Cuvier, interpretation of dreams
The small apartment, which affords a meager view through the mosquito netting set in the window frame, has become my voluntary prison. Of course, I exaggerate somewhat because in just a few hours the hot sun will beat down outside and I will head off to Sevilla station to get the city center in time. My view consists of a tree with some yellow flowers and one eighth of a skyscraper shrouded in the inversion haze.
I cease writing for a moment and look at the printed page, tapping it out on the keyboard: “For me, prose exist only to the degree that it provides what I would loosely call esthetic pleasure, that feeling of being connected to another mode of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) are the norm”. Nabokov wrote that. I don’t get any further.
On Leibniz street they are demolishing a house. Concealed in the shade of an acacia tree, I observe the heavy trucks taking the debris away towards Calle Darwin. They turn into another construction site where more houses were missing. All that is visible behind the plywood barrier is a hyperactive crane, tearing into the concrete, boom bristling. Muddy tracks lead from Leibnitz street to Darwin. From above, it must be more visible. The tracks make an “S”. (a)
When I leave the shade of the unknown tree and continue down the street, I first pass Gutenberg street and then come to the intersection of Leibnitz and Kant, where I stand in fascination of the bent street sign. It is as if the names of the two streets are straining towards one another. Some misguided youth has probably tried to help them come together, but did not have the strength to make both ends meet. They remain somewhat sadly facing each other, issuing the challenge of a friendship yet unrealized. It is still hot and I begin to feel hints of a sore throat coming on. Yesterday I spent about two hours in the subway trying to get from point A (Auditorio station) to point U (Universidad station). It was unbelievably hot in the subway cars, which seemed to bother only the one forlorn gringo in the corner. I emerged to have an ice frappe in a student cantina. My body experienced the shock, and then returned to its overheated state. Now under the twisted sign it has issued its verdict: Sore throat. (b)
And exactly why had I been going to point U? I don’t know. The only point of it all seems to have been that moment when I was dead tired, standing in front of the walls of an old Aztec fortification now housing higher education, when I saw a spry Indian come bounding out of a doorway being chased by a gang of students wielding iron bars. True enough, I was on the verge of hallucinating, but this was not a dream. A few girls on my right, slurping some sickly sweet purple beverage, responded to the scene with coquettish girlish laughter. The Indian fell, and the girls squealed with glee. The first of his pursuers leaped with both legs landing squarely on his back, the others followed and began to pummel the Indian’s liver, spleen, kidneys and all other soft parts of the body with their iron bars, in the manner typical for a gang armed with iron bars. I looked onward, my mouth gaping half open. I had not expected to see a Fata Morgana such as this at the university. The man then gained his feet and ran towards me. I was stunned: this is why I’m here says a voice in my head – he jumps at me, whispers something unintelligible in my ear and dies! Thankfully for me one of the rectangular bars had caught up with him and dropped him to the ground. The subsequent blows fell softly, as if the body were made of rubber. The beat him for a while longer, then the Indian stood up again and stumbled towards a low wall of black tufa. One of the gang grabbed his shirt, which strangely started unraveling from the bottom up. The girls were extremely entertained when the Indian staggered away from us with the funny looking half shirt hanging a bit below his armpits. The crowd now dispersed, and everyone continued on their way. The forlorn gringo turned on his heel and headed back to the subway station. Having seen such a sight, the purpose of my journey had surely been fulfilled.
As I stand now beneath the bent street sign, I think back on that Indian, and my throat burns.
Cuvier, Copernico, Leibnitz, Bradley, Darwin, Descartes, Hugo, Goethe, (from Milton I walked back to Goethe), Rio Mississipi and Sevilla, subway to Insurgentes, and at the corner of Colim and Frontieres I was taken in by three Graces, who poured a fifth of mescal into me and brought me back to the taxi stand at midnight, telling the driver ”Cuvier por favor”. That was the night before last. (c)
Yesterday morning I tried a different way. Cuvier, Rousseau, president Masaryk, Spencer, Rubén Darío, Mahatma Ghandi. (d)
This is just a short distance from point A. I wonder, what was the reason for going this way? Could it have been Rubén Darío? (1)
At any rate, the point of the journey is revealed to me as soon as I enter the fragrant city park. Standing across from me are some ragged teenagers, pinecones in their outstretched hands, as if time were standing still. I leave my body and my spirit flies to these ruffians, instantly scrutinizing their glistening heads and the sweat which drips onto their dirty shirts. I try to guess what they want. They appear deep in concentration, as if waiting for just the right moment. It is still morning and the gringo is not that miserable yet. I watch myself moving. Behind the easy gait of my body I see a line of trash cans. They look like hungry caterpillars standing on their rear legs, mouths gaping and toothless, eagerly eyeing the youths. I return to my body and set time moving again along its proper course (hopefully I haven’t caused any problems for anyone out there in the universe). No sooner do I pass the row of hungry caterpillars than I hear ahora! and the metallic ring of a volley of pinecones slamming into the bins. I was not the target.
If only… I sit on a bed soaked in the sweat of years gone by and unfold a map with Cuvier street in its center. When Freud wrote The Interpretation of Dreams I had not been born yet, but I haven’t read it anyway. I come up with my own method of interpreting dreams. I came here to get at the inner workings of my dreams. I have them all written down, for better or for worse, roughly 7000 words in all. They have troubled me for several months and even if they appear to be simple with perfectly straightforward interpretations, they still do not satisfy me. I pull out my dream papers and randomly read one. Right away I am irritated by the pathos of the text before me:
I don’t want to have dreams, but they come to me anyway: I sleep in dreams. I know that I am sleeping, my eyes are closed, I hear the surf and it calms me, I fell asleep by the sea I suppose, but then again, I realize I did not. How did I figure that out? I quickly open my eyes: steel blue sky, drizzle, a seagull or albatross hanging motionless above me. I am lying on my back. I roll over on my side, I am completely wet, as if at the same time all of my senses have awakened, I am cold, there is the pungent odor of fish, rough sand everywhere, and the terrible noise of the sea. I don’t know how I got here, but I do know who I was dreaming about before. I am suddenly nauseous. I want to vomit. I immediately throw up, excruciatingly and for quite some time. My stomach is in knots, I have the dry heaves. I wipe my face with a sandy hand. What the hell am I doing here? I sit up and look around. A long, empty beach, edged by trees, possibly a rainforest, a stormy sea. It is raining harder now, limiting visibility. I try to get up, and with some difficulty I reach my feet, but immediately fall painfully on the sand. I have no balance. Again there is the strong smell of fish. In the distance I see a figure. I try to focus but I can see only the outline. As the figure nears, I see it is a woman walking through the surf. She is holding a pair of shoes. I prop myself up on my elbows and try to focus. It’s no good, I can’t see clearly. The figure nears and the closer she comes the more tired I feel. My head falls into the sand. I want it to be a particular woman, and my chest tightens. She’s not far from me now. I seems like my body is sinking into the sand, heavier and heavier. Even though she must see me, she doesn’t quicken her pace, but slowly turns from the sea towards me. Sea foam seeps into my mouth, one eye is glued shut with wet sand. She is not standing over me, I don’t know if she is speaking because the roar of the surf has intensified. She is probably leaning over me, I try to catch her scent. I smell nothing.
I guess it’s going to rain. What else can I say about this dream? It’s banal. The map spread before me does not help. My attempt to think up my own method of dream interpretation has hit a snag at the outset. I look blankly at the map and plan a trip into town. A train sounds in the distance, as if someone in a nearby cellar is drumming out an endless heavy metal solo. Cuvier, a paleontological beginning, my oversized finger on the map runs to Kepler, and then to the Hershel family. Fine then, we can stay with astronomy (nothing yet, no headway whatsoever with the dream). But if I kept going down this street, which is long, it makes sense. At one end it ends in Darwin, at the other it crosses Eucken, Kelvin, and Euclid to Gauss. There I would turn left. And if it isn’t that busy I could hop out a statistical curve on one leg. Fine… still nothing. The dream has remained inert. It kind of bothers me, but I have to quickly cross General Escobeda street, who could not have known Gauss, unless one of Gauss’s sons emigrated to the USA. OK, even this short episode might make sense. But in trying to quickly cross the General’s street my finger stops at Homer. Damn! I suddenly see the General, in his tent upon the eve of the Battle of Puebla, thumbing through the pages of the final resistance of the Trojans against the enraged Achaeans, and setting the heavy book on the greasy canvas of a folding chair. The pursed lips of the General betray no emotions. Even now, the dream yields nothing. My finger has frozen amid this fantasy of General Escobeda. I snap out of the reverie and continue with my planning. It’s a long street though, ending at President Ávila Camacho… he was born in Puebla, where Escobeda read Homer years ago…
That doesn’t seem good. I should leave Homer street much sooner. But where? Somewhere between Torquato Tasso and Pascal. This dream interpretation seems all confused to me. My finger leaves Homer and takes the Gaussian curve all the way back to Cuvier. I begin again with paleontology. I hesitate, wondering which way to go now. (e)
Nothing, nothing yet. I lay flat on my back, still on the same sweat-stained bed on Cuvier street. Thoughts are racing through my head while images of Purkyňe flicker upon my closed eyelids. Coherence is gained and lost again. Point A connected by the zig-zag subway changeover with point U. My dream about the mysterious woman (I well know who it is, but I am somehow hesitant to go there). The outlandish street names that won’t let me sleep. The obsession with finding a breakthrough, a matrix to cover the map and understand it. But to what end? My own life? Or maybe just for this moment when I open my eyes and wince under the flood of light, I raise my hand to my eye, closer and closer…
I immediately sat up and rummaged about beneath me among the crumpled papers and found this dream, which continues:
…I raise a hand to my eyes, I have a body here, I have two bodies here. This one, and the one which sleeps in the bed, there right in front of me. Making a spyglass out of my thumb and forefinger, I look upon my second body, sleeping. I want to get a closer look. I bring my head closer to the circle of my fingers, and it slips through easily, my entire body slips through the circle of my fingers. On the other side I rise, turn around, and look at my hand from the other side. I unclasp my thumb and finger. I must be inside out I think to myself. On the wall of the room hangs a mirror, I walks towards it and look at my face. It is like looking at a photograph. Reflected behind me in the mirror is the bed, upon which my second body lies. Why are there so many of me in here? I turn around and sit on the edge of the bed. I have the urge to touch myself. It’s a strange feeling. My finger reaches out to touch my shoulder. Something is not right… I raise my sleeping head from the bed to turn and face myself. The face is blurred… and right around here it ends… this dream. It was a twinge of intuition, but again I didn’t get anywhere. I’ll put all my cards on the table. I’m terribly jealous, jealous and jealous and last night I dreamed this horrible dream, which woke me with horror:
There were several of us on a trip. Groups and individuals meandering about the countryside. You are always in view, you do not look terribly enthused. We climb over some obstacles and scramble up some ledge to a house. You go first and I follow. I hear you talking to someone up there above. When I climb up you become silent. I have the unpleasant feeling that I am following you, bothering you. Up on the terrace, it’s like a club cinema. There is a nice boy ushering. He looks at you, you at him. We sit together with several people at a low table. You sit with your bare legs stretched out across me. I caress them. The nice boy is sitting across from us. I realize your legs are stretched out so that you can touch his legs, not to touch me. I become terribly jealous. I push your legs away and storm off to the bathroom. For some reason the bathroom is on a narrow-gauge train. I have to ride until the next station. When I get there I’d much rather wake up because I’m all bent out of shape having lost you. Except that I never had you.
Attempt at interpreting this dream: Head out of the apartment on Cuvier street, go left until you get to Thiers street and then go right, until Lafayette street. Then go left, the street curves to the right and you pass Buffon, Shakespeare, until you get to Gutenberg street , and there on the left is Bécquer street. Go up this street until you see a little yellow house, number 8. (f)
Ring the bell and wait a moment. The gate will automatically open. It will be dark, but don’t worry, go on in. Follow the corridor past the courtyard doors and the bathroom and turn left. You will find yourself in a large living room, with an old man from somewhere in Chiapas sitting at the table. When he sees you recite the eighth rhyme from the second part of Bécquer’s Rhymes.(2)
When you finish reading don’t wait for anything, head back as fast as you can to the apartment on Cuvier street. Pack up all your things and get out of that snobby neighborhood.
(1)Eres los Estados Unidos,
eres el futuro invasor
de la América ingenua que tiene sangre indígena,
que aún reza a Jesucristo y aún habla en español
(2)Quieres que conservemos una dulce
memoria de este amor?
Pues amémonos hoy mucho y mańana