There are three dream sequences in The Perpetual Now. There were four, but in a difficult decision made in the interest of economy, I deleted one in favour of a much whittled-down version. This particular passage came into being when a couple of beta readers expressed their interest in knowing more about my narrator Justin’s thoughts and feelings regarding his missing mother. It was a vital insight into the narrator’s mind whose absence was admittedly conspicuous.
There were reasons, of course, why I didn’t include this initially. It poses a problem for Justin. He was only two when his mom disappeared. What he knows of her is almost entirely informed by still photos and video clips taken by his dad and his mom’s family, along with anecdotes he received second-hand. Even his earliest memories, fuzzy images in the deepest reaches of his psyche, could easily be derived, borrowed, or outright manufactured. Justin is a smart kid and he knows this.
He’s also heard all the stories of his mom in which she’s depicted as the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect daughter, sibling, friend, colleague, etc. In Justin’s own words, my mom was a quasi-divine figure who had the benefit of having left behind tangible evidence of her existence. She was better than Jesus. Obviously, what feelings he has of her would be a tad skewed.
Still, it would be nice to know what’s going on that bright complex mind of his, even if Justin, notorious introvert that he is, has trouble expressing or even accessing it. Upon consultation with a child psychologist, the solution came forth in the form of a dream.
The dream always started the same. I was moving through a distorted version of Garrison Park, one without trees or play structures. Only the lake was the same, over to my left. There were a few familiar things like tables (oddly, small round kitchen tables rather than picnic tables), undersized and overflowing waste baskets here and there, and a few statues of military leaders I’d never heard of from long ago wars. I was dimly aware of a few other people around, and dogs that weren’t quite dogs were running about fetching things I couldn’t quite see. And there, just a short distance ahead of me, was my mom.
She looked exactly the way she always did in all the photos and videos I’d seen: beautiful, smiling, full of love and mischief. She was calling to me to join her and I could almost hear her voice, but a wind coming off the lake was drowning it out. I tried to run to her, just so I could hear her voice, but for some reason my feet struggled to gain ground, as if my laces were tied together.
Meanwhile, mom was pointing at the lake, toward something she wanted me to see, but when I turned there was nothing: just waves and the far shore. I kept running toward her, and as I approached I could see she’d become a giant living statue, like one of those long-departed generals but immense, like something from Antiquity, the Colossus of Rhodes, or better yet, the Argonath in Middle Earth. But she was still my mom, and she was more beautiful than ever, and her smile was brighter than a thousand lighthouses, and her form was that of a goddess.
In some versions of the dream she held a huge book, not unlike the Statue of Liberty but in this case it was a real book, lavishly illustrated with enormous pages that turned in the wind; other times it was a scrapbook or a family photo album. All I wanted to do was to climb up, up into the warmth and safety of my mother’s arms, and look into the untold wonders of the book she held, this book she so wanted to share with me.
I started to notice other people, other kids, my classmates, who were standing at my mom’s feet, gazing up in mute astonishment, and I was so proud that this Wonder of the World was my own mom, and that she was so immense and beautiful and full of love for me, just me, a love that was huge beyond understanding, and that in a moment she was going to gather me up in her arms and…
And that’s when I noticed what she wanted me to see, out on the lake. It was a vast fog bank, obliterating everything, moving rapidly toward the shore. I had time to wonder what a fog bank like that was doing on such a small lake, it didn’t make sense, we didn’t live by the ocean, but before I knew it, the fog had enveloped the park, engulfing everything, and I could no longer see my mom, even though I knew she could only be a few feet away.
I wandered around in the fog, suddenly alone. I could hear voices of people nearby, just out of sight in the mist, some I recognized, and some of them were laughing. Not a pleasant laugh either, but a laugh that was mocking and cruel. I called out, called out to my mom, but there was only silence, and laughter moving further away.
At last the fog began to break, and I could see a huge shape looming just ahead, and people standing below it, gazing upward. I rushed over, only to find that it was someone else’s mom, in some dreams it was Tommy Chartrand’s mom, and Tommy was there with her. As I ran around the park looking for my mom in the dissipating mist, there were other figures, almost as huge but none nearly as beautiful as my mom, and kids standing around them. But my mom was nowhere to be found, and despite my frantic terrified search, asking everyone where she was, I never saw her again.
The dream ended as darkness descended, and I was alone, listening to the voices of other people, some kids and some grown ups, saying how sad it all was, how terribly, terribly sad.