I’m Beginning to Think You’re Smarter Than I Am

I go into the salon and tell them I have an appointment with Melanie. They say Melanie’s not here, but don’t worry, we have a guy named Roy who takes care of all our walk-ins. And I say fine, whatever, but then it turns out Roy isn’t there either. He should be back in 15 minutes. I go out to get some coffee.

When I get back, everyone is looking at me strangely. More accurately, everyone is going to great lengths to avoid looking at me. I try to figure out what’s changed in the 15 minutes I’ve been gone. I realize I’m completely naked.

You’ve figured out that this is a dream, haven’t you? Well, I haven’t. I’m still standing there, naked, in the salon, thinking this is all really happening. I should know better. Once, I noticed that the interior and exterior of my car were different styles and knew I was in a dream. But sudden unexplained public nudity (or even killing someone for no particular reason) isn’t a big enough hint.

I’m horribly embarrassed. Luckily, I have a suitcase with me. The clothes are at the very bottom, and I have to dig through all the battery chargers, coffee mugs, and egg beaters before I find something to wear.

More clues that this is a dream:

  • I don’t normally pack an egg beater in my suitcase. Maybe this dream is trying to tell me I should.
  • In the real world, I probably would have grabbed one of those smocks they always have in hair salons. But this wasn’t the real world. It was more like the kind of dystopian alternate universe you sometimes see in movies, where everything seems like it’s exactly the same as in our world, but then it turns out that in this horrifying version of reality, the idea of putting on a smock before getting your hair cut never really caught on.
  • My clothes had disappeared some time in the last 15 minutes. I had no memory of this. Wouldn’t you find that kind of alarming? I didn’t. I wasn’t even vaguely curious about what had happened.

Eventually, I get dressed. Roy still hasn’t appeared. But my friend Steve is there. He’s a software developer who works as a stylist on the weekends. He agrees to do my hair. Right after he starts, Roy shows up. He’s mad. Roy and Steve argue like a couple of used-car salesmen fighting over a particularly gullible customer. Roy wins. He takes over. He’s a little gruff. I begin to regret not confirming my appointment with Melanie before coming in.

In the end, my hair looks terrible. I usually get highlights, but now my hair is all exactly the same color, a sort of shoe-polish brown. “Shoe-polish” also describes the texture — instead of moving freely, my hair is arranged in random sticky clumps. I don’t say anything to Roy, though, because this is the kind of dystopian dream world in which you don’t get to see your hair until after you’ve left the salon and gone home.

I had this dream last Monday. I had a real hair appointment yesterday. It went much better than the one in the dream.

Another Time I Didn’t Kill My Next-Door Neighbor

Several people have asked me lately whether I killed my next-door neighbor*. This topic of conversation reminds me of a time long ago when I didn’t kill a different neighbor.

My most prized possession.
I was in my senior year of college, and at the time, I drank approximately eight thousand cups of coffee a day. A friend had given me a mug that had “Caffeine” written all over it, and my Caffeine mug soon became my most prized possession (my second most prized possession would have been one of those t-shirts with a picture of a caffeine molecule and the words “better living through chemistry” written on it, if I had in fact possessed one of those, which I didn’t, which is strange, now that I think about it, because that’s exactly the kind of thing I would have worn all the time back then and would wear on occasion now, except I still don’t own one).**

One night I had an extremely vivid dream. In the dream, I lived with my parents in a house on a hill straight out of a Hitchcock movie, next to an old man who lived in a similar house. For some reason, I had to babysit the old man for the evening, which I didn’t feel like doing — so of course I poisoned him, because apparently for the purposes of this dream, I was a psychopath.***

It turns out I’d made several mistakes. I’d assumed my neighbor’s death wouldn’t be investigated because he was old and, hey, old people die. I’d used my Caffeine mug as the murder weapon, which a) could easily be traced to me and b) meant that the police kept it as evidence, so I was deprived of my favorite mug. And I couldn’t just get on with my life, because everyone knew that I like to read murder mysteries, which meant that if I didn’t appear to be fascinated by this case, people would get suspicious.

In the dream, I was terrified that I’d be caught. When I woke up, I felt an overwhelming sense of remorse for what I’d done, until I realized I hadn’t actually done it. It’s hard to describe the feeling of relief that comes from realizing you haven’t murdered your next-door neighbor — it’s similar to the feeling you get when you’ve been walking around in uncomfortable shoes all day and then finally take them off, only more emotional, much more intense, and much less focused on foot pain.

Epilogue: a few days later, I went to one of my classes, and the moment I saw the professor, I realized he was the old man in my dream. You know that sense of panic you get when you run into someone you’ve recently murdered? I’ll never forget it.

*I didn’t. Some background can be found here.

**I’m thinking about entering that sentence in the Bulwer-Lytton contest.

***In real life, I’m not a psychopath. Trust me — I’d totally tell you if I were.