We Meet In Dreams
by Robert Alan Silverstein
I loved dreaming. My life was pretty boring, but my dreams kept me going. They also brought me some cash, when I remembered to write them down in stories. Not enough to quit my boring job, of course, but just another perk to remind me how much I loved dreaming.
But then my dreams weren't all good. And the bad ones were really bad. So bad that I sometimes never wanted to dream again. But the good ones made it all worthwhile so I kept coming back for more. That is until I had a dream so wonderful that I never wanted to dream again.
I'd just had a short story collection published that I'd dreamed, of course, called Dream Shrink, about a psychiatrist who has set up shop on a website on the internet. The twist is that he's paid to visit patients IN their dreams. The Dream Shrink helps guide his patients through their dreamworld to find the dreams that will help them discover themselves, so that they can better live in reality when they awaken. It had only sold 250 copies, but I thought it was a pretty cool idea.
I try not analyze my dreams too much, but of course I always do. And of course I recognized lots of stuff about myself in that short story collection. My wish that I could be with someone in my dreamworld. My desire to help others discover themselves. My longing to discover myself and get my life on the right track. But most importantly, that I'd become way too obsessed with my dream-life.
I was about to become more obsessed.
It started with a picture. I was surfing the web and I found this website with a painting by an artist named Rochelle that completely blew me away. It was a portrait of a young woman with the saddest eyes. It was the most beautiful saddest thing I'd ever seen. The painting was titled "She dreams of Peacetopia, but sees only sadness."
There were a whole bunch of paintings on this website for sale. Every one of them was more beautiful and more sad than the last.
I could have clicked on the BIO link to find out more about Rochelle. I could have written to the website to find out more about her. I really wanted to know everything about the person who'd painted these paintings. Nothing had ever touched me more deeply in my life or in my dreams. But nothing had ever touched me more tragically either. It was like dreaming the most beautiful and the most awful dream I could ever imagine.
So I didn't click the link right away, or dash off an email or call the 800 number. I just printed out the pictures and stared at them all day long. And then I dreamed about them. Or maybe this next part was real. I can't remember. It doesn't matter.
Rochelle's mother ran the website, and she recognized my name when I emailed the website the next day. Apparently she was one of the 250 people who'd read my DreamShrink short story collection. She told me I was the only one in the world who could help her daughter.
As I read her email describing her daughter's life, I thought "But they're just stories…" wishing with all my heart that I really could help this person. I had to find a way to help her.
Rochelle was 23 years old. She was autistic. She'd been painting for 10 years and she hadn't left her house since she was 18. She awakened in the morning with an emptiness in her eyes. She washed, dressed and ate, without a word. Her mother sat with her and spoke warmly and comfortingly words she knew her daughter never heard, and it broke her heart every moment she stared into those empty eyes. And she watched her daughter rise vacantly to walk to her easel to paint. Rochelle would paint until the sun had long been set. Then she'd put down her brushes and mechanically go through the motions of readying for bed, silently, vacantly. And each night her mother kissed her forehead and watched with teary eyes as Rochelle drifted off to sleep. She watched while a wondrous peace would wash over Rochelle's face, and relax her rigid sleeping body.
I could feel the tears flowing from her mother's eyes as I read the email. "I decided to sell her paintings," she wrote. "It's just the two of us. I'm out of work. We need the money. And they're so beautiful, but I don't want them here anymore. Maybe they're keeping her locked away in her own world. Maybe someone will see them, and understand her, and save her from herself, because I don't know how to do it. But I read your stories, and I know that you can reach her in her dreams. Bob, Please save my daughter."
"They're just stories," I sobbed aloud. I couldn't bring myself to reply to the email. What could I possibly say? I stared at the paintings the rest of the day. I wanted with all my heart to help her. Maybe somehow I really could find a way to visit her in her dreams.
That night I did.
