Sometimes, it’s both fun and instructive to set for yourself ridiculous writing constraints: No semicolons, no words an tenth-grader wouldn’t know, find a story to begin with this line, &c. The same way everyone’s grandmother does the jumble or crossword (in pen) to keep her brain limber and nimble, I use Facebook’s “Status Updates” as a little visit to the linguistic gym: you only get 420 characters, and so I try to make each one exactly 420 characters. Rules: Numbers must be written out unless over 100, or in reference to percentages or dollars and cents; “&” may be substituted for “and”; titles must remain in quotations. That’s about it. Still, it’s not as easy as you’d think. Especially given my passion for assonance: for crafting slick sentences which sound sexier than what they communicate. (See what I did there?)
Another game I play when malaise has me too drained to write anything worthwhile is “10 Sentences.” I get ten sentences to cogently express or explain, well, anything. Rules: The sentences may be of any length, so long as they’re properly punctuated (personal best: a 595-word, grammatically correct sentence is the climax to my short story “Ebb,” a piece which was actually begun, more or less, because of this game I occasionally play with myself). That’s about it.
Anymore, I only have the two dreams. In the first, I fly winglessly by using my mind to telekinetically repel myself from the earth and other surfaces, much the way medalist swimmers invert, compress themselves, then use legs as pistons to change direction during laps. But it’s more than that; there are tendons involved, flexions for no physical reason: temporali, latissimus dorsi, and other muscles tied to my upper spine. It’s difficult, but exhilarating, and I want nothing more than to share this suddenly discovered skill with kith or kin, but I can find no one; I fly alone through unpeopled places, every room just deserted: cigarettes still smolder in ashtrays, cubes of ice still float in cola; but I can find no one—not a soul to whom I could show myself.
In the other, some strange task sets me in a fruitless pursuit—outmatched by a faster opponent—until I stumble, hit the floor on all fours, and remember I can gallop. Legs and elbows feel the force of each leap; I am swifter this way, like a mountain lion, moving more gracefully than that clumsy bipedal running; so sensorially enraptured by the experience, I quickly forget the aim of whatever the pesky errand I’d initially been attending. Like some playful jungle cat, I only run for the fun of it; for joy; because it feels, in some way, with the wind in my face, like I can finally breathe. Waking later, my mind and muscles remember the sensations of these supra- and subhuman feats, brain subconsciously certain my body can perform both; mired in some megrim or brown study, I recall them as options for self-extraction, like an ex-smoker with a jones, who has momentarily forgotten that Marlboros are no longer an option in the great war against misery and ennui. I do try sometimes, and it breaks my heart every time. Then, I remain completely still for minutes and daydream about screaming until my vocal cords tear.
True story, too. I don’t believe in Dream Dictionaries, or most of that Jungian crap. But I do believe that dreams hold some meaning for their dreamer, decipherable only to him or her, written as they are in the most particular of idioms. Even after years, I’ve no idea what either of these should mean to me.