Why do I keep going back to college? What is missing in my intellectual life that makes my sleeping brain feel deprived? Or is it a social life for which I yearn?
I returned to an unfamiliar dormitory and found a long line of people on the stairs leading to the basement, waiting to get into a concert. I looked up; a dry-erase board announced: ZEUS — 1, perhaps with some other cryptic notes. I knew this notation meant that he was alone (no other band members) and performing for one night only. I also knew “Zeus” was Sting from The Police, although at the moment I couldn’t think of the name “Sting.”
I spotted two men in the building who looked familiar. One was unmistakable; he towered over everyone, and his hair was curly. In the dream the other man was familiar, but I could not think of who he might be.
“Are you Gabe?” I said to the tall man, noting that he had not aged at all and wondering if I were in a time warp. He admitted that he was, and I asked him, not at all hopefully, if he recognized me. He didn’t. I was not surprised. I explained how I remembered him and about my repeated attempts to return to college, even after graduating. I asked him if he were attending classes. “No,” he said. “I’m here for a secret project that I can’t tell you about.” Instead of thinking he was there as a scientist, I concluded he must be a psychology researcher working in a dormitory and speculated why this would be secret. I also realized that there was a secret message in “I’ll Be Watching You” that had nothing to do with stalking, but I knew I could not articulate it. I may have tried.
By now I wanted dinner, but the café workers had pulled a chair halfway across the entrance. I did not understand this obvious hint, so a testy middle-aged woman came over to tell me the café was closed and to pull the chair more firmly across the entrance. I thought, Already I am paying for meals I don’t eat. I am irresponsible.
I thought of going somewhere else — the bookstore? another dorm? — but realized now that I was nude. No one earlier had noticed, or maybe I had become suddenly nude. I wanted to leave but to go outside across streets and lawns and through buildings without wearing a top seemed risky.
I started to think about why I was there and the classes I still struggled with. I might never pass or perform to my satisfaction; I might never escape.