It started off as my dreams sometimes do. I was gazing out at a beautiful scene. Trees and mountains, a lake and the blue blue sky. I often dreamed of beautiful scenes like this. But something seemed different. Better somehow.
"Peacetopia ... Isn't it wonderful!" Rochelle laughed, and I turned around and saw her there, gazing out at the world from high up on the rocky ledge where we stood together. She had the most beautiful eyes that were filled with the purest joy. Her smile was so peaceful. Her body was filled with energy and excitement. She seemed so happy to be alive. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I never wanted that moment to end.
Rochelle showed me everything in her dream world. Peacetopia was the most beautiful dream I could ever imagine. I couldn't believe I was dreaming it with her. The weird thing is that the world in this dream was the world I lived in by day. Not the way the world is, but the way it could be. It wasn't a perfect world. But it was a world united in a common goal of creating peace on earth. Everything that everyone did was done with the intention of trying to bring the world closer to being at peace.
There were problems of course, but this common goal changed everything. It changed the way people treated each other and the planet they shared. It changed the way people thought of themselves. There was so much hope and that changed everything.
I wanted to stay forever in this dream with Rochelle. But I could feel the dream was starting to slip away, and I would awaken shortly. "Rochelle," I whispered, holding her hands and gazing into her eyes. I remembered how empty and sad those eyes were in the self-portrait she'd painted. How I wished I could help her to feel this way in the real-world.
"You are such an amazing artist," I whispered, hoping the right words would come to me. "Why don't you paint about this dream of Peacetopia?" I suggested. It seemed so obvious to me that if she could capture the wondrous beauty of this dream in her paintings, she could be at peace in her life. Her paintings might even inspire people to believe in this dream of peace on earth and work to make the real world more like Peacetopia.
For a moment, I saw fear in her eyes and the dream began to dim. In a flash I could read her thoughts and I knew without her speaking a word that she feared the world would mock and poison her dream if she tried to share it. So she kept it alive inside and painted only the sadness the world seemed to thrive upon.
I wanted to protest, but she kissed me, and everything ceased for a moment before I awoke.
I opened my eyes to see the printout of her self portrait staring at me. I stared at it, and I couldn't stop staring. I hardly got out of bed at all that day. Or the next. Or the next. I didn't go to work. I didn't answer the phone. I didn't answer my friends' knocks at the door. I just stared at that picture all day long and longed to go back to that dream. And every night I dreamed of Peacetopia with Rochelle. And we didn't speak a word about the life we lived by day. We lived the dream until we awoke.
Eventually I got out of bed and forced myself to go through the motions of doing what I had to do so that I could fall asleep and go back to the dream. Months went by. Months of pointless days, and nights of peace.
I believed I could have gone on this way forever. The world would think I was crazy, of course. But what did I care. I had the perfect dream to live in, at least when I closed my eyes.
But one night I couldn't find Rochelle and that dream of Peacetopia. Nor the next, or the next. I was devastated. I stared at her picture and I couldn't stop staring at it. My reality began to crumble. I felt like I had no reason to go on with the façade now.
But after a few days of feeling sorry for myself, I remembered the counsel I'd given Rochelle when I first met her in her dream. I realized that as a writer I could try to capture the beauty of Peacetopia in a way that would make people want to make that dream come true. I promised myself that when I'd written something that captured even a glimmer of the hope I'd felt in her dream, I'd find her and bring Rochelle that story.
I was sitting there in bed, grungy and disheveled but resolved and with a smile on my face, when there was a knock at the door. My heart began pounding when a voice called out my name. "Bob, it's me... Rochelle."
In that moment, two distinct possibilities crossed my mind. One was that I was dreaming and that because of my resolve, I was blessed with visiting the dream once again. The second was that Rochelle had awakened from her dream with the same resolve, and we would now use our creative talents together to make our dream come true.
I didn't know which of the two possibilities was real. My smile grew wider and I felt at peace because I didn't care.
© 2005 Robert Alan Silverstein