Last night I dreamt of cats.
This is not a thing I’d normally expect, since I’m not one of those people overly fond of felines. Besides, they weren’t real cats – they were people dressed as cats, putting on a play. And I was right there on the stage with them.
This play had nothing to do with the musical Cats.
|Not this, and the makeup in my dream was much much better.|
Said stage was, incidentally, not a real stage. It was the concrete yard which used to (and for all I know still does) stand above the main sports field in my old school, closed off by red and orange curtains to the sides in lieu of wings.
For those of you who might not be aware of this, red and orange are probably my favourite colours. At least they’re the colours I use a lot in my paintings.
Now I don’t recall exactly the circumstances which led to my ending up on stage, but they did form some part of the dream. I have vague memories of a journey far, far away, of walking over footpaths made of wooden planks, and a couple of brief conversations with unknown people in the doorways of half-finished concrete buildings. At least one of these people had a flat cap like bookies were supposed to wear on British racetracks, and had a stub of unlit cigar in his mouth. And neither of these conversations involved me – I had an invisible companion with whom these people talked, and I was a spectator.
And then I was on stage, and the play was on.
It was broad daylight on a warm summer day. I was dressed in a frayed grey woollen cap, a very dirty blue woollen jacket over something on underneath – what this something was I don’t know, since at no point in the dream was my jacket zipper undone – and an olive green tracksuit bottom with a spoilt elastic, held in place by a drawstring. All these three items of clothing, incidentally, are or were in my possession in real life. What I had on my feet I don’t know because as far as I remember I never saw my feet during the dream.
It could have been worse, I suppose – I could have been naked. I have an apparently inexhaustible supply of dreams in which I am wholly or partially naked.
I had no part to play on the stage, but I was onstage anyway. This grew very embarrassing to me, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing there, and because of the way I was dressed. But everyone else onstage – the actors dressed as cats – was very deferential to me, as though I was someone of importance who had a right to be there, and not some interloper screwing up their play by blundering about. At one point I tried to make myself as inconspicuous as possible by lying down behind one of the red-orange screens at the side, and someone immediately put pillows under my head to keep it away from the concrete. Despite the screen, though, I knew quite well the audience knew exactly where I was and what I was doing. At least, lying down there, I could watch the play.
It was a very avant-garde play. I can’t presume to tell you the plot, in so far as there was one, but there were a lot of scenes as of palaces and fantasy settings, and everyone had cat heads. The cast was huge; there must have been a hundred or more of them. There was a lot of nudity as well, except for the cat heads, which everyone seemed to take totally in stride. And it was all very well done, whatever it was.
And then it was halfway through the play, and there was a lunch break. The stage suddenly transformed itself into a kind of marquee, with lines of dining tables. But this wasn’t for the cast, it was for the audience, who were invited onto the stage. All of them. All thousands of them.
And the audience was full of people I knew at some time or other, including probably the entire faculty of my old college, including the teachers, their spouses, their kids and grandchildren, and people who I knew (as one knows things in a dream) were now students in that college. There was a whole batch of little kids in black leather cat costumes, who looked like they were expecting a part in the play. And there were other people, including at least a couple who may have been older versions of girlfriends of mine from the distant past. And all of them ignored me totally, in my dirty clothes.
Even in the dream I wondered what they thought of the nudity.
Then I realised that I was very hungry, and that the food in the stage turned marquee was not for me. But there was a (far more lavish) buffet lunch set up just outside for the cast, of which I apparently was a honorary member. And I was going outside for it, when I met a young man coming in.
He was thin and dark, with a chin beard and soul patch, and he was dressed as inappropriately as I was, in a leather jacket and a black cap. He greeted me like an old friend, totally ignoring the awful clothes I was wearing, and congratulated me. For what, I don’t know, since I am sure I had nothing to do with the play. Mumbling some words, I got past him and went to the buffet, which was already mostly empty. The cast must have been ravenous. I looked for a plate and napkin, found them, and turned to what was left of the food.
And then I woke up.
I have no analysis to offer. All I can say is that for the last several days I’ve been feeling as though my creativity is a drag on my well-being, because it hasn’t actually got me any kind of material or even psychological reward, but has put me through an awful amount of stress through the years. And the support and encouragement I’ve got from friends has increasingly made me feel as though I’m a fraud who deserves none of it.
I’ve been also reading my way through Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which occasionally features a topless humaniform cat goddess. That might have something to do with it too.
Meow to everyone.