Hard News by Russell Brown


Three Dreams

I have three dreams. One is characteristic, one is recurring and one is singular.

The characteristic one is simple in concept: it's me and my friends going places and doing things. In the last one I can recall, there was a lake, my family was there – and so, for some reason, were Lorde and her friends. I think they got to the party and we didn't, but also that this is not a very profound dream. It's really just exercising social noise.

The recurring one is deeper. It's a flying dream that I've had since childhood. It's always low flying, and my clearest memory of it in childhood is of circling our front yard like a dragonfly, with a teatowel spanning my outstretched arms.

In my twenties, the flying dream evolved – or, rather the flying itself did. It became more like softly falling; if I fell right, I'd never hit the ground. Indeed, I'd be able to surf around half a metre away from the earth, as if it were a trick with gravity. I remember several times falling all the way up Parnell Rise, en route to Windsor Castle.

Did you notice what I said there? Certainly, there was a period in my life where my friends and I walked up Parnell Rise in some fairly elevated states. But we didn't actually fly. It's just that for some reason my brain has stored this dream in a way usually reserved for real-life memories. Unless I broke the spell by consciously thinking about it, it was something that actually happened.

I had this dream for the first time in a long while recently and the next day allowed my conscious mind to entertain it for a little while because it was just so pleasant to believe, for a while, that it was real, that I had the trick of it.

The singular dream is one that was both helpful and important to me – and one I'd like to never have again.

My father died a little over 20 years ago. He died of lung cancer and it took a long time, perhaps because he was in denial that it was happening. He was a good man and I will always be grateful for the security of my childhood, but like many men of his generation, he was often uncomfortable with his feelings.

I was feeling frustrated with his way of dying, and deprived of the father-son talk, the big generational handover. There were things I wanted to say, but he wasn't available.

And then one night, I dreamed it was me that was dying.

It was awful, bleak, terrifying in its inevitability. I woke up gasping at 6am. I think my heart was thumping. It didn't take me long to realise that maybe this was how Dad was feeling and I consequently accepted that, unless he bid it, The Talk wasn't going to happen. It was his death, not mine. I had no rights on it, just an obligation to make him comfortable.

I got my talk in the end, after he passed. His body had been brought back to the house, everyone else went out and I spent half an hour saying what I wanted to say. That was okay. The Talk had always been for me. And there's no way I would have accepted that like I did, had it not been for the dream.

There is, I should say, one other salutory dream: it was a matter of my unconscious delivering me a dressing-down, with a kind of sardonic poetry. It, too, was an enlightenment. But I'm afraid you don't get to know about that one.

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