a narrative before, a recounting like I was already telling this story here.
Also, my parents, who are long deceased often appear in my dreams as bit players, and I am never shocked to find them there, even though I know they can’t be on some level even while dreaming them. In my dreams it is normal, and I shrug that off, even as I dream it.
I heard his friend scamper off to his own room, and my son imploring my Dad for a little time to read. He was admonished “Its past midnight, time to sleep!”
It was 2:30 by the time I finished your amazing words. I could not wait to meet you, wondering if I would meet the man most knew you to be, or if you would reveal your God-self to me.
Sleep evading from both my busy mind and the soft snores coming from beside me, I whispered out of bed, barely disturbing the covers, making nary a sound.
I slipped, then, through the screen door on this cottage-like abode, taking care not to let it bang and stepped out on the expansive lawn. The heat was tangible, perhaps oppressive for one in a lesser mood, but I could smell the rain coming and I was happy.
The drops fell small, soft and warm against my naked skin. I began to dance, a wild and primal dance full of elation. I threw my head back and through open eyes saw the silvered droplets appear only inches from my face out of the hidden inky sky, like they appeared from nowhere. It surprised me not at all that the ever growing drops neither stung nor avoided my eyes. I danced for you, an almost holy dance of love and tribute to God not forgotten.
It was an ecstasy of sorts, as I stopped and stood, rain becoming a deluge, wondering if you would love me as I loved you.
Returning to the door, I saw my son, still awake, going to the kitchen sink for a glass of water. It struck me as curious that the cottage now resembled my old house as I approached the door. It struck me stranger still that the door handle was hanging askew and useless on my side. Surely I would have noticed that before.
Disregarding that I called to my son to let me in, thinking that admonishing him for still being up would kill the luck of having someone to let me in. He took one look at my wet clothes (yes now clothed) and dripping hair and laughed, “Mom you are soooo weird, what were you doing out there in the rain?” “Dancing,” I answered, “and I adore being weird.”
He opened the door and I stepped into… a restaurant. We took the first booth, my hair doing the wild and curly thing it does wet, not caring about the stares of strangers seeing my soaking clothes. After all, you could hear them complain of the heat. I said loudly enough, “Step into the rain, it will soothe you.” Instead they kept grumbling, but were now watching the rain through the windows. One said, “By God, that looks like snow, that can’t be in this oven-like heat!” I laughed, knowing tonight anything was possible.
I knew both Jake and I should be back in bed, but was unsure how to get there from this place in my dream. I started to lay my head on his lap, feeling the coolness of my face against his warm leg, when my Mom sat down across from us.
She said, “No, you aren’t done yet, I’ll take him to bed. He needs his sleep and you are dragging him into this.” I sat up, and she added, “You are wasting time with the routine mother stuff in this dream, you are trying to distract yourself from finishing it,” with a knowing glance toward the back room.
She had a point and I knew it.
I walked through the open doorway to the crowded back room of the restaurant, and much to my surprise there was a 12 top of people I knew, including some of Jake’s classmates. Surprised, I asked what in the world they were doing up this time of night. One of his little girlfriends replied, “No one can sleep tonight, yet no one knows why, do you?” I smiled and shook my head.
I realized I didn’t have time for another distraction and kept walking. This was not a time to address more unimportant distractions. I deemed they were probably of my own device anyway.
As I rounded a turn, I realized it had opened up into an airport concourse. This I knew for a fact was where I was supposed to be. This is where I was invited, should I choose to come, to join many of the great writers planning on meeting here shortly. Including the one not many knew was an American God.
I sidled up to a tall bistro table, a small thing hidden in the shadows of an open bar along the concourse, where I would have a clear view without being much seen. I pondered staying there and just watching the whole thing, not revealing myself at all. I was invited, but didn’t belong, you see.
Almost dry now, I got up and walked over to the service bar to order, glancing in a mirror there pleasantly surprised that my hair actually looked wild but good. I then noticed off to the side, a library display table, no, more of a bookstore table with only one book on it. This one was really your book. The one with all the real answers in it.
I picked it up and ordered a Merlot and some bread and seasoned olive oil for dipping. I asked if it was for sale, and the bartender replied, “Oh yes! Don’t you know, there is a Great Author landing shortly who is bringing the rest of the books. We will be selling them today, and all proceeds go to charity.” At my perplexed and somewhat amused look she added, “Its a really big deal. There’s a secret invite-only meeting of people in his honor too!” If she only knew….
I returned and hid behind my glass of red. The sourdough arrived, obviously cut hours before and left in some warming drawer to dry out. Even the oil couldn’t make it palatable. Tasting like dust in my mouth, I abandoned eating and hunkered down to wait and see what would happen next. Then I remembered the book in my hand.
Then I read your book for the first time. I realized the other was just a dream.
