A Trilogy of Dreams, Occurring in Sets, and What it Revealed, After …

What I’m about to tell you – like everything else in my blogs – is true.

This blog is about dreams.

My dreams are never particularly interesting.

They’re pretty straightforward.

Maybe because I am aware of the fact that dreaming is the brain’s way of processing the events – and my subsequent reactions to those events – of the day.

Maybe because what I think about or what I can, and do, imagine, during my waking hours is more “dreamlike” than other people’s actual dreams.

Maybe because I’m not afraid to wander deep into the dark corners of my mind, explore, pick up an artifact, look it over, then toss it back out into the dark black that forms the borders of my subconscious, a vestigial residue from the time before I was medicated, when I would fixate on horrible “what if” repetitive thoughts that I could not stop, because I got off too much from the sickening pain.

Maybe it’s due to the fact, that I lived my nightmares, culminating with the death of my father, the death of who I was before.

Maybe I’m just shallow.

But these dreams were different.

And yes, dreams as in plural, and as they were running like a midnight matinee in my mind, it didn’t occur to me just what it was exactly, that I was processing. It didn’t occur to me until I stopped dreaming them. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I understood.

I know this:

The dreams occurred in sets.

I can’t tell over how many nights. I can’t recall if those nights were consecutive, strung across time stretching like dim black pearls into the length of weeks or months.
Maybe they were scattershot.
Occurring in clumps of nights, collections of gleaming river stones.

I know this:

They began last Christmas – I think.

I don’t remember having any other dreams during this time. The sets had definite beginnings and endings. They never overlapped. They began, ran their course, like a fever, then stopped.

And then the next set would begin. And once the last set of dreams ended, they ended.
Any dreams I’ve had after that I can’t remember, and they didn’t stay with me like these still do.

The First Set:

My Family and a Constantly Mutating Hybrid of My Exes Hangout in Hotel Rooms and Ocean Liner Cabins.

It always started in a hotel room, or a cabin on an ocean cruise liner.

There was always a sense of density, like every molecule in the atmosphere weighed more than it should, despite the fact that every room appeared spread out and spacious – even the ocean liner.

Even though the dreams always took place during the day, there was a darkness that smudged the edges.

I’m in the room, doing mundane things, like hanging out. I never leave the room.
My family is in one room, and I’m in the other. And I’m always with some hybrid form of my ex-girlfriend and my ex-wife.

We’re not fighting or arguing.
We’re just there. I can always hear my family in the other room. We’re always getting ready to go somewhere, but we never do.

Once I dreamt that I walked in on my ex-girlfriend and an ex-friend ( a guy, obviously, who was a big flirt ) who I don’t talk to anymore.
I found them lying on the bed.
They were fully clothed.
The outlines of their bodies formed an acute angle, their feet on opposite edges of the bed, their bodies converging at the vertex – their heads.
They were touching forehead to forehead.

They weren’t kissing. They were whispering. I couldn’t hear anything, but I saw their lips moving. Staring into each other’s eyes, smiling, laughing softly the way lovers do when sharing secret jokes.

The intimacy alarmed and frightened me. I remember beginning to say something, but that’s all. The dream ended abruptly.

That particular dream, though was an outlier. I never dreamt that my ex-girlfriend cheated on me. My ex-girlfriend wasn’t perfect – who is – but that’s how secure she had made me feel in our relationship.

I feel like that dream was pulling double duty. Maybe it was processing something else, some last bit of friendship/relationship business, and placing it in the context of travel. I knew it wasn’t a dream about cheating or insecurity.
It was about intimacy – or lack of it.

Sometimes I would dream of returning home from a trip and packing or unpacking, the rooms being a mess, me finding a place to sleep. My brother Sam was always in these particular dreams, because we grew up sharing a room together.

Those were the most disorienting and claustrophobic.

Everything was cluttered.

The Second Set:

I Confront My Father As I Remember Him in a Picture From 1965 While I Morph Between a Forty Year Old, a Twenty Year Old, a Teenager, and a Toddler.

For a brief time in the early to mid eighties, my father had an affair with another woman.

It was a devastating time. I know now, as an adult, that he was going through a depression. His dream of starting his own supermarket failed. And it broke him.

I’m not ready to talk anymore about that.

I don’t know when I will or if I will.

The dreams were always a variation on a simple theme: I was confronting him about his affair.

He was always the same age. He was younger, in his late twenties or thirties. He was never the pale, emaciated ghost of himself that he became at the end, the way I never like to picture him.

