I had a dream two nights ago. For whatever reason, I feel like it is of some importance, and so I am writing it down with as much detail as I can remember. For those of you who remember me telling you about it, I feel like it somehow links to the porcelain warriors that I dreamt of a few years ago… Still looking for those if anyone finds one…
It started with an old, Vietnamese man. I could see that he was an older man, probably well into his sixties. The creases on his face spoke volumes about the hard work he had spent for many of those days in the blistering hot sun working in his fields. He was tired. The man was wearing a rice picking hat & had a long silver moustache that almost touched his collar bone. His eyes were the damp green blue of the ocean, back arched hard over under the weight of the years he had spent picking. The man wore some meagre rags, but for all this I could see he was not an unhappy fellow. Though exhausted (I could see even from the distance that I was standing), the man smiled as he spoke through whatever teeth that he had left.
The man was talking to a bunch of the younger men - Five or six at the most. I don’t remember their faces. He spoke with a quiet voice, though the passion with which he spoke was clear. As I moved closer, it became apparent that this man was looking for some extra hands to tend the field he had been working. The men seemed polite enough, but the more he spoke, the more reticent to accept his proposition the men became. Reticent? Maybe not - It seemed that it was almost fear that was driving their wariness.
I had known that the Vietnamese man worked on a rice field over the bridge. To get to the field, you needed to take a train which, though old & rusted, seemed to do the job just fine. Each morning like clockwork, all the men who worked on the other side of the river would sit together huddled on a tiny flatbed carriage, a foot each tucked under makeshift straps across the floor. As dusk approached each day, the same train would just as reliably return with the workers. Each one with his foot under a strap. I thought back to seeing the train chugging back into town each afternoon, and I could not once recall so much as a shoe coming back over the bridge with the men. Upon their return each day, without fail, all the men were naked.
As the old mans voice, though still quiet, remained steady. Though wary, the curiosity of the men seemed enough to allow the discussion to continue and the older man kindly accepted the opportunity. A younger man spoke up. Apparently he too had noticed that of an evening the men that travelled the bridge would return naked. The younger man wanted to know why.
The group fell silent, eyes falling to the Vietnamese man (I don’t know how I knew this because I couldn’t see any of their faces). It seemed to be an explanation that they were all keen to hear. He seemed to laugh a little, almost nostalgic like he had been in the younger mans shoes many years earlier. He shuffled over to a barrel & sat down with his legs crossed. Suddenly we were all on the train travelling along at speed. Feet tucked under the straps. The old man was saying nothing, but at the same time, seemed to be explaining.
The train had travelled the same track everyday since he could remember. Even so, there was not a soul in the village that had any recollection of when the tracks were built, or when the train had come. Just that it was there. For as far back as he could recall, anyone that crossed the river, either by bridge, or through water it would be the same. As you crossed the river anything you had worn would evaporate into nothing. Still without moving his mouth or a finger, the man explained that somewhere in the journey across the river there was a moment where everything became nothing. Yes, everyone was still there, huddled on the train, but all the things that would worry the men, or ache in the field, would be somehow released. The train sped on. As it did, the realisation seemed to dawn that we were heading towards the bridge and that soon we would all be sitting like the workers, naked on the train. It didn’t feel like this was a bad thing. The man, still silent, seemed to be anticipating the moment coming soon. Seemed prepared. The sound of the train changed as we hit the tracks over the river. As he had (or hadn’t) explained, the cloth on my clothes seemed to become lighter & lighter as it dissipated. Soon, we were all sitting there, nothing to hide behind. I wondered why the straps did not dissipate like the clothes had. And then suddenly, I didn’t wonder at all. About anything. It was like everything for a moment had slipped my mind. Not only slipped my mind, but I felt it drain out of me - Out of my head, down my fingertips & out the back of my feet. Everything just gurgled away like watching a sink. Reset. Shakes. Wakes up.
As far as I know, I never got to the other end of the bridge before the dream ended. Even so it felt like I was heading to somewhere familiar. Its weird how on the occasions where I remember dreams with this much detail (And can still recall years later) I seem to be in Tibet or Vietnam or some similar place that I have never been. I imagine that one day when I actually get there, I will find something I don’t even know I’ve been looking for.