I could not recount, even at the time I read it, what was written there other than it was the tale of your true life. The eons of Godhood that were lived out as a human among men. Your deeds, your healing, your former glory forming the writings of men. Your growing unease with being forgotten. Even man knows that Gods will whither and fade without someone to remember them. To do rituals and pray to them. Gods need us too.
As I leafed back to the end, I realized in a panic, this was the original manuscript. No nice photos like most books, but actual things from your childhood, hand-made by you, before you were a God, perhaps.
One page had an actual cut out of bears, 3 of them pasted one atop the other, with toothpick spacers creating a shadowbox effect. I turned a corner on the biggest bear and saw the childish scrawl there, and realized it was a card for your Mom, made as a child. I could smell the paste. My only thought? They should NOT have sold me this one. But why then was it there, the one, and I the only to find it?
There were pictures made of yarn and string, woven onto plastic mesh, impossibly realistic and hued. I ran my hand over the fibers, feeling their coarseness, amazed how alive the picture could be. One you had made for a Navaho man, healing him and restoring his storytelling gift in days gone by. You must have been a young man then, perhaps a teen.
There were paintings and drawings in the back of this unlikely Bible, your book of real answers and stories. The history of the written word and you who made it happen.
Then I was hooked. The one of all the pines, with the small blondish girl, barefoot, an indiscernible look between fear and delight on her face in one corner… the White Horse across from her, with you there, invisible, but there to those who would know it.
I was in there, your book, hidden but there, and I felt you approved of me. You had planned on saving me at one time, with the mythical white horse thrown in just for my pleasure. I love horses.
I turned more pages, trying to find the faces of others you had inspired, inspired beyond those weakling Muses. (The muses strengthened by being remembered now think of themselves as Gods, you know, but most actions attributed to them were yours, I thought to myself.)
Until I get to the back, where in your anger and disappointment you painted me with crayon, a caricature, scribbled blackly across my middle, almost scratched out in your tantrum, meant to be forgotten. I had been erased. Then….
You walked in, so very cloaked in obscurity, yet I knew from your shimmer who you were. I stayed hidden. My mind reeled, should I return the book, try and speak to you? Should I act casual and mill among the crowd?
I feared myself. You seemed so unobtrusive, a man who attracted no attention, yet I felt a deep sexual longing I was afraid would be so very transparent. How could I mask my awe and desire? Perhaps I would mingle and just avoid you through the evening, only to be filled with regret later, having missed my only chance. You were angry with me. I had to fix that. I needed healing and my words back.
I did not want to go into babbling persona-me, the front I use for friendly strangers, the one that is so not me. You would see right through that and think me ridiculous. You were just a man standing there….
Then somehow I was standing in front of you looking into your eyes, seeing the disdain there. I kept on staring bravely, willing you to see who and what I am.
Eyes locked with mine you reached right into my solar plexis with both hands, and I offered no resistance. You ran them around my soul, a soul that I too could now see, via your touch.
I saw the small thickish yellow pool among the watery white thin stuff, discovering right then that good and bad have a different consistency, not just hue. Good is like water, bad is like snot. You fingered the few tiny dark marbles floating in that lesser yolk, and I cringed in horror as you squeezed the softer brown mass, a soft squeezy-ball of recent ills done.
I wondered, then if perhaps it would burst and stain the rest, wondered too, if the soul had an immune system that isolates bad behind a membrane like a body trying to keep infection from spreading. You drank my fear as you played with it, your mood darkening.
With a physical shudder, I felt, KNEW the horrible, powerful God you had once been. I lived through you the struggle as your former self wanted to rip my soul from my body, and chew those dark soul-sores, roll them in your mouth for their heat, then use my soul’s light to wash your face, like a aloe bath cooling a sunburn as you soaked up my unworthy power.
Terrified beyond belief, I offered no resistance still, willing you to feel my true self, the love, my good. I wanted you to see you got me wrong, after all. With a soundless sigh, I heard you say to yourself, “I am a gentle God, I am a gentle God now..” and relax your grip. You rinsed your fingers through the holy wash of my better soul and were done.
In the end you felt it all and left it in place, more due to your wanting to be this new version of yourself you worked so hard to create than from my goodness…..then
You brushed by me, not even looking at me, on your way to the mens room, and I stood there for a second before returning to my table, unconvinced that anything had happened at all between us.
Returning to my table, that terrible page remained, yet looked less sinister, more faded, a reminder of my flaws.
I got to keep the book, or at least you didn’t demand it back. I *am* writing again….
Was I forgiven? Or mayhap not, American Gods are fickle.
Remember though, without a worshiper, Gods fade and are forgotten. You need me. I love you.
Epilogue: I watched quietly as everyone met then, still sitting in my corner, wondering if I would get up the nerve to ever really meet you. You are after all, just a man, aren’t you?