There are things you don't know. So, so many things. One of these things is how you get your dreams. Now, you might think you know how you get those, but you don't. You know the psychologist's reasonings, the way everyone rationalizes that you get dreams. But that's not how it works.
You don't even really get dreams, per se, they are given to you. That is a dream weaver's job. They are beings that can only be seen when they so choose. No one knows their true names, only the ones they assign to a form. Their job is not only to give you your dreams but to create them as well. To do this, they must have a face-to-face conversation with you. The connection that conversation creates is essential in getting the dream into your head. You also won't see them, you'll see whatever form they choose to take. A dream weaver's anonymity is almost as important as the connection. So, every day, from the day your dream weaver joins you to the day you die, your dream weaver has to find a way to exchange at least one word with you. And when you do die, your dream weaver simply becomes someone else's.
My person is 89 and nearing the end of her life. She's been my favorite. She's also been my first person. but I can't imagine liking anyone anymore that Claire. She's a writer, but she's never in her life published anything. She's plenty good enough to, and I've tried using my conversations with her to convince her to publish something, but she always smiles sadly and says no. She's told me a few times that her stories were for her children and no one else. It's not as if she needs the money she would undoubtedly make, she lives on and travels off of a large inheritance from her late father, but still. She could be amazing.
Claire wonders a lot about the afterlife, she's very curious about what happens after someone dies. I think it's natural, but she wonders enough to concern me sometimes. I've bent the rules on occasion, putting glimpses of what it's like in her dreams. She always starts awake and writes those dreams down, but she's never done anything with them.
Today is March 18th, which is the anniversary of the first trip she ever took with her children, to Vernazza, Italy. Which means she'll leave for Vernazza today. Claire begins her usual routine by getting up and turning on music before she does anything else. It's a gentle classical song that I don't recognize, she must have put on something new. I watch her prepare her breakfast, two eggs and a piece of toast, as always on this particular trip day.
I sit quietly on the windowsill in the kitchen, the one she always keeps open, still watching as she takes care of the last few things. I think today is the 60th time she's taken this trip, which means she'll buy a book when she's in Vernazza. Every 5th year of any tradition, she'll buy a book to celebrate. Of course, she'll find any excuse she can to buy a book, but something about the 5th year tradition just makes the chosen novel even more special. She has a shelf reserved just for those books. The most notable additions to that shelf are "The Giver" quartet by Lois Lowry, her favorite author.
Later, on the way to the train station, I watch carefully to see if Clair makes any kind of connection with the people she's walking by, something that I can use. Nothing. She keeps her head down and does her best to stay secluded. As for me, I'm having a hard time staying concealed. And staying out of the way of the passerby's who might wonder what they bumped into is getting harder as well. Oh well, hopefully, I'll find something to use on the train.
Finally, after quite a bit of walking and no interactions, we reach the station and board the train. Soon I'll be able to have a conversation with her, and I'm hoping it will be a long one. It's very difficult to get her to open up, but after being with her for 40-odd years, I know all sorts of tricks.
She reaches her seat, the same one she always sits in. The fifth row in the fifth car, next to the left window. For a moment, it looked like an older man was going to take it, causing poor Claire to nearly faint, but he moved on. I watch as she settles in, making sure she'll stay put for a while. When I'm certain she won't be moving, I make my way to the back car where no one is seated. It takes me a moment to decide what form I want to take, it must be something Claire hasn't seen in a while. Unfortunately for me and my creativity, she has an excellent memory, especially for those she finds interesting. She usually finds the forms I take interesting and now that I think about it, perhaps I should give a dull form a try. But, that's so...dull.
I finally settle on the form of a young man, with rather long blond hair and a strong gaze. It's a little simpler than what I've been creating lately, but it will do. I start making my way to the car Claire is in, and I must admit, feeling the eyes of people on me again is so refreshing. Going unseen nearly 24/7 can be very lonely.
