Sunday, October 22, 2006

once upon a dream

Every now and then I dream I'm back in San Francisco, the city of my early twenties. I've flown there, in the dream, and I'm in a great hurry to see and hear as much of the city streets as I can before I have to leave again.

(For it is understood that of course I will leave; this is not home. It only feels like home. It's an illusion. One cannot trust it.)

Enough time has passed now to place the San Francisco stories in the "way back when" category. After having such dreams I often wake up wondering who I would have been had I stayed there. I do know that as much as I loved San Francisco (I did, I truly did) I sometimes felt struck, wounded even, by the impersonality that peoples its streets.

Where I came from, people opened doors for you when they saw you coming. And yet, where I ended up, you could fall on your face on the sidewalk and people just kept on passing by.

That wasn't me. I didn't want an anonymous life, detached from family and friends, living on the glossy surface of a page torn from a magazine, a still from a movie shoot.

I wasn't the person I thought I was. So I came back home.

What is the old Chinese proverb -- he who is truly hurt; says nothing. Maybe that's true; I don't like to talk much about my time in San Francisco. When I flew away, I placed it somewhere in the margin of the past. My narration takes a wide swerve around it.

All the movies and shows you see about time travel, about people going back in time to change something they thought they should to make the future better -- they always seem to end with the realization that it's best to keep things the same. That one chain of events leads to another chain of events that eventually leads to a perfect equilibrium; it just can't be seen readily, in the present moment. You have to stand outside the flow of time to realize it eddies in concentric circles. In other words, everything really is as it should be.

So in these dreams of the city, the ones that used to be so sorrowful and piercing, I now run like a child at a carnival from one street to the next, drinking in thirstily the colorful storefronts and diverse population.

There was a time when I left all I owned behind in that city, in some kind of half-desperate collateral.

Now I understand transience, the fog that lifts and settles again, the doors that open and close -- it's of the moment, always of the moment, and I can breathe it deep and then release it again, knowing this is the only possession we ever get -- it's internal, nothing else. I couldn't have done anything differently.

I can forgive myself this, because I learned more than I lost.

My hopes, my wishes, they all renew with each sunrise, where I can still find them -- once upon a dream.