I sometimes dream of the maroon Mazda GLC (Great Little Car) compact car I drove when I had just graduated high school—the very first vehicle I owned. Last night the car appeared, all dressed in his muted reddish-tones, still working, and still pulling me through my subconscious. We arrived in a mall parking lot, him looking auspicious, but me thinking he was running on empty, or at the very least stripped, undesirable, old, and worn out. He took no note of my emotions; like an unattached vessel he was used to getting me from here to there. I found a spot in the crowded parking lot at the side of the mall. It was mid-afternoon, with the sun in the air, but a sense of evening setting soon. I don’t remember saying goodbye to the car, or even where I parked; only that suddenly I was entering through the tall glass doors of the shopping center. I hadn’t given a second thought to the car or where’d I left it, or how long it would be there; I was too focused on my destination and some purpose that led me on like a star dancing just out of reach.
Inside the mall, I walked a short distance before turning left. My gait was at ease, my mind relaxed. There wasn’t need to rush or plan, or even focus. I approached a room and found myself inside a banquet hall full of graduates, mostly, perhaps fresh out of college or graduate school. I was part of the celebration, but entirely separate, not really seen or noticed, but included nonetheless. People were smiling, chatting, even planning. I was more of the observer: both invisible but present.
I left the gathering with a sensation inside of me that indicated I period of completion; I had attended the celebration not because I had to or had wanted to, but because I was drawn to. I hadn’t remembered being invited or previously being aware there was such a banquet. The crowd dissipated and I was neither left alone or isolated—I just was.
I walked on, inside this gigantic mall, the ceilings quite high and filled with shops and the airport above on the second-level. There was noise, people moving about, a few handsome men I can recall, and me thinking: If I bump into him on accident we can connect. Why didn’t I ever think to bump into people before? Why do I still feel the need to be noticed?
I continued on the main floor and glanced down at a watch, which was somewhere and nowhere, existing without existing; it was a little past four in the afternoon, and on reflecting on the time, I thought: Good, just enough time to get upstairs to the airport to fly to New York. And then, as soon as I’d thought that, an inner voice chimed in: Wow, that was cutting it close, maybe you should have allowed for more time, with your flight being at 4:45 and all.
I smiled and headed toward the airport terminal; until, after a few steps later, I realized I’d come empty-handed—I’d forgotten my suitcase. I turned then, searching the mall for the exit and walked swiftly towards the doors. My mind began to race, but I reassured myself, while calculating the time, that even with a quick stop outside to retrieve my luggage, I would make the flight.
Once outside I scanned the parking lot. I saw the line of trees that appeared to be the same line of trees near where I had originally parked. I scanned the rows, some five or six thick, with multiple rows in far-reaching directions leading out parallel and perpendicular. I knew my car was parked in a similar place, something like this at least, but I had no indication of where to walk. I knew to the right was too far, the place beyond the trees sparse, with the lot partially empty. I knew the place to my left to be too far the other direction, as I’d not walked that far to the mall door. I moved briskly down the five or six rows, not yet nervous, but with a burning gnawing sensation building up inside. Soon, the first element of doubt was born and my mind began the race, as if on seeing my own self lost the first shot had been fired. I worried now, the tension building, and the time seemingly building itself as a pressure upon my shoulders. How would I make my flight, if I couldn’t remember where I left my vehicle and retrieve my luggage?
Down the end of one row, on the left, was a car that matched mine almost exactly, only it shined more and appeared newer; I was almost certain I’d left my car facing the opposite direction. I approached, peered inside, and noted the interior was different, some papers, almost like a map sprawled out on one of the chairs, the inside cleaner and crisper. I opened the front passenger-side door anyway, hoping by some chance this car was my car, even though I knew this to be an impossibility. Upon swinging the door out, a bell chimed and a masculine computer voice spoke. The words indicated I didn’t belong to this car and to proceed onward. The voice made no indication of judgment, but even so there seemed to be an underlying, unspoken echo of laughter. Perhaps a chuckle of forbidden-knowing, like a parent watching a toddler open yet again the drawer he ought not touch.
