. . . albeit not to me.
A friend of ours, Nick, who is now close to 60, and has known and loved and been influenced by Jacques since he was 8, called me today to report an unusual dream he had last night.
Jacques dropped by to see him with Frank, J’s old Yorkville-born, German-Ukrainian-American, Greenwich Village running buddy, who died of lung cancer in about 1985, and whom J had often vocally missed. Nick’s first reaction was, but you’re dead! You’re both dead! and yet there they were, having a vivid, ordinary visit. Nick was sitting with his knee touching J’s and J seemed perfectly alive to him. He was like, wait a minute, you’re not dead after all — Annie didn’t tell me about this! No, no, Jacques gave him to understand; he was indeed dead; but he was going to come and visit every now and then, nonetheless.
Nick said this was very different from the dreams he occasionally has featuring his mother (who died twenty years ago) or his father (who died a couple of years ago) or other friends who are gone. We all draw a distinction between dreams that seem to be conjured up by our own fading memories or helpless longings, and dreams so vivid, autonomous, and realistic that they seem to be . . . well, visits.
The temptation is to go one way or the other — to say “It was just a vivid dream” or “That was J!” Who really knows? Whatever such dreams are, they come from a depth of the psyche that is not bounded by skin or by time. You could say they are “just” exceptionally effective creations of your own unconscious; but at the level where it’s that effective, the unconscious is no longer “your own.” There is something more than a self-comforting illusion going on there, some confirmation of the real contact souls make in — no, through — life. Exactly what it is, we might best leave undefined. But it’s a living bond across the threshold of death.
Nick’s dream has made me really happy (and only a little jealous). For one thing, it seems to indicate that J has gotten beyond that awkward transitional period. For another, my first reaction to hearing he was with Frank was, “Oh, they found each other!” The two of them and Mas Oyama used to get in trouble together, and they were all highly nostalgic for those days. Who knows, maybe that’s their idea of heaven.
— Oh, the punch line: Nick had no idea (consciously, at least) that it was J’s birthday.