Here is a tiny excerpt from a dream that I’m certain is somewhere in one of my books, but when I searched for it a couple of months ago I could not for the life of me find it. Was a long and winding one. I began writing a short story based upon it but lost the thread. Gotta track it down. It had elements that appeal to me, and potential for a magic realism story.
He asked odd questions which made it clear he hadn’t any idea what was going on, but was trying to appear cool about it. I left the answering to our shrewd Puck and tried to enjoy the misleading answers he gave. Some of the glitter was coming off, and I wasn’t at all sure i could navigate using my available stars after all.
The idea of the navigation— it had to do with solving things or unlocking mysteries in a hidden quarter of the city. Finding your way there got you your first star, and each time a thing was ‘solved’ a new star or stars winked into existence on one’s forearm, creating a map. But when outside the quarter, the stars became less ‘real’, it seemed, just glittering things stuck on, and could be lost. They made no sense on the outside.
This idea reminds me, now, of a quote a rhetoric professor friend posted recently:
At the same token, I know [that] communication is often assymetrical. Barthes quotes Freud:
“Perpetual monologues, which are neither corrected nor nourished by [another] being, lead to erroneous notions concerning mutual relations, and make us strangers to each other when we meet again.”
We’ve all experienced this phenomenon.
The shifting nature of the navigation stars— within or without the place where they make sense— is a serviceable parallel about navigating people.
Everyone requires a very specific map, regardless how similar they may seem initially (social norms, cultural norms, the outer layers). Time away from them means the territory is shifting while you’re gone.
Think how outdated your stars would be if you ran into someone you hadn’t any contact with for ten years. Exceptions to this rule are perhaps family or very close friends from coming-of-age years. People you knew while their maps were forming, or know deeply enough to anticipate the ways they evolve, so your map updates pretty readily. (The other exception may be people who haven’t changed at all. Sad.)
In the Barthes quote, the monologue is the map, which, without being nourished, turns into a pastiche of what it once was or may have been. It begins to fall apart, rendering you a stranger to the hidden city— lost, in danger of running into roadblocks, and misunderstanding local customs.