I’ve been having a recurring dream, a dark one. It’s been occurring for about two years. Unlike my customary dreams which are filled with clouds and undersea rocking horses this one is shockingly specific and intricate. Basically, a high school friend murders another kid and involves me in the cover up. This is successful and I live with the full knowledge that I’m complicit in a terrible crime. There are police and multiple narratives. My job is to caste doubt on the whereabouts of certain key players. (Other kids know about the crime and my job is to script them.) I do this effectively. The cops know I’m lying but can’t prove it. They know my friend has done the deed but can’t prove it. And of course the body of the murdered kid is never found.
It’s a trivial dream. Teen noir. A bad TV movie. I know. Each time I have it I wake feeling it must be real. The nightmare hangover lasts until I put on my slippers. Slowly it dawns that it’s just a dream. Yes I knew those people. No, we never killed anyone. My pal in the dream was in fact a sinister teenager. But not a killer. And then I realize that all I know for sure is that he never killed anyone in my presence. Nor did he talk about killing people. He was the kid who’d steal your parents’ valuables when he came over to play air hockey.
I grieve for who I once was. I had a very troubled adolescence. I regret my seed time as Robert Lowell might put it. And yes the dead kid in the dream is me. All the characters are me. Even the cops. When the dead kid’s mother appears she is also me. I tell myself this is a Freudian joke. I tell myself it’s time to let go over guilt because I was sad and destructive so long ago. But it doesn’t matter what I say. I live daily protesting that I’m good. I’m really a good man.
My teen self understood. Everyone is wearing a uniform. The adult in me wants to reassure him but can’t.
In this way my dream is about the social lie as defined by the poet Kenneth Rexroth who said:
“Since all society is organized in the interest of exploiting classes and since if men knew this they would cease to work and society would fall apart, it has always been necessary, at least since the urban revolutions, for societies to be governed ideologically by a system of fraud.”