I dreamed, first, that a friend I was visiting had an elaborate system of barrels and hoses in their kitchen with an inscrutable purpose. One of the hoses suddenly began to gush out onto the floor. It took some time to figure out the best thing to do was to let the hose into the sink until the cause of the running water was sorted out. Even in dreams, the obvious doesn’t always come to mind first.
Then I was looking around the house. There was a kind of basement/closet full of unnecessary things, many of them still in boxes.
These days, my dreams are so vivid they seem as much a part of my life as what I do in the day. I went to school yesterday and told my friends I was exhausted from my dreams, but they only looked at me blankly. They must all be sound, quiet sleepers who never dream about gushing hoses or unruly classes that (in my dreams) are always scattered over multiple rooms (so how can I possibly teach them?) or sliding towards the edge of cliffs.
But, before I fell asleep, I was thinking again about Madame Kay. I had dreamed about her the night before. I dreamed she was speaking to me and I could not understand anything she said. Then in the day, I went to talk to her for some time. I don’t see her much these days and I missed her. I began to say something. She pointed across the room at something. I couldn’t tell what. No one was speaking just then. One man was doing something on his phone, another man was just staring (which is what he usually does in the staffroom). She said then, “I’m talking to Health-in-Charge.” (Only she said his name). Health-in-Charge was the man looking at his phone, not saying anything.
She was not unkind about this. She just told me, like I didn’t know and needed to be told.
Then Health-in-Charge said something at last. Madame Kay might have said something back. I couldn’t tell when the conversation was ongoing. I couldn’t tell when it ended either. So I sat silently. Then Maths Sir came and began talking loudly in the Regional Language as he often does, and the conversation trotted on away from me. No one said anything I could understand until one of the other ladies—PPB Maam—came to sit at her table, which is next to Madame Kay’s.
No, I don’t understand anything Madame Kay says anymore.
Yesterday, I was talking to Madame Kay about something or other. Maths Sir came and began talking loudly in the Regional Language. They talked for some time. I couldn’t understand anything. He can interrupt and take the conversation off into some other place I can’t follow. I cannot. Now, maybe this conversation with Health-in-Charge was vitally important and therefore different than my conversation with Madame Kay the day before. I have no idea.
But I was angry, and I sat while PPB Maam and Madame Kay and the others talked, and I responded when appropriate, but I sat there a little in shock. Shock at the incompressibility of the double-standard and shock at my own anger. Leaving, I felt I didn’t think much of Madame Kay anymore. I felt like a use-and-throw friend for her. Maybe I am. Maybe I am entirely misunderstanding the situation. I don’t know. I will probably never know. That was the message in the dream. It is not cultural. I understand everyone else. I just don’t understand her.
In the night, though, I missed her. What I thought about before sleeping was how that felt. Because for one part of me, longing for others is a new feeling. It is as incomprehensible as the hoses in my friend’s dream kitchen.
I thought about trust also. From Madame Kay, I learned a physical trust. I had to. Either I could trust her or I could run away from her, because she kept touching me and I could either get comfortable with that or move out of reach. I chose to get comfortable. I tolerated my fear of touch until it began to dissipate. It hadn’t really occurred to me that trust comes in different forms and, although they are linked, they are not the same. From Madame Kay, I learned simply to feel that someone could be in close physical proximity without being dangerous to me. I learned that people are not man-eating tigers.
You would think I might have learned that before now, but I have not. I have only suppressed my fears. Anyone in the same room with me is a threat. Anyone within arm’s reach might kill me. I think I still feel that way about most other people.
You miss out on a lot that way.
But who to share confidences with, who to ask for help, who to develop an emotional tie with, who can be relied on to be available when you need them, who can be trusted to try to understand. Well, that is a different. I don’t have that worked out, or if I have it worked it out, then it is not linked up with physical trust and I feel afraid to be in the same room as the people I think I can rely on to listen to me.
In fact, I do know that Madame Kay is not reliable. She gets caught up in whatever she is doing and lets other things go. Important things, like her husband, like the kids. In the very beginning, Madame Kay made the suggestion that she would take me along with her to visit a monastery nearby. If she went, she would call me up. She did go, but she forgot to call me. It was only after she arrived that she thought of me, and then it was too late. So that is Madame Kay. She is kind, but her kindness is insubstantial, flimsy. From the standpoint of attachment, she is a poor choice. But I am attached to her because she kept holding my hand. It felt good to trust someone enough to be close to them—anyone. So it felt good to be around her.
I need to learn to trust the people who don’t necessarily hold my hand, who don’t force me either to trust them or run away. I need to learn to stay close to the people who are, you might say, sort of normal.
This is unbearably painful to think about. I am aware for the first time of the loneliness I feel because of my inability to trust, and at the same time I feel such terror at trying to relax my self-protectiveness.
Many years ago, the first time I ever had a real girlfriend, I had this idea that, while I had difficulty trusting, if I could learn to trust just one person, maybe I could learn to trust others. It turned out she was not trustworthy, but the idea holds true in my mind. I learned to trust Madame Kay. I can trust others. But it’s still terrifying.