I had a very long sleep after bathing that led to a strange, vivid, astonishingly insightful dream. It still haunts me, and I record it here before I can forget.
I am visiting a house as it’s being pulled up by the roots, both figuratively and literally: the house is being torn apart for renovations, while the family that occupies it is fracturing. I am an aspiring dancer, and all I want from my stay is to be left alone. I want to practice my arabesques and eat very little and behave in a manner aloof, yet fragile, to lure people to me rather than interacting with them ordinarily.
Of course, almost from the start I do not get my wish. There are men desirous of my attention who both intrigue and repulse me, while the man I desire treats my companionship as an option that pleases him to ignore. Throughout the day and night, I suffer a parade of motherly women who carry trays of food to me and hover indiscreetly in hopes of waiting out my self-imposed starvation. Each time I attempt to dance, my faltering leg – for some reason my right side has weakened, and I cannot coordinate it well – reveals deficiency and makes witnesses cackle. The whole situation feels like a hunting game, in which I run from everyone who seeks me out, and it strikes me as tiresome and even pointless.
Then I am lying on a bed, exhausted, and with my aching head trying to will sounds of construction to silence, when I hear hammering that doesn’t resound with the rest. I look over, and I see a forge, glowing and beautiful.
Dream-me (DM): Hēphaistos.
[Hēphaistos (H) smiles to be recognised, then pauses with His hammer mid-air, suddenly serious.]
H: Are you weary?
[I think about everything, all of it. Finally, I admit:]
[He sets down the hammer but stays where He stands, still in profile.]
H: What does it mean to be ‘ugly’?
[I consider those who turned Him away, and who also opposed others like Dionysos. I remember those who refused to see me for myself, believing me only a foolish girl ignorant of longing, or of a lumbering fool lacking the delicate mettle that dance demands. I think for a long time, remembering misgendering and mockery and misery, and how I have seen so many who were foolishly nearsighted, not comprehending any concerns outside of their own. I realise, then, how this judgment is made.]
DM: Ugly means outcast. Not fitting in. On the edges. Not in accord with those who decide what sort of conformity is valued. They want symmetry, suppleness, harmony. But we are not all made for that.
[He nods. I believe that my answer satisfies, because he continues.]
H: What, then, is ‘lame’?
DM: It means…unable to keep up with the frenzied activity that many want life to be. It means lagging back with those who are left behind. It means–
H: You know this. You understand it. When you forget what you want, remember. If you want to know your “dharma”…
[At this he smiles. It seems to be an unfamiliar word, but he uses it in the knowledge that it speaks to me.]
H: …then know that justice needs those who stand with the ones left behind. Your hands, your compassion. To forge armour from witness and will. To carry them forward instead of leaving them forgotten…
[He returns to His work. The hammer sings; the forge shines.]