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"Brush Dream" short story excerpt

Saturday 1/14/23

A dream I’ve had but never harvested is to be a person who has multiple toothbrushes in their home—a considerate surplus of toothbrushes, unopened in their original packaging, handsomely—but not ostentatiously—displayed in a bathroom cupboard on offer for someone who might need one.

Is a dream something you harvest? You’d have to plant it, I suppose, sow in order to reap the dream, but that’s a ground-level activity. Planting, I mean.

Whereas we think of dreams as celestial—they’re up above. We don’t harvest stars, though perhaps in some capacity we do, and that is why love does not come in boxes or get measured in bushels.

The implication is that the dream at ground level is comparatively pedestrian, for such is the nature of things below our feet, and thus not a dream at all in the “I really want this” sense, that bigger picture regard of how we are with each other and the world. But maybe that’s because we get dreaming wrong and misjudge the various altitudes of dreams.

You can’t get a dream itself wrong, as in, what happens in your brain while you’re asleep. A dream and dreaming are different things.

There is the dream nursed as life goal, what we treat as its own form of earthly salvation if only we can attain it, and there is also the dream that occurs during dreaming, when consciousness has been taken from life’s equation.

You’re not on the hook for it for that form of dream. I’ve had female friends and a dream has been my kind of lead-in with them. It’s childish, I know. Immature. Desperate.

In the past I’d make mention of some bit of the physical that had gone on between themselves and myself in a dream I’d had. In each instance I was lying. There was no dream. There was a wish, though a wish and a dream are not always the same, and neither is a prayer.

But you could do anything in a dream and it’s not your fault. Therein is a kind of in, if you want something enough in the manner of lonely people.

Someone can’t get mad at you for having had the dream. They can fault you for sharing that you did—for after all, silence isn’t some shade of copper, but rather golden, and thus to be maintained, as we’re told—but are we not supposed to talk about what is so clearly in our minds, though beneath its surface? Until, that is, the dream helps it get there. Sometimes both forms of dreams.

Who knows what the dream and subsequent conversation might unlock? Romance begins all kinds of ways.

Have you ever been out and you run into someone you haven’t seen for years? You think about a video camera on their day and a video camera on your day, pieced together after as a split-screen movie of your lives for an afternoon, with the bird’s eye view from overhead and the time synched-up.

All of that motion. All of those stops. All of the different directions. Each direction, each step, each stop, is like a number in an equation. We’re talking complex mathematics.

For each of you to end up on the same square of cement in a city means all of those numbers had to break a certain way so that you landed at the superimposed coordinates simultaneously. One more sip of the coffee, one more red light, and it wouldn’t have happened.

If life was an hombre in a Western, caked with the dust of the trail, who walked into a bar and said, “Barkeep! Get me a metaphor!” I could definitely see the bartender pouring a version of what I have just said into life’s glass and then life would drink deeply and mumble a few words on the subject and status of slaked.

There are times that people who have lost touch get back in touch this way. A relationship builds. A new relationship. All because of—or starting with—the math of that day and how it worked out with almost unbelievable precision. What are the chances?

But it occurs with regularity, which makes you think that near-misses must happen all the time, and we are none the wiser of how close we may be getting to what we want.

So why shouldn’t I think a dream I mention might function the same way? It’d be better to have the dream than to make it up, but a lot of relationships begin with a lie. A white lie. A sparing of someone’s feelings. What we call having a filter.

I know I’m trying to justify that which I ought not to. I’ve dropped the dream ruse anyway. It never worked. There’s never been a woman who said, “Tell me more,” or “Funny, I had a dream about you as well.”

No flirtation has resulted. When we’re false, we can stop what we’re doing, I think, for two reasons. Either we’re not getting anywhere, or we learn better. I like to think I learned better.

My dream of the toothbrushes is a different dream, one that doesn’t require me to be asleep or to make it up. It’s aspirationally real. I want to have a home in which people come and go, always pleased to arrive, less pleased to leave, but excited to return.

They will be my friends and the friends of the person I love the most. They can be her friends first and I have inherited an opportunity. They don’t ever have to truly become mine, though I’d like to think a certain friendship, both ways, would rub off as a result of those visits. Rarely do you become the same level of friend that the first friend is to that person, but knowing as much makes you a potential better friend to all.

I want to be someone with a home that people know they can come to without forewarning. A home marked by its quality of any time at all. A home that can be a haven. A port. A spot for a warm meal—I’d have to learn how to cook some basic, sturdy dishes of comfort—a restorative, calming night of fellowship—it can be hearty, if need be, with loud laughter—where there are always ears waiting and willing to be bent; ears that can bend around any corner of life’s difficulties. Ears for the switchback road, unclogged by dust.

Those people might not have attended to the necessary preparation that formal travel requires and wouldn’t be suitably packed. I’d prefer what I represented to be informal anyway. No pressure. No expectations. Whatever you feel up for or like doing.

Or they’ve just lit out from somewhere, either extemporaneously or in haste. Flight. Perhaps they had a fight with their significant other, and that was that, the official end after the pain of so many years, and to me they turned with only the clothes they have on.

Deep breaths, I’d say. We didn’t have to talk of a plan. Let’s just have a night. Let’s just be here now. It’s going to be okay.

I’d have the toothbrush. The toothbrushes. I would reference spares in the bathroom closet where the extra towels were, making sure not to be boastful about my array, and instead suggesting, “I think there’s a toothbrush you can use in the cupboard. Help yourself,” as if I didn’t know, and as if they weren’t confident in me and that they were in good hands, but they know they are.

By “help yourself” I’d mean to both the toothbrush and the towels, not that anyone would use more than the one towel, minus a plumbing emergency.

But if you wanted, you could, no questions asked. I’d never presume to know all of the worthy uses for towels beyond the perfunctory manner in which I have always used mine, one I don’t wash enough. There could be methods of saving grace in the knowledge that you used something you didn’t have to, but the way you did—or that you did—made you feel better than you felt before. By a little. A little is always a start. And nothing can take that away from it.

In actuality, there’d be a half dozen or so toothbrushes in different colors, because I think that matters, too. That you had an option of pink or green. Someone was thinking of you without officially thinking of you before you got there, and isn’t that how we should treat everyone?


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