Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What Does it All Mean?

I had a really strange dream the other night. Not just strange because of the content, but uncommonly vivid besides. Normally, I wouldn't entertain the idea of keeping a dream journal in a blog on the very public internet, but this one was just too good.

Step into my subconscious, if you will. No, right over- yes that's- OK. Far enough.

I snapped into being on my bike on a rainy morning, bent over the handlebars getting seriously aero. I had just gone down a steep, steep ramp into a Metro station. "Damn," I muttered as I hit the landing and worried if my still weak legs could handle the impact. They did, barely. 

I dismounted and headed for the train. No 7:00-10:00 AM bike ban in the Metro of my dreams, apparently. I hadn't been on the train for more than a minute before a handful of people began asking me questions about family law, the kind I get at work. Did my best to answer them, simultaneously proud of my dedication and frustrated at being asked to do my job when I wasn't even at my job. 

But there was something else too, something had changed. As the doors to the next stop slid closed, I looked down to check on my bike. It was gone! (of course!) In the seconds it took to assist those curious people, someone had apparently removed my hands from the handlebars and walked off with my beloved Two-Wheeled Siege Engine of New England Liberalism!*

Faced with a situation like that, what's a civil servant to do? Well, I don't really know, because time flashed ahead and suddenly I was standing on the National Mall near 7th Street and Jefferson Drive. I suppose I had gone to work in the meantime, but who knows? A man pedaled into view, southbound on 7th. As he grinned and looked around I immediately recognized the blue and black frame and panniers. He had my bike!

Ignoring the pain in my knee and throwing self-preservation to the wind, I half-ran, half-hobbled across the thoroughfare that is 7th Street. Miraculously, I avoided being hit by a car (dream!), and somehow caught up with the thief as he tried to flee, his legs spinning wildly in too low a gear. I tackled him to the ground and he crawled away, and I just didn't have the will to go after him. He would face no justice, but my bike and I were reunited. I felt a great sense of peace...

...which dissipated a moment later, as a cruiser pulled up and a college-age police officer got out. His polite smile barely covered the wariness underneath; he leered at me in the way an animal might regard a predator. In as conversational a tone as he could manage, he asked me why I was on the ground. I explained the events of the past few moments, and he seemed less concerned about my bike being stolen than the mild violence I visited on the thief in order to recover it. I asked, politely, why I was being treated as the aggressor in this situation, and he knelt and picked up one of my kitchen knives, which had suddenly appeared the ground. It was wet with something other than water, and had recently been used on something other than a carrot.

I opened my mouth to protest, but all that came out was a strange, lo-fi sort of electronic music...

It was my alarm. 6:00 AM. No rain, but neither would I be riding my bike today, nor any day soon.

Well, at least it wouldn't be stolen on the Metro.

WHAT??? What does it all mean???

I almost never remember my dreams in that much detail, and when I do, they leave me feeling so strange that I don't take much time to think about them. A couple days on, though, I have some ideas. If I'm honest, the symbolism wasn't even terribly complicated.

The bike-- obviously, I miss riding my bike. I worry that I won't ever be able to again, and if I do, I'm going to be weak and it's probably going to be painful.

The theft-- I also get really frustrated with the Metro. For the national capital of an industrialized power, our train system is really crappy. The system is disintegrating, delays are rampant, and sometimes people get really hurt or outright killed.  And they're always warning us that our smartphones or whatever are going to be stolen. Probably by teenagers. I never used to worry about that, but now I'm just as beholden to the slings and arrows of a spiraling transit system as anyone else. And it has a significant effect on my mindset when I arrive at work.

The confrontation-- worse, if someone were to steal something of mine, I probably couldn't run after them. Even when I recovered my bike, it was through sheer dumb luck, as I shouldn't have been able to catch up with him. I've touched before on how much physical fitness and general...capability?... have become part of my identity, and I still haven't really made peace with the fact that that part of me is gone and may not come back.

As for the incident with the cop and the knife, I have NO idea. Maybe I have some hidden angst over the grim state of policing in our country, and my subconscious was trying to reconcile that with the truth that, as a white male, I'm much less likely to be mistreated by police than...pretty much anyone else. It's almost unthinkable, for instance, that a cop would plant a knife at the scene of a scuffle I was involved in and accuse me of using it. Maybe I need to pay some sort of...psychological penance and work for greater social justice.

Or maybe I just had too much cheese in my burrito on Sunday night and I shouldn't read so much into things.

But I really think I'm onto something with that whole police, social justice thing.


*Not my bike's real name. Her real name is Winona.

It seemed so different than I pictured in my head/ everyone fighting looked exactly like me.