[sarah6d] The two of them lounge and smoke Turkish Jade’s atop a quilted twin bed, remembering their most recent dreams. Their most current late-night séances are filled with car rides, coercion, penises and old friends.
Laughter erupts when Will describes his latest dream where he was riding in a beat-up truck with several others, including a housemate they refer to as “yam,” for his apparent lack of personality. “It’s so random, I know,” Will says, jolting his head back dramatically.
Craig, also engaging his head, twiddles his hands above it, a nervous habit, snickering as he remembers the time he dreamt of being drunk and how realistic it felt. They’re the first-floor boys. Will is daunting, dark with a large build; he towers over me by almost a foot and a half. His deep voice booms and fills the smoky space. Craig, however, is smaller with strawberry blond hair and a blazer with a pin declaring his devotion to the 80s Brit-cult-rock icons, The Smiths. Will and Craig are the house’s resident smokers, homosexuals and entertainers.
It is this house, the Orion cooperative on 501 M.A.C. Blvd., that is home to 21 contemporaries, 21 dreamers, 21 storytellers, 21 companions. It is four floors of pure college hedonism. A squalor that would make most mothers cry. At least at first glance.[newquote]
But venturing inside the house it becomes full of life. Its racing heart is evident in the living room painted Russian red with orange and yellow flames enveloping the thin walls. Checkerboard linoleum, 1970s acid-induced murals, stained Berber carpet and assorted beer bottles adorn the house from floor to ceiling. With over 50 years of student residents, the house has developed a strong oral tradition and has cave-like drawings on the walls to tell the stories of the beatniks and hippies and rich kids and radicals and drug stars and punksters before.
Countless dreams have floated in and out of the many shaggy, bald, eccentric and beautiful heads that have lied asleep here. These visions of phalluses, dinosaurs, falling teeth, dark tunnels and tantric lovers swirl about the rooms and smell faintly of marijuana and Chinese takeout.
“Maybe it’s cause I haven’t been sober since Thursday,” Will says, rationalizing another dream involving yet another penis and old friend. It’s now that I decide that everyone has a story to tell, and that maybe I can find a piece of that story in their dreams, or at least from talking to them about their dreams. I come to this conclusion because of Will, and his next diversion. Seamlessly, he slips into talking (mostly with himself) about the amount of “booze,” as he calls it, that he drinks. From booze, Will moves to his sister, and how he raised her child for the first year of his life, before the baby boy’s premature and tragic death. Just a simple question about his most recent dream and out pours a few glimmers of Will’s own history.
[sarah2d] Next to Will, his best friend Craig talks about a maniacal dream he had a few months ago. In it, an old friend orders him to douse their apartment, which for some reason is in the basement of a convenience store, in gasoline and set fire to it. “It seemed totally plausible, too, in the dream,” he says. Not everything burned so easily and he had to work at it. “I remember finding the mattress quite difficult.” Knowing Craig, this dream illuminates his character. He’s hyperactive, quirky and a little off- this dream fits him. I tell him this and he laughs, “Yes, there’s me always destroying my life and not even being good at it.”
Moving out of the cigarette haze to the north corner of the house, I knock on Greg’s door. Greg is well, very important to me. About as important as one can be actually. He’s been the on and off very significant, significant other in my life for the last year and a half. Right now we’re only a bit on. He is tall and athletic, with brown hair to his shoulders and wide hazel eyes. Today he’s wearing a yellow t-shirt, jeans and his bare feet are crowned with braided anklets; he’s the house’s reluctant hippie.
Gregory doesn’t dream but I ask him anyway and he tells me again what I already know. “You know that, Sarah,” he says. I do, but I’m trying to get in his head, so I press on. He remembers that he dreamt a lot about dinosaurs as a kid. In many of his boyhood dreams Tyrannosaurus Rexes inhabited his dad’s dairy farm where he grew up. “What about you, you dream.” That I do. But we’ll get to me later.
[sarah5d]It’s clear Greg’s done talking when he starts signaling for me to turn on his tape player. Greg’s dyslexic and gets many of his books on tape, and wants me to turn it on for him when I leave. “You’re mean. You’re only nice to me at night,” I say, surprising myself at how vicious I sound. He looks hurt, denies the claim and makes a familiar sad face with his big, stupid bottom lip jutting out. Goddamn it, I hate that face. I’m rendered defenseless, so I smile coyly as though to say, “truce,” and leave. This house has witnessed so much of our story, I think, as I head to the staircase.
