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    One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy

    The Dinner Party: A Nightmare

    by , 03-23-2016 at 03:38 AM (378 Views)

    I am fortunate that I so rarely have nightmares. This isn't really a nightmare; it isn't all that scary. But in my relative spectrum of dreams, I might consider it a nightmare because it terrorized me.

    I begin in my childhood bedroom, reading a book. My father enters. I immediately feel annoyed.

    He begins: "We're going to a dinner. You need to get dressed."

    My response is automatic: "I don't want to go."

    He ignores my plaint. "Get dressed. You'll like it. We're going to talk about one of your favorite books. It was either The Great Gatsby or To Kill A Mockingbird. I couldn't find The Great Gatsby on your bookshelf so we're going to talk about To Kill A Mockingbird." He backs away and closes the door behind him.

    I am enraged like only a narcissistic intellectual can be. "TKAM?! I hate that book! You didn't find Gatbsy because I'm reading it right now! I hate TKAM!"

    (The Great Gatsby is a modern tragedy about desire and false identity. These are themes that resonate with me. To Kill A Mockingbird is a book I only read once in high school and I probably have a na´ve understanding of it. Nonetheless, my impression is that it is a heavy-handed and moralizing tale about prejudice and innocence.)

    But, I am a child in this dream so I have no choice in the matter. The next scene is in the house of one of my father's more scholarly friends. There are several families with kids in attendance. As for my family, we are all together. I must be about 16 years old. That's before my sister went to college and my parents divorced. It's the last year the family was together and also an awkward age for a teenager on the cusp of adulthood.

    At this dinner party, the adults congregate in the dining room while the kids assemble in the darkened den to watch a movie. I'm not watching the movie, I'm trying to hear the conversation of the adults in the next room. They are talking about literature. I want so much to be in their conversation. But then I recall the disagreement about the book, and that makes me upset.

    A new pair of people enter the room. I am slouched on a couch. My sister is on the other end of the same couch. Around the room, other kids, mostly younger, are seated on chairs or on the ground. They are all hypnotized by the movie. The two new entrants are a mother and her daughter. The mother looks at me and introduces the girl. "Do you know Ashley? Go sit down, Ashley."

    Ashley, huh? I study the girl. She is about my age (in the dream, about 16). She is pretty in a reserved kind of way. She has dirty blonde hair and wears a powder blue cotton dress. She seems shy. She doesn't make eye contact. She walks to the couch and sits next to me. Her mother leaves, returning to the dining room. Ashley scoots closer to me, leans her head on my shoulder, and puts a hand on my thigh. Her motions seem automatic, like she is just obeying her instinct.

    I have mixed feelings. Ashley, Ashley... do I know an Ashley? She is pretty and she is close to me, so I feel attracted to her. I reciprocate her interest by leaning my head toward hers and placing my hand on her thigh. I feel her react, leaning more into me and squeezing my leg in confirmation of our connection. But now, my adult-self is awakened and I become lucid. Oh, this poor girl. I feel disgust. I'm not supposed to be here. And this pairing between me and her was all arranged. Parents trying to play matchmaker with their kids. And my sister too, egging her on. I recoil from Ashley. She seems offended, but I'm already on my way to the next room.

    I storm into the dining room where the adults are having their book club. I shove the table roughly, causing all the books and drinks to spill. I look angrily at my father. "I didn't want this! That girl you fixed me up with... And I hate this book!" I grab a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird and throw it into the wall. "I wanted it to be Gatsby!"

    The dining room scene fades. It's just me and my father and we are back in my bedroom. My father pulls out a revolver and holds it to his neck. He says, cryptically: "This is Gatsby!" He pulls the trigger. It is a glancing blow to his neck but enough to rupture his arteries. I am horrified and wake up.
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