I found myself with my very best friend from childhood in an ice cream shop on the corner of a town I’d never been before. She and I hadn’t seen one another in years, not since that time we bumped into each other on the train and had that second of not knowing if we should hug each other or kiss each other’s cheeks or maybe just let our eyes sweep beyond one another while pretending that we were both absolutely intent on focusing right then on the exact color of the sky – which was just a regular shade of blue. But at the ice cream shop it only felt normal and that dormant closeness that would probably always exist somewhere inside of both of us fused together and we stood on line and contemplated our options.
The flavors were weird. I saw signs for Root Beer sorbet and Creamsicle ice cream. There were tubs of ices filled with something that was light green and labeled Ginger Ale. My eyes immediately moved to the glossy picture on the wall that was a perfect looking sundae made out of ice cream the exact color of Cookie Monster and it was mixed with huge chunks of cookies and the bold font beneath the image told me I could order a Monster Cookie sundae loaded down with hot fudge.
“Excuse me,” I said to the clerk behind the counter who looked eerily similar to a guy I’d kissed for about an hour straight once and then never so much as touched again. “What is the actual flavor of Monster Cookie?”
“Blue,” he responded, and he stared at me hard and he looked a little bit mean right then. And normally I’m all for removing myself from an awkward encounter that never has to happen anyway, but I thought that maybe if I kept looking I would find the Rocky Road or the Peanut Butter Cup or the Mint Chocolate Chip that was white instead of green and would make me feel like I was eating something almost natural and maybe even kind of healthy.
Even though she was behind me and I never saw her get served or pay for anything, my friend was eating a bowl of the Junior Mint sorbet with chocolate sprinkles on top and the bowl she was spooning the stuff out of looked like it was made from real silver and I asked the guy behind the counter if I could try a taste of the Root Beer sorbet, and he handed me a slice of it on a plate and it was more than I wanted – I just wanted, like, one lick to see if I liked it – and my stomach hurt the second I tasted it and then I woke up.
I don’t always remember my dreams, but if I do, I tend to remember them only in visual scraps and in audio slivers. But when one remains close to whole in my mind upon waking, I can’t seem to stop myself from attempting to psychoanalyze myself and figuring out what it all means and so here go my suggestions for what could be the actual significance behind what I’ve decided to call The Ice Cream Dream because labeling anything with ice cream just makes it all sound way more fun:
1. I miss that friend who I really did see on the train once and I did walk right over to her that night and I hugged her hello and we sat together for the entire trip and we talked like we always had and we didn’t dwell on the mistakes we’d both made in the past but we didn’t resolve anything either. But we haven’t been at an ice cream shop together since we were twenty-one years old and I was living in the city and we went to Ben & Jerry’s a few times and I always got either New York Super Fudge Chunk or Cappuccino Chunk because I’m not crazy and ice cream should always involve chunks of stuff. So maybe my dream meant that I wish I could be with her again, that we could be close, that we never lost all of those years because of something that should never have happened and that I have some regrets about not fighting harder for our friendship.
2. Then again, the dream could not actually be about that friend at all and maybe something yesterday randomly reminded me of her and what the meaning of the dream really involves is about how difficult it can sometimes be to make choices, especially when you’re required to choose from an array of things you don’t actually want. Maybe it could mean that my subconscious feels like my choices are limited. I mean, Ginger Ale ices? I don’t think I’d ever ingest such a thing except after having some kind of surgery – and what kind of ice cream place doesn’t carry Butter Pecan? And also, what does “Blue” taste like? Really: somebody please tell me!
3. Then there’s the factor of that guy who appeared behind the counter in my dream. He was one of those generic guys who could probably make a ton of girls legitimately happy with his stable job and his comfortable income and his bland but appropriate humor and his muscular body that I noticed immediately, and I don’t actually check out a guy’s body upon meeting him too often. I notice hair, scruff, eyes. I look at a guy’s shoes. I get tingly from watching as a guy settles his body into a seat at a restaurant and I’m basically all in if he puts his napkin on his lap and takes the menu from the waiter but puts it down to look at me instead. The guy who showed up in my dream existed in my real life and he looked at the menu and ordered a beer and then asked me if my favorite part of teaching was having the summers off and he looked genuinely perplexed when I told him that my favorite part of teaching was the actual moment of teaching and that I did research constantly because the film industry was always changing and so my syllabus had to change too and he kind of switched the subject by telling me how he really hated Wes Anderson’s movies. I just smiled and asked him to tell me about himself because I knew that I was already done but I was there and I wanted to be polite and he was by no means a bad guy – he just wasn’t for me – and the entire time we spoke, I wondered if there was a way I could ask him if he would be willing to date someone who lives in New Jersey, because I have a friend there who likes simple and uncomplicated movies and men and I was pretty certain I’d just located her soul mate, but I wasn’t sure if bringing that up to him during our date would read as inconsiderate and later that night – after I’d quickly sipped two glasses of wine and he became a little bit more interesting as I got a little bit more tipsy – I kissed him for a long time and it was really nice, but I had no desire to even shimmy out of my shoes. Had he done something bold like yank on my hair just a little bit during a kiss, I might have removed one sock, but he just wasn’t right for me and I gently told him that the next time we spoke and he was very calm and very kind about it, but he still continued to text me for months and he finally went away and I never got to introduce him to my friend who, after almost twenty years, has never once mentioned a guy tugging on her hair as a good thing. I didn’t see the guy again until he appeared in my dream and I have no idea why it was him behind that subconscious countertop in the ice cream store, but I’m betting he spit in my ices.
