Here is another attempt to discuss life without mentioning love. I am not sure I will succeed at it, but I might just fool you into thinking that love is not important to me, that love can be poisonous, and that what matters instead is bargaining in good faith with destiny. This attempt will probably be a failure, just like all my attempts of writing an autobiography were a failure. Because all I can put down are fictional accounts of the way life feels like to me, and “how it feels like” never matches the reality of my circumstances, but this is usually for the better.
Speaking of fiction and reality, I went to a movie theater in Times Square with Dad last week. We watched a film about a group of experts who professionally entered people’s unconscious minds for a living, and who infiltrated in their dreams. I wasn’t extremely excited about the film. I, also, have the attention spam of a five year old. This plays against me when I have to sit through a two hour screening. But watching this film in 3D helped capture my interest, and Dad really enjoyed the movie. I think the twist to this plot was that, not only could these experts enter people’s dreams, they could also infiltrate inside dreams-within-dreams. This created an infinite regress of dreams within dreams which, I suppose, attempted to raise a deep and extremely original philosophical question which I am sure nobody else ever came up with, at all.
The question was of this sort: What is the difference, or is there a difference, between dreams and reality?
Hollywood is so mind blowing. Always one step ahead of Descartes.
But I found that this film could also raise a political question, which aligns better with the way life feels like to me these days. The question is of this sort: What is better, your dreams or your reality?
Let me explain the nature of this question to you.
When we got back home to Flushing, Queens, after the movie theater, our Filipino neighbor in his late sixties was riding his wheelchair backwards around the block. He appeared to be having fun, and did not even see us when he almost crashed into my Dad.
To this, my Dad politely said hello to our neighbor and kept walking towards our apartment building. But later he mentioned something to me that I would not forget, and it went like this:
“If I had known twenty years ago that I would be walking down the streets of Flushing, Queens, saying hello to my retired Filipino neighbor who rides his wheelchair backwards, I would probably think I was dreaming.”
And what followed...
“This could be just like in the movie! I am in a dream and I will soon wake up back in LA and realize that this is not my reality.”
To this statement, I just laughed and kept walking. Who can blame this man for not giving two cents about the philosophical difference between dreams and reality when what really matters at this point, what really makes a difference to him, is which one of the two is better?
Speaking of dreams, there have been times when I’ve fooled myself into thinking that a glass of wine would help me go to sleep faster. The effect has always been the opposite.
On nights of that sort everybody I could possibly want to really talk to, is asleep. So I have this new disease late at night involving alcohol and the telephone. I get drunk and call long distance to Argentina. The time difference between hemispheres helps me find others who are still awake. But what I love the most about Argentina is that we still have operators. So in my best drunken elegant voice, and using my best Spanish, I ask the operator to connect me with this friend or that one, with that cousin from whom I haven’t heard in years.
I got Mariana on the line this way. She was tall and I was short. I liked to read and she liked to draw. She had a scientific mind and I had a writer’s mind. We were best friends all through middle school. We got our noses pierced at the same time when we were in high school. At the age of eleven, we got locked outside of her house in winter while her parents were out of town. Her sixteen year old brother, who was supposed to be looking after us, came back home the next morning after partying all night, to find us literally sleeping in the dog house: Two eleven year olds and a dog, sleeping inside a doghouse in the backyard. I had forgotten all about this episode, but she remembered it well. So we bonded with that memory, after so many years.
I later asked her how she was doing, and she told me about her life. But then she mentioned something that I would not forget.
“I have this disease late at night involving alcohol and the telephone.”
I pictured Mariana in the southern hemisphere. Still up in her room, still reading while everybody else was asleep.
I felt lonesome no more.