I only have strange, intense dreams. I never fall asleep and imagine myself showing up at school, having forgotten about an exam. I show up at school and am forced to fight a dragon alongside Kevin Hart, while my 3rd grade teacher floats above us reciting times tables and throwing giant spiders. They are usually a mash-up of something that could be real and something pulled from a fantasy world. I know it’s a feature of my anxious and constantly running brain, that even in my sleep it is wild and uncontainable.
I had a dream like this a few nights ago. Dave and I showed up to a giant mall—full of the crowds and consumption of all malls. Not my jam. This mall was slightly different than the average mall, since it was part mall, part jungle. I didn’t see any monkeys, but it was like the very beginning of Jumanji, when just a few of those giant-leafed trees had started to sprout. We stopped in a coffee shop to get some espressos. In real life, we never drink coffee, so in describing this dream to Dave, he insisted this was the strangest part of the situation. This goes to show you that he’s heard too many of these stories.
We were holding our tiny cups of hot liquid and walking around the mall. Eventually, I remembered why we were in this strange place. I looked down at my feet and saw that I was wearing heels, which made it all crystal clear. Unless there was a wedding in this courtyard, I was headed to an job interview. The problem was that I couldn’t find the store where I hoped to work. I started asking the people around me, “Do you know where Brookstone is?” No one knew. Finally, someone told me, “There’s no Brookstone here.” That was concerning. I kept walking. Then I realized I was supposed to be interviewing at Brooks Brothers. I asked a lady at a kiosk and she told me there was one, but it was far away. “Walk to the other end of the mall,” she said, “Keep going until you get to the end, then go outside toward where the chimpanzees live. It’s over there.” (Unspoken understanding between the koisk woman and me: these were flying chimpanzees.)
That made perfect sense, so off we went. Dave stopped partway through our journey, though, and looked at me very seriously. He pointed down at the black and red vinyl purse he was now carrying and said, “Is this yours? Does this have your name on it?” It wasn’t and it didn’t. He said, “I have to go return this. I have to find the owner.” He turned around and left me to find the chimpanzee-guarded menswear store. It wasn’t very supportive, but I think he was just trying to be responsible. One of us had to be—I couldn’t even remember the name of my new place of employment. I had to keep going despite his abandonment. This felt like a clutch gig.
I opened the back doors of the mall and started walking down a rocky, desert path, surrounded by cliffs. I don’t know why someone built a mall in such a disaster zone. Also, the heels were a poor choice. Further in the distance, I could see the flying chimpanzees. They didn’t look friendly, but I was sure we’d be cool with one another. I made my way to an iron ladder mounted on one of the cliffs. There were two other women there and together we tried to get down the ladder to the apocalyptic circus below (where a man could also buy a dapper suit). I woke up as one of the women grabbed my hand, helping me down the steps.
As I was moving down the ladder, I noticed there was a parking lot next to Brooks Brothers. Just like me—can’t take the easy way even in my dreams.