I once worked on a project where we replaced the joints on a large bridge over the Flint River in Albany Georgia. There was a community of homeless people who lived under the bridge. Some of the thing we found under the bridge surprised me; books and books and books, a library of books of all sorts. But then there was the stuff that surprised no one; bottles and cans and drug paraphernalia. There was a woman who lived there, and we would catch sight over her and the others as they ran into the woods near the bridge when we arrived and I often wondered what would make anyone, particularly a woman, live like this. I never offered her or any of the others a solution to the problem, which answers the question, really.
Years ago I started writing down my dreams when I woke up which helped me remember them. I think everyone dreams but most people don’t know what to make of the dreams so they ignore them, and their minds simply push the dreams back into the other disinteresting details of the day, like background imagery and homeless people.
The Big Den house is one that has a large central room with waiting room furniture and a sunken floor that is as dangerous design as any I have ever seen, in life or dreamscapes. The sliding glass door opens up into the kitchen, also bad design, but this is not a great house to live. It’s more of a beach house stuck on a side street in South Georgia. There are children here, like a day care center or something like that, and the sunken central room is like a drain clogged with board games, plastic toys, stuffed animals, and hell, who knows what else? There’s a television that is always off and there are satellite rooms that lead to more conventional looking parts of the house. The doors to the Central room are sliding glass, another bad design but the satellite rooms have old fashion wooden doors with iron knobs. But like you’d find in a day care center, one of the doors is painted red, another yellow, but I kinda like that idea of different colored doors, really.
I could build this house, design it exactly the way I’ve seen it, but there is a serious flaw here, and that would be the inside of the house is much larger than the outside. From the road it looks like a house that might have a thousand square feet in it but the Central room has half that much, and there are three satellite bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Sometimes there is an angled porch on the back that is made of old television antenna supports, or something cobbled together by someone with some skill but no materials to match it. It’s not an easy house to visit, to get used to where everything is, and sitting in the waiting room furniture doesn’t help. It’s like the bottom of the sunken floor will collapse and suck us all into some hidden abyss. Going from one side of the house to another means walking around the sunken floor, or wading through the toys, either of which gives you the feeling of some long journey to get nowhere.
I’ve been here three or four times, but last night was the first night I was there alone. Without the kids there, without other people there, it’s like being in a house where everyone else is at a funeral, which I’ve done once. It’s an odd feeling, even as an adult, you get the feeling maybe you should be there too, which is the very essence of humanity; the need to be with other people. The community under the bridge is there because it is a roof, and there are people who need that, and there they find one another and a roof, and sometimes that seems to be enough, or all.
The house doesn’t exist, and I know this, of course, and you know it. But what if someone were to come to your house, an explain to you that you were insane, and they were going to take you away from where you lived, and the people you loved, and the things you owned, and give you medication to make you better. You would protest your world is real, but have taking a couple of pills, you discover you’re a homeless person living under a bridge in South Georgia, and your entire life is a product of insanity.
As impossible as it sounds, this is how I feel sometimes, when I wake up, and could draw the floor plans of a house I’ve dreamed of, or a town I feel like I’ve lived that exists only when I’m asleep, or when I think about the old man in the white house with the nice yard that appears once in a while in my sleep. All of these things are familiar to me, when you see someone walking along side of the Interstate with a sign that reads, “Will keep moving along in search of the reality” maybe that is exactly what they are doing. That familiar place, that home you feel now, is a place that either eludes them, or they find where ever it is they are. It may be fleeting, it may be disjointed, it may be insane, but what is the alternative to how they think their lives are being lived? Do we know? Can we know? Do we care?
When I leave my house and go north on a highway made of asphalt, there is a road that doesn’t exist off to the west of where I live, and I know the houses there well. As a writer, I have to be a little insane; my belief in a reality that does not exist has to be real because I have to make it real for you to buy into it. The people under the bridge have already bought into it, and perhaps, because there was nothing else for sale.