For as long as I can remember, I have had the same recurring dream, though admittedly, it’s been closer to two years since I last had it. And since dreams don’t come with built-in movie titles and soundtracks, I’ve got to come up with those on my own. So let’s call the dream “The House Within the House.”
Three to four times per year, my dreams took me to this house within a house, which had somehow managed to escape the view of everyone else despite existing in plain sight, in the back of my family home, at the edge of a wooded area, stacked full with pine trees in front of a cool, gray sky. No one could see it but me. It wasn’t spectacular in design or function, but dazzled me in its mystery. Where was this house within a house?
It was in a neighborhood I didn’t know, but it always seemed so familiar to me. Like it could’ve been in Rochester, NY, where I grew up, but something about it didn’t feel like home. Yet and still, I always felt that this was my family’s home, but this was my escape. My imagination, my imaginarium. The home backed up to a wooded area, but its position there wasn’t critical to the dream. The northeast cool and crispness was a constant fixtrue of the air. I knew that even though I never went outside, or at least in the traditional sense (we’ll get back to that). I only saw the outside; imagined it. The wooded area was dense but dark. I dreamt vividly the inside of this place but it was private for a reason, though there was so much of it.
Access to the house was always mysterious, even to me. A sliding bookcase or a secret door within a closet were sometimes the paths of entry, but other times, I would just appear in the space. And no one else would know; one minute I was in my family home, the next I would be behind it, in this secret home. I remember my imagination running wild with possibilities for the type of home this could be or who it could be for. Was I preparing this home for my family? Hiding it from them? Or was i escaping them, or escaping something?
When the dream comes to me, I try – consciously? – to move through the house more quickly. I want to see the parts I haven’t seen, before day breaks in, before my eyes crack open and invite the morning. There’s something else there, or more somethings. Is there a destination here, or is it an unending exploration? Is there a room that contains something of value that the others do not, or are these just metaphorical places to explore in the privacy of my mind, encapsulated even deeper in the privacy of my dreams?
The dimensions of the rooms were always off. Extremely long spaces or very short ceilings. Or normal sized rooms with abnormal fixtures, like a sink that was mounted six feet above the ground. One room had lush carpeting, yet uninspiring decor, but it was comfortable. It wasn’t desireable, but it was home for me. There were low slung ceilings and variations in elevation among the floors. There was step up to a ledge around the side of a living room, with a bench by a window. In another room, there was a bed lifted on a platform that created the appearance of a throne, decorated in mauve, retrofitted from the 80s or perhaps unchanged from that time.
I remember a shallow, long-but-not-wide hot tub in a faint shade of gray or blue. The tub sometimes feels like an offshoot of the same mauve bedroom, and other times it’s not. Sometimes it’s created and brought to life as I explore the room, like construction in real-time, the way Sim City might work. I don’t know the significance of the mauve room, and its design and function provide no obvious clues. There’s no discernable decor or tell-tale style cues. This is not my creation, yet it’s made for me and my family, though I’ve never brought them inside. They’re on the other side of the wall, but they have not an inkling that this world exists. I sense that they’ve been here before but it’s always, only me. And no one talks about it to tell me otherwise.
There is a narrow kitchen, with a curving, unending window all the way across the back of the house, or at least my mystery house. It was evident that these windows are here, but to the outside world, none could be seen. They were cloaked in invisibility in plain sight. Almost like it didn’t exist, but it did to me. I never stopped to look around this house patiently or to experience it. I was always moving through the house, from one room to the next. Reacquainting myself with some spaces, and exploring others anew in hopes that they’d lead me to another place.
But before I could answer the question, I would suddenly be gone from that space, miraculously transplanted to the sky, flying at low speeds above that same thick, dark gray forest. Every time. Higher, and higher, and then…on to the next dream.
One night soon, I’d return.