Sunday, August 19, 2012

Only in dreams

They say you shouldn't punish people conversationally by recounting your dreams, but Nick has always permitted this of me. (I also think it's legitimately interesting to talk about the weather, so.) During an afternoon doze on our trip, I had this quick dream:

We were walking from the beach in Lagos back to our flat at night. Suddenly I noticed that next to the very city street we walked upon was a swimming pool - its dark water completely flush with the pavement. A secret pool tucked behind the main square! I immediately got undressed, my dream-self taking special care to hide my phone and keys in my shoes under a bush. Wouldn't want my dream-stuff to get stolen! Other people noticed the pool too and everyone began wordlessly disrobing, keen to hop on in. But suddenly a police officer approached! Everyone froze and I nervously sputtered, "Is it okay to swim?" He nodded enthusiastically yes and everyone cheered and jumped in at once. I floated on my back, my ears submerged muffling the revelry, and I stared up at the stars.

What an embarrassingly tidy summary of my subconscious. I didn't know it so plainly until I had that dream, but it totally is my heart's desire to unexpectedly encounter a pool at night. Though even in dreams, I'm too cautious to jump right in with my phone in my pocket. Nick laughed when I told him and said, "And the cop was cool with it, so that's nice." Of course my brain produced an approving cop, there's no way I could have fully relaxed with all my weird new skinnydipping friends with the anxiety that I could be trespassing!

The next day was our last night in the Algarve, we'd be on a train to Lisbon in the morning, then on a plane to Ohio the morning after that. We read on the beach, ate sandy cheese with crackers atop our beach towels, and attempted to collect seawater (more on that later) in an emptied plastic pop bottle from the cold, powerful waves crashing at our feet, I mean our knees, I mean our waists. As the sun started to dip, we set off back into town, favoring a meandering route up the craggy coast.

Would you believe that a pool appeared before us? I did what I believe was the first honest-to-goodness double take of my life. From what I could tell, it went with the corresponding shabby hotel overlooking the coast. The uniformed teenage pool staffer paused uncomfortably, wanting to wave me in gratis as the pool was closing in 20 minutes. But I already had my 1 Euro coin out, so I just set it on the counter in front of her. Let me at that cool blue bowl of people soup, it's only my favorite thing in the world.

Were a secret pool to appear on my morning commute, I wouldn't stop for a dip. The nourishing thing about travel is not necessarily the breathing of strange air, but in the magic of unscheduled time.  When you don't have anywhere to be, you are able to allow things to happen to you. You are able to allow your life, even, to happen to you. And life is in the right, always.


  1. I love everything about this. And I now want to stay at this shabby hotel. And yes. Yes, yes, yes to travel allowing you the freedom to do things you can't do in "regular life."

  2. I love this. I appreciate how you worked in the cop's approval.

    This made me want to share my own long-ago pool dream. I generally don't like to take over someone's blog comments with my own stories, but... I'm gonna go ahead and be a butt. When I was five I was living in a five-story apartment building on the third floor. Sometimes I'd dash up the steps to the top, and there was this mysterious door there that I now recognize to be a mechanical room. At some point I dreamt the dark doorway opened to a black room with a black pool, water flush with the floor. In the water, alligators glided silently. It sounds ominous, and I guess it was, but this room thrilled and fascinated me.

    Sometimes childhood is like travel, in the sense that you have large unscheduled gaps of time to allow things to happen to you -- whether in real life or entirely in your mind.

  3. So so awesome.

    And a secret pool would be freaking incredible.

    What a great point about having to allow things to happen to you. So great. I always feel this terrible quandary about coming back from vacation. It seems so much easier to look for the surprising and the good when I'm not in the middle of stressful routine.