What if I went up to my office and just sat there, trying to recreate this dream?
by Charlie Leck
Last weekend I was feeling pretty low. A lot of miserable pain, from an infection I developed in my urinary tract, was working me over real good! So, I was taking an antibiotic and hoping that my dozens of trips to the toilet every hour would trickle (pun intentional) down to only a few.
The phenomenon I want to address this morning has to do with the vivid and realistic dreams I had during the night when I did manage to sleep. They were so life-like that, when I awakened, I had to remind myself they were only dreams. Whoopie Goldberg was in one of them, laughing as she does in real life. I sat close enough to her that I could see the pores on her face and the delightful variegations of her complexion.
Whoopie had come to my home to ask me a favor. She wanted the lead role in a three act play I had just written. A big hitter on Broadway had purchased the rights to produce it. Whoopie thought he could be convinced to sign her if I could be.
I kept looking at the stack of pages in the woman’s lap. It was real paper and you could see that the pages had been turned many times; and some pages were marked with little sticky notes that protruded like tabs.
Whoopie was addressing me as Mr. LeClerc. In the dream I understood why. It was a nom de plume. In the dream, I liked it. Awake, I like it so much also.
I had this same dream two nights in a row. The second time I could slow the dream down, speed it up, pause it, and also replay parts of it.
On the third night, I wanted the dream to come back again. It didn’t. I wrestled with sleep and couldn’t. So I popped up extremely early and went to my quiet study (called my “rat’s nest” by my wife) and I sat before a blank word processing page on my computer monitor, and wondered.
I commanded up a screenplay template and stared at it and figured out how it worked. Then I tried to think back on the dream; and I tried to see Whoopie in my mind’s eye. When she finally appeared there, in a very realistic way, she seemed to be nodding to me to go ahead, to begin.
I began to keyboard, and continued to peck away quickly for hours. I was trying to use the right-side of my brain – no worries about corrections, typos, punctuation or better word choices. The left-side could deal with those chores later. My job at that moment was to keep the left from interfering and interrupting the right.
I began like this!
a play in three acts
By the time my wife cracked the door from the bedroom and called her “good morning” up to me, I had typed out 18 pages of dialogue. But now, the spell was broken and Whoopie disappeared. I sat back and realized my pajama top was quite wet from perspiration – a remnant from the infection, perhaps, or from Whoopie having been here, so close, watching me work.
EDGAR & GRACE
It is dark in the Park on an autumn evening (perhaps 10 o’clock). Center stage front is a park bench and on it sits a bag lady. She is African American, middle aged and a bit rotund (or does it only appear that way because of the several layers of raggedy clothing that cover her?); her hat is pulled down over her hair and ears; and her face is weathered and rough. At her side is a big, plastic bag that is filled with things, but we do not know with what things.
The audience hears faint sounds of the city in the background: occasional automobile horns and sirens from police cars. There is also some very occasional sounds of night birds. From time to time a leaf flutters down from one of the trees near the bench.The woman is relaxed, but not tired. She is paying mild attention to her surroundings. She is resting along the way to wherever she is going and we think she has no idea where that might be.
I went to the kitchen for coffee. I thought so hard about what had happened that I lost track completely of my little chore. I dropped the coffee pot.
“What going on?”
“Oops,” I said, “I dropped the coffee pot. It’s okay, though. Only a smallish dent.”
I wondered. Should I tell her about my strange morning? I’d wait the couple of hours until she departed and then think more about what to do.
Over coffee, I read the dialogue I had typed out, with no pause or punishment over simple and silly errors.
The curtain has been open a full five minutes before Edgar Mathison Lewis enters the scene, walking slowly along the path. He is in his late 50s. He is plainly Caucasian. He is dressed very chicly (having just come from a cocktail party at a home on 5th Avenue.) He carries an expression of concern and boredom on his face.
When Edgar see the park bench and the woman who occupies one end of it, he pauses, as if thinking, and then slowly sits down at the other end of the bench.
When Edgar approaches the bench and sits, Grace’s eyes widen in both wonder and anger. She snaps her head toward him and speaks with a hardened voice and with a mumbled diction.
Hey! What you doin’ there, man. Ugsh! [guttural]
Sitting down, my good lady. My feet are tired and so is my soul. It is such a lovely evening that I just don’t want to go directly home.
There is a moment without dialogue as Edgar sits and relaxes, stretching his legs out in front of him. He seems to be inspecting the tops of the trees off in the distance. Grace looks at him in snatches. She is suspicious. Her shoulder jerks. Her mouth smacks.
No good thing, you know, to ‘vade a woman’s privacy. I had this here bench first off, you know. Ugsh!
Edgar takes a moment to reply. He is not thinking of an answer. He is just not to be hurried to do anything on this evening.
It is a public park and a public bench. It is owned by we the people of the city of New York. It looked like a comfortable spot to sit down.
Ugghh! But if a woman has it first, it oughta’ be hers to herself.
Never heard of such nonsense. People ought to be able to share a bench as big and wide as this one.
Grace looks from side to side and off behind her. She waves an arm across the wide span of the park.
There’s sure-nuff plenty uh space on benches all round the park.
Madam you do not sound like a New Yorker. You have a manner of speaking that I would place somewhere in the south.
You Professor Higgins or somethin? (giggles) I hauled inta here just last week. Why come north this time a year is anybud’s guess, you know. Was jest an easy train, movin’ slow and goin this way and not that. I don’t really make much in the way of ‘cisions, you know. Jest go the way the trains end up goin’, you know. Sometime north. Then again, maybe south or west, you know. I’ll head back south if I kin catch a lucky train here soon. Can’t see sleepin’ out here the winter, you know.
And on and on it went, as Edgar & Grace chatted. I worked through the entire first act and began the opening of the second in a different section of the park, closer to the south entrances.
Tear it up? Should I tell myself to stop being foolish? I couldn’t. In my dreams I had seen it clear to the end, through all 3 acts, and I knew where it was to go, and what it was to say right to the time the final curtain fell.
Now, I am its captive.
The question that haunts me is whether or not I can get back in that zone again – that place where my fingers are commanded by a freed-up and easy brain. We’ll see.