I realized then, as I walked away from the car that I was in the wrong place. That I had no idea where my car was, and that it was a strong possibility I would miss my flight. I panicked some, and searched frantically for the place I’d last seen my car, and with no luck in finding what I was seeking, I hunched my shoulders and pattered back toward the mall, feeling both sorry for myself and angry at myself, and very much alone. A few older ladies, white-haired and plump, were entering their own car; as I approached the end of the aisle, most of the cars behind me, they asked: Why are you so upset? And I tried to explain. They instantly expressed no concern, and found my dilemma rather ridiculous. For here I was planning a trip and they had their own worries that were much more pertinent and important than some destination of flight. Why did my silly trip matter when so much was happening in their own lives?
I shrugged and carried myself onward, feeling heavy and burdened in thought. Entering the mall I approached a man and asked where to go to find the banquet room. I figured if I could find the banquet room where the mall journey first began, I could find the original exist I entered through, which would lead me back to the parking lot and my car. The gentleman pointed to the left, and so I turned, finding only more stores and no banquet room. I returned to the main part of the mall, knowing there was a good chance I would never make my flight, calculating the time, the cost, the potential outcomes of missing the trip. Another person gave me directions. This time I was told to: Turn right and then turn left and go down to the first floor. I looked at him bewildered: But this is the first floor, I thought. He took no notice of my concern and just guided me with his eyes and pointing hand. It’s to the right and then down to your left, I am certain, he offered. I followed his instructions and sure enough there was a room, but I knew instantly it was the wrong room. The space was marked “Theater”—it was a stage for performers, a place I had left long ago and had no desire to return to. I couldn’t see the stairs leading down, and so I assumed the stage itself must descend.
I thought to myself: how silly to have even parked in the mall parking lot, and to leave my vehicle unattended for so long. Would it not be abandoned and alone when the night came to pass and the rest drove home. Would it not just stick out then to be found by robbers and thieves?
I mourned over the loss of my car, as thoughts of failure and further isolation submerged, most of the iceberg of wounded self now surging upward through the icy-cold waters of forsaken.
I left now, completely beside myself, close to hysteria, and found myself sobbing on an outside stairwell. Someone approached and handed me a phone. On the other end of the line there was a guiding voice—albeit an unattached, very much removed guiding voice. I explained my predicament, my fear of missing my flight, my incapacity to find my luggage, the consequences of my circumstance. The voice on the other end listened. And he answered without much pretense or concern: Why not take the flight and purchase new garments when you arrive?
In reviewing this dream, I know the car was the “old” me, the way I chose to move through the world. I recognize I mourn this part of me; even though the vehicle was older and perhaps sluggish, and lacking luster, it was still my mode of transportation. The car holds the luggage I carried with me, the necessities I think I need—my cloaks/costumes, my way of being, what is familiar and known. In searching for the car, I have lost the car, primarily because the car no longer exists and really never existed. I am worried of what will become of myself.
The gathering in the banquet room and the people in the mall are all symbolic of the other travelers in life that I see around me but feel disconnected with. I love them, I admire them, I even want to bump into them, if not for connection than for direction. I am searching for myself in others, searching for guidance, and understanding. And although no one shuns me or judges me, I am in essence invisible, there but not, moving through the world unnoticed.
The only moments I do connect are when I am in my state of sorrow and panic; here in my sadness about taking flight and finding my way out of being lost strangers will listen, but they will not understand or take interest. They are focused on their own life. No one feels what I am feeling, and whether outside the mall or inside the mall, I am lost. I am surrounded by everyone and no one. The stage is symbolic of where I used to be. The place I acted and performed. This is no longer my destination; neither is the banquet room of celebration. I have moved beyond celebration and pretending, and I am ready to journey onward. However, I think I must find the old me and follow the old ways to move forward. I am lost both inside the mall and outside the mall, in a place of limbo, searching everywhere and ending up nowhere; by entering a stairwell, I am at my last stop, not in the parking lot and not in the mall. Here in a place that doesn’t belong to either world, I realize that the answers are not found in the ways of the old or the ways of the new.
The only answers are to be found in letting go of my past ways and letting go of my search. By risking flight without the answers, I shall find the answers.