Next I’m headed up the steep, poorly lit steps to knock on another door. A slight blonde answers and invites me in; she’s a psychology major and is already anxious about my subject. Megan has nightmares, I learn. She never remembers what they’re about (or doesn’t tell me) but wakes up in cold sweats, afraid of something. “I know I can’t but I just want to run screaming for my mother,” she jokes.
I barely know her but I learn that she has a nervous personality and is affectionate for someone named “Edward.” She has a reoccurring dream where she’s being chased down a tunnel, laser lights flashing around her, then she goes blind, stumbles for her life and wakes up. As I leave, I wonder what haunts her, what part of her story she’s not ready to tell, and I think that the house must know all of our secrets. Even mine.
[sarah3d]Scotty lives on the first floor and is just one of those decent people. He has droopy basset hound eyes, stretch marks from fatter days and an odd sense of humor. In his most recent dream, his three-year-old niece, Ari, tried to stab him during a supposedly routine night of babysitting. “I was actually scared when I woke up,” he says, looking down and laughing. He also dreams occasionally of his ex-girlfriend Liz and it’s usually just the two of them together in the most banal of situations. “Those are the hard ones,” he says. They remind him of “better times.” Knowing how it is to dream of happiness with an old lover, I begin to feel for the guy behind the big dark eyes. His story is just beginning, I think, as I head back up the stairs to the third floor.
It’s said that a girl hung herself some twenty or thirty years ago in the smallest room on the third floor of the Orion cooperative. The entrance to the attic is also up there, a combination that has vaguely disturbed me since I moved in last fall. There’s just something haunting about the very top of a one-hundred-year-old house.
Missie is the oldest resident with the best room, except that she has to travel three flights of stairs everyday to get to her bed, which sits high above her shag carpeting. Missie, or Melissa “either one,” she says, confesses to dreaming mostly of sex. Looking around the room at the large cage filled with two boa constrictors and a python, and the several long, thick scented candles on the tables and desk, I’m not surprised. As I probe further into her sex dreams she doesn’t get embarrassed. “They’re usually just me, having sex, lately I haven’t been getting any, so that’s probably why.” I asked if they’re ever strange or out of the ordinary. “Not really, but sometimes it’s tantric which is weird cause I’ve never done that before,” she says.
[sarah1d] I imagine Missie, an Irish girl from Southwest Michigan, dressed as the Divine Mother Kali, tongue out of her mouth, practicing ritualistic sex rooted in ancient Hindu tradition. With the carnal and coital on my brain, I thank her and walk in to my room just across the hall, the smallest one with the suicidal past.
My own dreams are not something I usually talk about. I’ve spent many hours in the New Age section of Barnes and Noble’s trying to find answers, but I haven’t learned much else except that I have sleep paralysis. Often when I’m stressed or very tired my body slips into its dream state too quickly, leaving my brain in a sort of limbo between the awake and the entranced. In these dreams I know I am asleep and usually see myself in bed, but I cannot move or speak. When frightful things enter my dreams, I can invariably do, well, nothing.
“You sound like you’re trying to scream, you kind of start convulsing- moving side to side- and you always hyperventilate,” Greg says of my night terrors. I figured he would know the most about how I sleep. He’s estimated that he’s seen me do this at least 20 times over the last year and a half. I’ve become quite a good paralyzed sleeper, however. Starting with my pinkie finger, I focus all of my energy on moving it with my mental strength, as I imagine a paraplegic would attempt to move a limb. Eventually if I can move it slightly, I can jerk out of the paralysis and away from the pending terrors inside my room. These dreams have always been a part of me, and my story, the way our dreams make up a part of us all.
[sarah4d] Lying in bed staring at my earth-orange walls, I think again of all the dreams my house must hold. All the terrors, nightmares and secrets; all the wet dreams, perversions and fantastical sequences. They’re all here, just cycling through the air. Dreams of quarter-aged outcasts fill the rooms with tales of sisters’ babies and Hindu goddesses. How did the girl that killed herself in this room, dream, I wonder. I will never know. I’ll never know all the secrets and dreams of the many ‘yams’ and boozers and lovers of my old eerie house. But I take solace that this house and its people, both of which I love, will hold our stories for the next twenty-year-old paralyzed sleeper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *