Thursday, December 20, 2007

Dreamscape Ambiguity

I have a map collection. All the maps were drawn by my best friend Starr Ann.

Not long after Starr Ann got to the orphanage, I was telling her how to climb out her bedroom window and get to the kitchenette door at night, where I'd be waiting to let her in and we'd get extra desserts. Anyway, I got out a piece of paper and started to draw her a map. You should have seen that kid's face.

Completely awestruck, she said, "It's like a calendar that tells you where to walk to."

Well, after that Starr Ann made up all kinds of maps. We were orphans, right? And at first, that feels like you're dangling in mid-air. I can totally see where the idea of setting a definite point that says You Are Here then charting the way home would have appealed to Starr Ann.

She used to drag me out into the woods to bury something we valued, and then she'd draw up a map that could get us right back to it. These were the Buried Treasure maps.

Starr Ann's Lucky Maps were a little more open-ended. With those, she'd start out at one of our rooms, or the playground or somplace and draw outward, beyond anywhere we'd actually ever been, and she'd put wild, amazing adventures out there for us to find later, when we were big enough to go off and claim them.

Anyway, I'm not usually very meticulous or organized, but I keep Starr Ann's Lucky Maps separate from her Buried Treasure ones. Always have, for some reason. And I don't claim to have every single one she ever made, but I do have most of them.

Here's the earliest one in my collection. It's a Buried Treasure map from when Starr Ann thought it would be funny to hide part of my Trick-or-Treat booty. Her idea was that when I ran out, she'd surprise me with this map to the rest of my candy.

Needless to say, there were a couple of hitches. First of all, I don't really know what she put the candy in to keep it clean, but the idea of digging it up doesn't seem very appetizing. So, even if we'd found it, which we never did, I'm not at all sure we'd have eaten it. The main reason we couldn't find the candy again was that the gray swirly part there actually turned out to represent a puddle. Two days later, when Starr Ann tried to give me my surprise, the puddle had dried up. We tried and tried, but between losing the puddle and having leaves blown all over the dig area, it was hopeless. Starr Ann was always real careful after that to back up her landmarks and only choose the most permanent, dependable ones available.

I'd put up some other maps, just to show off Starr Ann's cartographical skills, but most of them are top secret, and she'd kill me for putting them on the Internet. Her best ones to date locate the entrances to her bunkers. Of course, showing any of these is out of the question. In fact, I'm not allowed to keep these with the regular collection. No, the bunker maps must be located two map degrees of separation from the collection. By that, I mean I have a map in the collection, coded of course, that leads to a second map, buried I can't say where, and it's that map that leads directly to the bunkers.

Anyway, as Starr Ann stood pouring her first cup of coffee this morning, I could see, even from behind, that something was bothering her. Some people have a telltale way of holding their shoulders when they're tense. With Starr Ann, it's her butt. This morning, her butt just wasn't settled in her chaps right. So I asked her what was wrong.

She took a little sip of her coffee and said, "Had a weird dream."

"Bad weird, or weird weird?"

"Good question, Margo. You tell me. It was one of those real short ones. I was standing on a hill, looking out over a sunrise or a sunset. I didn't know, because I didn't have any bearings. Didn't know where I was." Starr Ann stopped talking a second, trying to picture things again. "Remember how Lane was so afraid of the psychic, Simone, when we had Bates' reading at the fair?"

I said, "Sure. She didn't want anything to do with having her own reading."

Starr Ann nodded. "Well, did it strike you as odd, the night we had to call Simone to help us find Bates, that Lane closed herself in the study and talked to her for so long?"

I remember I did think that was strange at the time. "Yeah, but then I thought Lane was just grateful to Simone and had gotten used to the idea of her abilities."

"Okay, so here's what happened in my dream. I was standing there on that hill, and somebody touched my shoulder. When I turned, I saw Simone. She was holding out a piece of paper that I understood she wanted me to take. As soon as I touched the paper, Simone vanished. So, I unfolded it and it was a map of Iraq."

For Starr Ann's sake, I really wish I could have hidden the flash of fear that went through me right then, but it happened too fast.

We were quiet for a few minutes, until Starr Ann finally said, "Only thing is, it was hard to tell whether it was supposed to be a Lucky Map or a Buried Treasure Map."

Starr Ann and I are going to send all our energy in the direction of it being a Lucky Map. That's all we can do.