I was always different ages when I would confront him.
I would talk to him as a forty year old man. I’d yell at him as a teenager or a twenty year old. Or as an infant, trying to communicate to him how I felt and being frustrated that I was unable to verbalize or vocalize what I trying to say.

My father was always silent.

He was neither sad nor happy nor angry. He was there to listen to my condemnations.
I don’t remember how many times I dreamt about this, but it seemed like a lot.

The Third Set:

I am in a Relationship With the Blurred Girl.

In those dreams I have a girlfriend.

She had no face.

She was not a composite of my ex-wife nor my ex-girlfriend, nor any female I knew or had ever known.

She was a blur, a gentle blur, but she was a blur.
In the backwards logic of dreams, it didn’t seem odd to me. And yet the strangest thing about this dream, about these particular dreams, was that nothing seemed strange at all.

There was none of the grime around the edges, no claustrophobia, no disorientation, no density – none of the usual sensations that something was off.

This was something new.

This girl was nothing I had known, or sensed, or felt, before. She was a literal tabula rasa. She was a clean slate.

In my waking life, I had filled my exes with love until my depression filled them with hate and anger.

This female, this person, was unspoiled. And despite the fact that she was a blur, she was solid, solid and substantial all the way through. She was someone who I had complete and total faith in, someone who I had complete and total trust in.

This blurred girl was someone who I felt safe with, secure.
There was no guilt from seeing someone behind my girlfriend’s back. There was no worn-down to the bone pain from constant bickering.

I felt at peace.

Sunshine bright light.

Clarity.

She was my girlfriend.

I was happy being with her.
She held my hand, would lead me around, often helping me navigate through the obligatory family gatherings mates and partners and significant others always attend, filled with people I did not know and could not recognize.

Her family.

I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable or anxious because I was around New People. These strangers accepted me, treated me, like family. And they were like family to me.

It was all so normal.

It was all so right.

Children’s birthday parties on hot summer days. Going to carne asadas, family cookouts.
Splashes of bright Spring and Summer colors everywhere: piñatas, cascarones, all and both broken and busted, their painted egg shells scattered everywhere mixing with the colored confetti cuttings mixed with candies covering sunbright concrete patios.

Then the dreams stopped.

It took me a week or two to realize that they had stopped, that I wasn’t dreaming about the “girl.” Then, after another few days, as the distance lengthened far enough for me to gain some perspective, I began to work backwards in my memory.

I reflected on those dreams for some time. I held each one up to the light like a diamond inspector, turning it this way and that, keenly aware of how they made me feel.

It was such a strange sensation, you see, I had to be sure.

It was a new sensation.

It was weightlessness. It was feeling feather light. I felt unburdened. It was the feeling of no pain. No guilt. No obligation. No baggage dragging me down.

It took me a few more days of reflection and meditation to be sure.

And then I knew.

My head was clear.

My heart was clean.

My heart quietly whispered to me. It’s voice was so soft, I could barely hear it, and after all the self-inflicted pain I caused it, after all the pain the death of my father caused it, it was no wonder, but I had to be still.

I stilled my heart.

I stilled my mind.

I breathed very, very softly.
I had to, because I wanted to be sure that what I heard it say was right.

That it matched the weightlessness that I felt.

My head and my heart, my spirit and my soul, were all finally aligned.

So I listened very carefully, and this is what I heard:

I accept that I was emotionally unfaithful.

I had punished myself enough.

I did everything I humanly could to make amends, to make it better.

I forgive myself for what I did.

I found the key that unlocked the door of my purgatory, and I used it to open the door.

I stepped out.

And I heard the voice talk.

And I held my breath, so I could listen one last time, so I could be absolutely sure.

It spoke, it’s voice softer than the breath of a sleeping newborn.

It was my heart speaking.

I’m afraid, it said, but I’m finally ready.

Colors, Patience, Superman – Teaching on the Borderlands.

The little boy would not enter my classroom.

I saw him lingering, out in the hallway in front of my doorway, amidst the organized chaos of our morning routine, as the other students were coming in. Then, a moment later, he was gone.

I didn’t think much of it.

He was either afraid, or he was having a bad day. Or both. His teacher – my colleague – had to take the day off unexpectedly because her son woke up with a high fever.

On days when a teacher is out, we normally split up that teacher’s class between the remaining four 5th grade teachers, so we get an additional five to six more students.