When I reach Claire, she's already entranced in the sights outside. I take a seat beside her, reveling in being able to feel the fabric give way beneath me, but she doesn’t notice I'm there. I wait patiently, and sure enough, she soon sees something that wasn't there last year. She pulls out the notebook that she keeps for new things and jots something down that I don't quite catch. This is my chance.
"If you don't mind me asking, what are you writing," I say in an unexpectedly quiet voice. Sometimes I can't predict exactly what a form will sound like.
Claire looks up, clearly a little startled. Her eyes shift from me, to her notebook, and back to me before she smiles. "I'm just writing down a new thing I saw."
"What was it?"
"A tree that wasn’t there before."
Before I can try to carry the conversation further, she bends over her notebook and turns away from me. I sit with her awhile longer, loving the feeling of being tangible. This is my favorite part of every day.
I eventually stand, giving Clair a slight smile before I head back to the last car. I have enough now to create a dream, even if I wish I could have gotten a little more. I hesitate for just a moment before loosing myself from this form. Finally, I step out, and just like that, the form dissolves. I turn to stare at where my reflection should be in the window, and I already miss being real.
After another 10 hours of travel, we reach Vernazza. Claire heads for the coffee shop she always goes to the minute the train pulls in. But as she gets closer, I notice a lot of things that have alwasy been here are missing. A little bookshop has been closed down, replaced by an electronics store. A small park that used to have a few swing sets and benches is nothing but hard pavement now. Things have changed here before, obviously, but never this much and this fast. I glance to Claire, simultaneously dodging the shoulders of several people engrossed in their phones. I can see that Claire is upset by this much change. Even a few of the places that she usually visits are now nowhere to be seen, including a boutique that had become an essential part of her routine. Her breath and heart rate start picking up, enough to worry me.
We both reach the used-to-be coffee shop, and Claire freezes. It's not there anymore. And this was far too important to her schedule to be ignored and moved on from.
I don't know what to do, I hate seeing her upset. She stands there and breathes heavily, barely restraining tears. I can tell she's panicking, but as always, she keeps it internal. I hate this. I wish I could help. Her hands are shaking, and she rubs her collarbone, her jaw, the back of her neck. Why can't I help? I just want to comfort her. She tries to keep her breathing steady, but it does her no good.
I'm starting to panic too. I want to help her so badly, but I can't. I've already had my conversation with her today, even if I hadn't I have no time to come up with a form. I have another I'll have to leave her if I-
she starts crying.
Ignoring everything my instincts are telling me, I slowly appear beside her. She's too deep into her panic to notice me, and when I put my hand on her shoulder, she's very startled and looks up quickly, wiping her eyes. Her expression turns more and more puzzled as she looks at me, and I smile gently. "I know I don't look like how you remember, but I'm here to help. Just take some deep breaths, ok?"
I take her by the hand, and start to lead her to another coffee shop nearby, one that I know is similar enough to the one she lost. She's still gazing at me, seeming to be half lost in her thoughts. I sit her down and take a deep breath before speaking again, "it's going to be ok, Mom. You just need to make a few adjustments, that's all."
That night, I try my best to come up with the happiest, most calm dream I can think of. I have to leave now. Now that I've visited her as I am, without a disguising form, it'll be easier for her to sense my real presence. That's against the rules. So I have to move on.
I give her a dream about the past, about the first day we went to Italy, all together. The very first day we visited the coffee shop, the boutique, the day she started a story based on us. I tried to include a few details from today, like the new coffee shop I took her to, the bridge she saw after I left. Hopefully, that will make the adjustments she needs to make to her anniversaries easier.
After I'm sure the dream is right, I give it to her and I leave. I look over my shoulder as I walk out the door, and I hope that she'll be ok.
As for where I'll be, I have a sister who lives in Amsterdam, I think she's in her mid-twenties now. I’ve missed her so much, but I had to choose to be her dream weaver, or our mother’s. I felt like Mom needed me more. But, maybe now I'll be able to convince my sister’s dream weaver to trade with me.