So yes, the dream could have been about the subtextual fear of having to make choices or about how hard it is to get what it is that I want or that what I think I want turns out to make me feel queasy or that I miss a particular friend who I dream about a lot, even though I rarely think about her during the daylight hours. Or it could be that I wrote a sentence about a Chipwich in a different piece yesterday and it’s summer now and I really would love an ice cream cone.
I’m never one to fully discount what something might mean, especially when it’s a dream that remains so vivid hours after I have woken up and I can still feel the chilly temperature of an ice cream store I’ve never actually been in before. And there’s a chance that the dream was about allof those things or maybe about how I won’t even settle when it comes to dessert or that I’m given too much of what I don’t really want while what I long for feels like it’s hiding or intentionally being withheld or that some things I think I want are actually really bad for me – but there’s also a chance that I just didn’t eat enough last night and I felt hungry in my sleep.
I suppose that anything is possible when it comes to dreams.
But I like to think that anything is possible when it comes to being awake too. I’ve made some choices in my life that could be read as either completely brave or completely foolish, and I’ve gone ahead and tried to embrace the potential bravery. Not all of the scenarios have worked out the way I hoped, but I comfort myself by acknowledging that at least I have never lived with too many regrets. You know those letters you write to someone that you never actually send because they’re almost too honest and there’s a part of you that knows the person doesn’t deserve to even read anything that’s real? I send those letters. I’m not a letter-writing machine who keeps the post office in business and I’m not like a conservative parent who sees the bare ass of a man on a network television show and immediately begins churning out letters to Proctor & Gamble threatening a boycott of their products if they so much as advertise a cleanser on a show that brandishes even a little bit of nudity, but have I licked the flap of an envelope and sent my thoughts and feelings forward into the world?
You bet I have.
Oh, that heavy plummet of a feeling you get when you affix a stamp onto an envelope and then slide it into the outgoing mail slot and it falls away to a place you can’t ever reach to get the letter back – the feeling so similar to how tasting the imaginary Ginger Ale ices made me feel? That’s just the battle between the bravery and the foolishness taking place inside of the pit of your stomach and you just have to do a kind of Lamaze breathing to get over the cramping while rooting for the internal brave team to win. You can create a fight song in the interim – mine always sounds like Hail to the Victors which I remember being belted out at University of Michigan games – or you can start feeling something like regret immediately, but regret is a waste of time and I find some sort of comfort in the fact that I never have dreams about wasting time.
It’s funny – I have dreams about being late and I’m someone who is consistently right on time or early. I have dreams about losing my dog who sleeps nestled beside me. I have dreams about my former friend and her entire family but I never feel the need to reach out to any of them, though I wish them nothing but the very best. I have dreams about ice cream and really salty fries and I’ve spent the last few weeks avoiding each as though swallowing a bit of one could lead to the kind of plague that wipes away all the decent people in one fell swoop and only leaves behind the assholes who will then continue to rule the Earth while eating trans fats without putting on a single pound. I have dreams about a man I’ve never met who is the best kisser in the universe and I wonder if he actually exits and where in the hell he has been hiding himself. I have dreams where I feel a searing numbness – which should be an oxymoron – but it’s not an oxymoron during a long REM cycle. I have dreams where I look for things that cannot be located and then I wake up and I realize that what I was searching for has never been lost.
You know that saying Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar? Well, as someone who deeply inhaled during the only time I ever smoked a cigar, I think there’s some truth to the statement. Sometimes dreams are just dreams and sometimes something within your psyche just wants you to consider patenting ices in weird soda flavors served to you by someone you once met so his image has remained in your head. But sometimes I think that a cigar is not just a cigar, and I’ll bet the pink plastic lighter I used to light my cigar on the veracity of that statement because I believe that sometimes a cigar is about regret and sometimes it’s about hope and sometimes it’s about a gripping fear that you never allow yourself to feel when it’s sunny outside and sometimes it’s about that one thing deep inside of you that you are so afraid to surrender.
And just maybe what it’s all really about actually has nothing to do with cigars or with confusion or with anything that requires any kind self-exploration and that instead it’s simply your entire body banding together during your dream-state to put an end to the nonsense of eating shitty popsicles that taste only of iciness and chemicals and it’s about pushing you towards that area inside of a 7-11 where every flavor of Ben & Jerry’s is laid out like a freezing cold masterpiece and not one of those pints of perfection will ever simply taste like Blue.