We do this because on a campus like ours, located just a mile away from the U. S.-Mexico border, where we service a heavily Spanish-dominant population whose median income is below the poverty level, and we have to prepare them to pass the 5th grade STAAR exams, losing a day of instruction can really hurt these children.

Rather than having twenty-two to twenty-three students doing busy work, increasing the chances of them acting up with a substitute, it’s better they come to us and continue getting actual instruction.

There are space issues. Classroom behavior spikes a bit, but as long as we’re prepared with constant instruction, lessons, activities, the students are too engaged to even try to act up. Usually it ends up alright.

This day, we’re testing our district’s CBAs – a mini diagnostic to check if teachers have been teaching and if the students have learned what their teachers have been teaching. I get my students settled and working on their morning routine while I make room for the extra students.

Our special education teacher comes in and tells me that the little boy went back to his teacher’s classroom.
He’s in the room by himself.
He doesn’t want to come to my class.

I can cut a pretty imposing figure, with my size and my beard, and the children can find it intimidating – even threatening if I stand too close to a child.

This little boy has ED, so there are times when he won’t cooperate, won’t want to go where he is supposed to.

I head over to his classroom.

The little boy is there, standing up against a whiteboard. He looks unsettled, with a small light of defiance in his eyes.

The substitute is there as well.

I ask her if she could go to my class and watch my students since I left them unattended. She does so.

When she’s left the classroom, I ask the little boy if he’s going to come to my class. He just stares at me.

I ask him what his name is. He mumbles. By this time, morning announcements have begun, and with my peripheral deafness, I can’t make out what he’s saying.

I ask again.

I still can’t hear him. I ask him again and I explain to him why I keep asking. This time he yells out his name.
I shift my demeanor and I tell him firmly not to yell at me like that.

I wasn’t yelling at him and I honestly couldn’t hear him. There was no need for it. I tell him he’s being rude.
He says his name again, this time in a softer tone.

This time I hear him. I thank him.

I slowly walk towards him, but he begins to walk around, opposite me, keeping himself equidistant from me. We’re both feeling each other out, and we both know it.

I sit down.

For a while, I don’t talk.

I just sit there, calmly listening to the morning announcements. I’m not frowning. I make sure that my posture is relaxed.

I make sure that I’m giving off an aura of calm. I let him grow accustomed to my presence. I ask him if he wants to sit. He shakes his head no.

I calmly, gently explain to him that he needs to come to my class and I tell him not to worry.

I explain to him that I don’t want him to get into any trouble.

Then his special education teacher comes in and begins talking to him in a rough manner.

She needs to take him to her room so she can give him his test.

I use this time to call the front office and ask for our assistant principal to come by.

I step out into the hallway and when she reaches me, I explain to her the situation.
She tells me she’ll take care of it and tells me to go back to my class.

I do, and I get my kids settled down and pass out their tests.

As soon as I’m done, I see the little boy at my door.

The security guard escorted him. I tell the boy, hi! Come in and sit by me. I gesture at a chair on one end of my banana table and I sit. He walks in slowly and sits down.

I have a colorful tray filled with different types of markers that I use to create my classroom posters. I give him loose-leaf paper and push the tray towards him.
I ask him if he likes to draw.
He says yes.

I ask him if he could draw me something he likes. I sit there beside him as he draws. It’s a crude child’s drawing of Superman.

I tell him that I like Superman. I tell that I like to draw also.

I ask him, would you like to draw with me? I could draw you Superman after you finish your test.

He smiles and nods yes. His teacher comes for him and he leaves my room to take his test.

I tell him goodbye and that we’ll draw as soon as he’s done.

He never comes back.

Later I find out that he was sent home because of his behavior.

This was Thursday.

It’s Friday now.

We have two 5th grade teachers out all day at a training.

This time I get seven additional students.

We’re done with testing.
It’s “activity” Friday, and I give my students an extra thirty minutes.

Again I’m getting all the students settled and working when a student stops by my class and asks if I can step outside so his teacher can talk to me in the hallway.

It’s the little boy again.

He doesn’t want to go into his classroom teacher’s room.

The special education teacher is there again and she says he wants to go back with me because I told him that I would draw him Superman.

She sounds angry and frustrated but I respond cheerfully, of course he could come with me!

I ask him to come with me.

He follows me.

As I pass, I tell the special education teacher to come by later, once he’s settled down, so he could be picked up and do whatever work he needs to be done.

