After a restless night, I finally was able to get some sleep this morning. And this is what I experienced. That I can make up a dream so utterly cruel is beyond comprehension.
Just like I did it for the typical dream of a paraplegic girl, I’ll describe what happened in the dream, and then I’ll tell you what I think it’s all about.
I am entering my old elementary school. I am drawn to the area where we teach first and second grade. I am confusing two locations in the dream : my old elementary school and the children “wing” at the Institute of Rehabilitation of Montreal, where I was hospitalized for 6 months at the age of 4, after my paralysis.
Children are in class now. I can hear them recite something. The walls, oddly enough, aren’t reaching the ceiling. If I can get closer, I’ll be able to perhaps recognize something inside the classroom. And I want to observe the children too. But I need to make up an excuse for my presence. A woman walks in front of me toward some woman on my left : “what can I do for you ?”. The other woman says “I am one of the volunteers”. So, I step in and say : “I am a volunteer too”.
As I am observing the children through a glassless window in the wall, sitting on a bench, a woman walks up to me. She sits next to me. She’s in her 50s, tall and slender, with lots of gray hair. I know instinctively 1- that this woman knows me, 2- that she can walk through walls, and 3- that I’ve never seen her before. As she’s talking to me, she keeps staring at the children. She looks very peaceful, in the way that gets on my nerves. She seems to appreciate the sight of children above all sights.
I can’t remember the details of our conversation but I remember it in substance. She’s been watching over me. I never asked her to watch over me. Either she’s been assigned to my case (so to speak), or she decided to take care of my affairs, which would be even worst. She tells me that I am destined to be with a woman. That I got a thousand signs, well... no, not signs : the writing has been on the wall for ever, and I keep on wanting what I can’t have. The woman has no compassion. Because she knows everything, she knows that I’ll be happy when — and not if — I accept a woman as companion. Whether I am homosexual or not is irrelevant. She believes that any woman can be gay, is gay. And she’s shown me this on countless occasions, she adds. I shiver. At this point, she is mean-spirited. What I am rejecting is my own sex, she says, and hence her own. And then she adds that no man (I am paraphrasing) can love me and accept my body, because men are too weak. It’s obvious she does not think highly of men. That’s what I believe until she tells me otherwise. She even arranged to send one man into my life, a man that split himself up into many, she sent me the archetype of the male friend, she says, to help me develop the feminine aspect of me, no less — no more. I needed men for that. Now I don’t need them, for that, anymore. I have arrived in my femininity. Each man that got into my life, got into my life because of her. These men did not know why or how they were drawn to me, they just were, because of her. They got into my life to accomplish one or two small tasks and off they went. “A woman will embrace you, a woman will understand, a woman will love you. A woman can do that. A man cannot.” “I’d rather be alone”, I tell her. And I mean it. She has that smile, as if I’ve just said the most puerile thing, something like I don’t want to grow up. Then she stands up and walks away. End of the dream.
The last time I visited my old elementary school was for a college assignment. I had this photography class. I wanted to take photos of small children in their classroom, the youngest the most interesting to photograph I thought. Finally, it had been arranged that I spend a whole afternoon in a kindergarten class with my camera. After about an hour, the teacher asked the children to form a circle, so that they could ask me questions, and most of these questions were about my legs. They all so much wanted to know. And they were way too young to suspect that this could make me uncomfortable. They asked me about my braces, they wanted to see them, and I remember (in horror, now) that I pulled up my trousers — it is unclear clear to me how I got from pulling up my trousers to pulling them down, but I know that I ended up removing one of my braces to pass around. I was the hero of the day. The teacher was so pleased. I think I was happy to be the center of attention, on some level. I was happy to please, happy to inform, happy to satisfy everyone’s curiosity. I was an educational program.
I had forgotten all about that day, until a few minutes ago.
Something needs to be said about children and volunteering. When I was in my late twenties, I decided I wanted to give back to the Sainte-Justine hospital. Give something of me in return for what ? When I got paralyzed, my mom brought me to Sainte-Justine because that hospital was thought of as the best of its kind for children. She brought me to this hospital in a car, at rush hour, despite the fact that the hospital was far from home. No one knew at this point why my legs had fallen asleep. Foolish mother. If she had brought me to another hospital, the one in our own town, I’d be walking today, maybe. In any case, when I was in my late twenties, I made the decision to volunteer, and I wanted to do volunteer work with handicapped children at Sainte-Justine. I filled all the paper work, I had my first interview. It went well. There was so much to do, there’s always something that can be done. The purpose of the first interview was to find out what it was that I could do best. I was called in for a second interview. Unlike the first one, it was formal and dry. A woman asked me for the 10th time why I wanted to volunteer exactly, then I was told that there was nothing I could do because... no parent would trust me with their child. I was a bad woman to even insist that I could help. “If you were a parent, would you...?” I interrupted the woman : I said yes, I would. I told her I had done baby-sitting. Yes, she said, but we are talking about children who are ill, children who are handicapped. The woman was shaking her head. The other person in the room, who had not uttered a word, seemed to be in agreement with her, I could tell from her facial expression. When I got into my car, I started to cry. I sobbed all the way home, so that lasted about an hour.
And what about the older woman’s gibberish, the old woman who’s telling me in the dream that I am destined to live a gay life ? The hell with her. I remember when one of the 3 men I loved the most in my life told me, half-jokingly, long after it was over between us, after some other disappointment I just had with a male : “Why don’t you try women ? I can assure you that being with a woman is pleasant”. Ha, ha. As if I had the choice. As if I had any choice at all one way or the other. Foolish recommendation, buddy. And guess what, if I had the choice I would choose men.
I remember something else. A year ago, my father and I were discussing the fact that he wasn’t, yet, a grandfather — and he still isn’t. He said that no man would want to “make me a child” (literal translation from French : me faire un enfant). He did not explain himself, and his facial expression did not show that he had committed a slip. He just said this matter-of-factly, as if we both knew and understood why, and as if this was no big a deal.