(I am exploring what I might mean when I say that I write experimental vignettes.)
Two images, an open door and a closed one, appear in my mind as if they were on the paper before me, as if my imagination and the world outside of it were one and the same.
The blank sheet of sketch paper on the desk hasn’t moved. I’ve been writing on pages without lines for an unknown number of years for reasons that thought has yet to communicate to me.
I picture a short, robust man whom I’ve chatted with recently at the grocery store, less than a mile from where I’m writing this sentence, about the bathroom in his home that he’s remodeling. “I’m in a hurry,” he says as he runs into a room that he realizes he doesn’t recognize. “Where am I?” he asks me, as if I could open the door that has closed behind him.
These images unsettle me. I don’t want to imagine such a situation. I remind myself where I am, in my mind, an observer as I write. Then I realize that I’m trying to forget about the images of the short, robust man, who told me once that he works as the store manager six days a week. Doors open and close in my mind while I write seven days a week. What else am I going to do?
I’m realizing that I’m uncomfortable with my own creativity sometimes. The thought comes to me that perhaps I should focus on how I’m uncomfortable in my mind. The adverb “sometimes” at the end of the opening sentence suggests that I’m not being honest with myself. Writing in the way that I often do, without controlling the narrative, as if someone else were creating the sentences I write, becomes an anxious experience. And it’s much more than that. It’s exciting to observe how my creative mind works. Confusion and frustration don’t last forever, although it sometimes feels as if they do. A confused and frustrated me must remain at my desk (or I walk around the block or prepare myself coffee or tea) long enough until I’m not afraid to write a word, phrase, or sentence that will become known to me only after I’ve written it. Another uncomfortable thought appears: I have faith in my unconscious mind. What might that mean? I’m faced with more uncertainty. I’m uncomfortable. And uncomfortable is what I must be when I write in the way that I do.
I imagine that a fictitious event happens when I enter my psychoanalyst’s office this afternoon. Once I’ve crossed the threshold of her consulting room, she asks whether we might try something different today. “I’ll lie on the couch and you sit in my chair.” Moments later, I hear her say from the couch: “Now tell me what’s on my mind.”
Maybe I can read minds in my imagination. I’m comfortable in her chair. The view of the room is expansive from here. I never thought I’d sit behind a psychoanalytic couch.
Silence from the couch seems to suggest that she’s waiting for me to speak about her mind. I was about to write “speak her mind.” Is that what telepathy means? Thinking someone else’s thoughts as if they were one’s own?
This must be a dream. Can a dream be about two minds? A possible response to my own question comes to me: what you have imagined is not fictitious. It’s your mind.
I dreamed last night that I was somewhere where I didn’t want to be and in a dangerous situation whose probable outcome for me and the two other men in the stolen car would be death. The old car we found ourselves in might not have been stolen. We needed to leave fast. The bad guys would arrive at the farm where we had driven to at any moment, and once they found us, the end would be near, for us, for everything. I have no idea why we changed cars and drove away in the old one. I woke up before the dream ended, or that’s what I want to think. Our cat Marcelino (who was born in Spain and has turned fourteen this month) woke me up. I attempted to return to my dreaming state of mind. What happened to the three of us in the old car? It was dark outside and snowing. The bad guys would discover that we had just left the farm in an old car and would find us much sooner than later. Or maybe not.
The moment I was out of bed I hoped that the dream would return to the darkness and leave me alone. Am I afraid of being alone right now? I’m not alone. The book alongside this open sketchbook on my desk feels like an old friend whom I don’t know as well as I think I do. We met in the summer of 2002 at Casa del Libro in Madrid, my favorite bookstore in the city. I didn’t intend on writing “met” in the last sentence. The only two places I can meet Sigmund Freud are in my imagination and in my dreams, which I picture as brother and sister in a psychic sense.
Last night I was alone for longer than I was comfortable with while Javier was at a meeting downtown. This thought surprises me since I thought I enjoyed being alone for a few hours in the evening. I read some chapters of a book by a psychoanalyst in San Francisco about, among other things, how he dreams while awake during sessions with patients on the couch. I also came across a video on YouTube of a much younger Bruce Springsteen singing Twist and Shout and La Bamba in Argentina, in a stadium filled with people jumping up and down.
I have some minutes to read a page or two of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, in Spanish translation, the copy I bought in Madrid in the summer of 2002. That was crazy. I’d been studying Spanish for less than six months. I attempted to read some of its pages. The book is still with me. I’m still here. Last night’s dream has yet to disappear. Maybe I can dream with it while I’m awake some more.
I must arrive at the bookstore before it closes. It feels like a matter of life and death. I don’t realize it’s raining until I’m on the sidewalk. There’s no time to take the elevator or run up four flights of stairs to grab an umbrella.
Somehow I know that the book I’m running to NonStop Books to buy has yet to be finished. I’m writing it. I imagine the bookseller with whom I spoke on the phone before I walked out the door without an umbrella. She said she was in a hurry, that she had much to read and write before I arrived in the rain. After speaking with me, she sits down and starts reading a book open on the table before her. She falls asleep. Somehow, I know that she does her most creative work while she’s asleep.
I run in the rain. I dream in it. The question of what I’m seeking seems lost in the rush. Then I realize I’m still, except in my dream.
The letter B appears on what was a blank sheet of sketch paper. Then I write the number 8. I imagine the letter and the number becoming one in the center of the page. Something tells me that this sheet of sketch paper will need me for too many minutes and I will become disorientated. The following three sentences write themselves, as if I were observing the pen doing the work of writing. The sheet of paper imagines me using a different colored pen. I reach for a green one. The page in my hands feels as alive as me, and I imagine the green pen moving my mind across it.
“Stop!” This is the first time paper has spoken to me, even in my imagination. I read what I’ve written. B and 8 appear in different words. The green pen is no longer in my hands. Words now appear in blue.
I write B8, which I picture on the wall alongside the doors to an auditorium where one of my favorite authors will soon speak. Who speaks to us in our words is the title I imagine for the talk. These last few minutes have helped me realize that who resides inside of me. Now I want to imagine its names.
I arrived at her office with a stack of books in my hands. She opened the door. I had never seen it closed before when I arrived. I assumed that her door must be closed during most of the day. Once a week, when I climbed the stairs from the ground floor and walked the final few feet to her door, it was always open, and she stood alongside her chair. Perhaps I should have expected that things would be different today. This would not be a normal fifty minutes. I came here for supervision. We had decided last week that we would try something different next time. I was about to discover what different might mean today.
As she opened the door, she glanced at the books in my hands. “You can leave those on the floor.” I thought: she wished that I hadn’t brought them.
I left the stack of psychology books on the carpet, alongside the chair where I sat once a week, across from her own. Suddenly I remembered why I had brought them with me. We had spoken about this. They would be the toys we would play with on the carpet during the next forty-eight or forty-nine minutes. Time wouldn’t slow down for us, or maybe it would. She was speaking with her hands, moving my books around on the floor. “What have I created?” she asked as she stood up. Both of us looked at the books that she had arranged in the form of a cross.
One or both of us spoke the following words, before our hands became immersed in the work of playing with books on the floor: “This is what inner work is all about, coming to terms with the struggle of what it means to be human.”