Today was a strange day. It wasn’t a good or bad day, but it was a day. I have written before about that “guest writer” feeling that I sometimes feel . . . which is to say, you’ll be watching a TV show you like, and every now and then an episode will feel off for whatever reason, usually because the characters are not talking or acting the way they usually talk or act, and in ways that you maybe can’t outright describe, the whole thing feels conceptually different from every other episode before or after it. Later you find out this is because there was a guest writer, and they didn’t really understand the show or any of its characters, and so you’re left with this oddball episode that doesn’t fit in with the rest. This strange and lonely feeling that it leaves you with is the result of all the people and places looking the same, all the pieces seemingly in the right places, except your mind knows the difference. You’re expecting a sort of familiarity from it all, but when it isn’t there, you almost feel nauseous.
Well: I sometimes have the life equivalent of this. I will live out a day that on paper looks like any of the other days I’ve lived, except there are little elements to it that make it feel not like my life at all. Something invisible is fundamentally wrong. I don’t know if it’s my brain or the world around me. I see no reason why I can’t be both, though the cosmic clockwork of that coincidence makes me want to puke. At any rate, it is not an altogether good feeling to feel out of place in your own life. I can see all the elements in place, the people I know and the rooms I occupy, and so on, but it just doesn’t feel right. There is something unsettling about it that makes me want to scream out in horror.
What did I do before I went to sleep last night? I watched SOLARIS by myself. I had not seen in a long time. Originally I planned to just watch the first part, but then daylight saving time ended right there in the middle of it, and I gained an hour, and so I watched the whole thing, all three hours of it. Afterwards I felt incredibly sad. I drank a bunch of NyQuil and lay in the dark under my comforter thinking about it. And I thought that maybe SOLARIS was one of the saddest movies I could think of. It’s not just the film itself . . . it’s that it says something to me specifically, what with the whole thing being the sort of psychedelic nightmare that I actually experience every day of my life, in so many words. There are people who are gone from me in the real world who materialize in my dreams and walk around with me. In the dream, I know that they are not real, and they know that they are not real either. Knowing this is terrifying and sad for both of us. If there is anything good about it, it’s that I get to see this person again, what with their real world counterpart being far away or unknown to me or dead when I wake up again. But then it is such a sadness to wake up alone and have this person disappear . . . maybe worse than if they had never visited me in my dream at all.
In SOLARIS, the strange yellow ocean on the surface of the planet creates illusions from the dreams and memories of those aboard the space station. And so the apparition of the scientist’s wife can of course only exist while he is hovering over the planet of Solaris. On the one hand he is tormented by seeing his wife again, and on the other hand he misses her dearly and wants to stay there on the space station just so he can be with her.
It is like this with my dreams. There are a few people who I miss so much, and so of course they populate my mind when I go to sleep at night whether I want them to or not.
The other night I dreamed of my grandmother. In my dream, I knew that she had died almost two years ago. She knew that she had died too. We were at a sort of Christmas party. And seeing her there, we talked a bit, and it was like a reunion almost. She said, you know, “Oh, I’ve been gone a while. . . . What have you been up to?” and so I told her. She showed me the perm she’d gotten for the party. I asked her about the afterlife. But because I have decades of memories of her to pull from, my mind had recreated her perfectly. Everything she said and did is what she would have said and done at a Christmas party in real life, were she still alive. It was a powerful dream because it felt believable. I guess you could say this is a sort of hallucination. It is not real. What’s scary is that I’m starting to have a difficult time telling these things apart anymore.
And so it was that I had a similar sort of dream last night about someone who I love and miss and who is far away. I woke up and wrote to them saying as much. What else can you do?
I spent the rest of my day feeling off . . . I kept thinking about SOLARIS. I was talking to my friend Shaina about this. We were talking about dreams and the intimacy of the things in your mind, and how all you ever really know about someone is your perception of them. And from this you create memories of them, and so on. Shaina is fluent in Russian, so I told her, you know, you gotta watch SOLARIS. She did. She wrote to me several hours later saying she thought it was genius. She went to sleep immediately afterwards, which is what I had done the night before. Maybe she is dreaming about the planet Solaris right now.
Yes, and I have got to sleep too. I feel like hell. I have this lonely feeling is all. I’ll get over it. To be honest, I am afraid to dream tonight. Which cherished friend will show up and walk around the dark places of my mind with me this time??
Something I have always wondered on a Guest Writer Day, the off day I have just had where nothing felt familiar: have I woken up in a parallel dimension? Am I in the Minus World—in Other Ryan’s world? It would probably look the same, and seem near identical on the surface. But of course it would not be my own world. Maybe that’s what is so creepy about it. If it were a completely new world with completely new people, it would be weird but in an interesting way, because I wouldn’t be confused by it looking like something I’m supposed to understand. But here I am, identical to the other Ryan, and yet a pretender in his identical world. It is inverted. It does not feel like my own. There are microscopic differences that make me feel nauseous. So: is he over there in my world where I ought to be? While I am trapped in the Minus World? And, in going to sleep again, like a Scooby-Doo revolving bookcase, do we trade places and go back to our respective universes? Son of a bitch. Who even knows. This only happens a few times a year, so whatever, I can deal with it. I reckon there are worse fates.