The dream is always the same, though I don’t know it’s a dream until I wake up.
I’m in a crowded café-slash-bookstore. A used bookstore. I think it’s actually the Cronos Café , for those of you familiar with Thunder Bay. Except that it’s not Cronos in my dream.
Anyway, there are people there, and somehow I sense they are there for me, though at that particular moment, I don’t know why. Then one of them – a woman, elegant and modern in an 80s way, vaguely familiar (hell, everyone in Thunder Bay looks vaguely familiar) – moves up from the crowd and we turn and stare and they get up on some sort of stage with a podium, which I didn’t notice until that exact moment. People smile at me. I am wearing a woollen scarf and a woollen coat, and I think I look cool. There is a chill running up my leg from the door.
The woman at the podium opens a book and starts reading a passage. I never recognize – or even remember – the words when I wake up, but at the time I know that these are my words from my first novel, just published. The crowd is hushed. At first, the silence is in anticipation, but then it seems in my woollying mind to be more in embarrassment. The woman keeps reading, oblivious to the fact, just as she’s un-self-aware of her own retro-happening hair, makeup, and clothes (though I think she looks nice, even if she’s trying too hard…)
Finally, the words come to an end and get sucked into the void of silence. Someone starts to clap, and then stops, awkwardly. Then someone else says, “We waited two and a half years for that?”
I laugh nervously. At first. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve just wasted everyone’s time. Maybe I’ve wasted my own time. I sink into myself, sort of that tunnel-vision thing as you fall away from the world, at least mentally because your mind is going to snap if it stays conscious for a second longer.
Then I just laugh, and laugh, and laugh. I walk up to the stage, grab the book from the model’s hand, and start reading myself. Not the quiet, introverted words I would normally have. I turn those syllables inside out, so they’re big and booming and thunder against the glass of the café. I belt it out, almost comically and bombastically (honestly, that’s where my mindset is centred, just to get through this damn thing), but I pull it back just a titch so that it is meaningful, soulful, alive.
And then I finish the reading, and there is silence again. But good silence. Followed by grandiose, crashing applause.
And then I wake up. And I wonder if there resides in anyone in the whole wide world but writers the ability to hold both extreme delusions of grandeur and profound, debilitating self-doubt at exactly the same moment.