We can’t have a student out in the hallway unsupervised. It’s a safety concern. Better he’s with me in my classroom where I can keep an eye on him.

The boy sits down back at my banana table.

I sit beside him. I gently explain that he is always welcome in my room and I’ll always find time to draw with him, but he has to go with his classroom teacher later and he has to go with the special education teacher so he can learn and be smart.
He says okay.

Then I explain to him that I have to go about teaching my class and showing them the activities they need to complete.

He doesn’t blow up.

He doesn’t have an episode.

He nods and sits and waits calmly.

I go to my instruction area, I get my students attention, and I begin modeling the activities for my students using my document camera.

Then out of the corner of my eye, I notice something.

I have the lights off, so the class can see what I’m doing on our smart board.

Off to my right, in the back corner of my room, the little boy is standing up.

I continue my modeling with one eye on him and I see what he’s doing. I was actually surprised.

He’s straightening up my banana table, organizing my papers, throwing scraps of cut paper into my recycling basket, putting all my stray markers, pens and pencils where he thinks they belong.
I pause in the middle of my instruction and I tell him thank you, you’re doing such a great job and I appreciate it.

Then I finally reach a stopping point.

The class is working and they’re in their flow, so I’m able to go back and sit down with him.

I have my phone jacked into a speaker system, and I start playing some instrumental chill hop and trip hop. That always gets the kids working but it doesn’t over stimulate them.

The lights are off, but I have a multi-colored octopus lamp that bathes the room in a soothing glow.

I start drawing Superman for him.

He watches me, smiling with delight as Superman slowly takes form, flying up into the air, his cape billowing around him.

It’s not my best work.

I stopped practicing my figure sketching in college, but I would sketch occasionally, and I’ve slowly taken it up again as I sketch out character ideas for the manuscript I’m working on.

I’m smiling, too.

I’m keeping an eye on my students making sure they’re on task, but I’m relaxed.
When I finish, I hand it over to him, and he starts coloring, asking which part of his costume is blue, which is red, and all that.

I tell him, but I also encourage him to color however he wants to, change it up.

I sit beside him and watch.
My students come to me with questions about their assignments.

I answer them.

Eventually, the special education teacher comes for him, and he leaves, not one complaint.

I take a breath.

Seven students working on their own separate activities, my twenty-two students working on their assignments, and this little boy, who calmed down when I began drawing him his Superman.

Teaching children is a nonstop job. You have to be good at juggling and have a quick mind.

You need to teach them the skills in Reading, Math, Science. Writing, often. Social Studies when we can.

But that’s fifty percent of the job.

The other fifty is seeing to their needs – and there are twenty-two very different students with very different personalities, with different levels of learning.

Guiding them when they do their work. Building their confidence by showing them that they can master any concept. Showing them different ways to try and solve problems. Teaching them to recognize their own self-worth. Showing them how to use their words and communicate with one another in respectful ways to settle differences.

These are not suburban kids.

Many of the students I teach have fathers and uncles and cousins in prison.

They come from homes where the stress level is high, parents, single or together trying to make ends meet.

Quite often the default tone at home is yelling.

Some only have the breakfast and lunch the district provides for them as their only meals.

There are some parents, single, grandparents, stepparents, who really care about the education of their children.

And there are an unfortunate few who don’t pay attention.

All these children want is to know that they can be good at something.

All these children want is to learn and be a success and have fun doing so.

All these children want is to know that there is someplace safe, with regularity, stability.

All they want is to know that there is someone who cares about them.

And I’ve grown with them.

I’m a forty-three year old man. I have Major Depression and adult ADHD.
I’ve been medicated three years now, and I finally feel that I am the teacher I want to be.

The loss of my father and my longtime relationship has tempered me.

As a Gemini I seek peace and balance. And all of that has informed my teaching.

I’ve grown into a father figure for my students, my children, whom I love driving thirty minutes from my home to teach.

I’ve been teaching 5th grade at this campus for eight years now.

To teach, it truly takes love – not some squishy, saccharine love, but a fighter’s love, a fighter’s heart.

It takes dedication.

It takes an almost monastic devotion.

There is a craft to teaching children, an art.

It takes a fair mind – free of bias or prejudice.

It takes kindness.

It takes a soft word and a firm but gentle hand.

It takes never giving up on any students.

Not.

One.

It takes humor.

It takes breathing – a lot of breathing.

And it takes patience.

And sometimes, just sometimes, it even takes some colors and Superman.