Ever since I was a kid, I've consistently had dreams about buildings. They're usually houses--old, beautiful, crumbling, Victorian homes, creaky, rambling farmhouses, understated cottages on a bluff overlooking a lake. Sometimes it's a motel, always with long corridors and doors that open up to vibrant rooms.
Usually the building is in some sort of disrepair, and I'm there to fix it up. I've had dreams where I tear out this faded blue Spanish tile in a kitchen. There are other people coming in and out of the house but in these moments, when I'm on my hands and knees pulling out tile, I am alone. It's comforting and lonely all at once.
The cupboards are a disaster but I know one day I will sand them and put on a finish--maybe an off-white country feel, or a dark cherry wood. Very often these homes are haunted and the ghosts find me when I'm alone, tearing out this tile or up in my bedroom, painting a dirty wall white.
The ghosts are usually children or mothers. I don't know why. Sometimes they are terrifying--a dark shadow hovering over me while I sleep, or following me down long hallways--and other times, I find solace in their presence.
The renovating is strange, because I'm actually not very handy at all. I do enjoy watching reno shows and I've always loved architecture, but I've never been talented at either and these dreams have come to me long before I ever started watching home and garden television or flipping through an Architectural Digest.
The other night I dreamed about a motel in Mexico. It was a one-story, a sun-bleached ranch, located on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It was far away from any town. The motel was mostly empty, with a bar connected at the very end that had a disco ball and blasted music, but no one was dancing and only a couple of people sat hunched over their bar stools, drinking quietly.
There was a long corridor with flat, tired carpet. I walked carefully down it, and I opened each door in the hallway and peeked in. Every room had a different theme. I can no longer remember the themes, only the way they made me feel. One room reminded me of my neighbors growing up. What I do recall is that each room had a bright, garish color, and when I woke up I had a migraine and I couldn't shake the feeling that it was the colors that triggered it.
I've had a similar dream about a haunted house with a basement that was like the Mexican motel. The basement was a stretched out hallway that twisted and turned and seemed endless, and each room had different people and different themes, only it was more suspenseful. While the motel just gave this dreary, hopeless feeling of an eternal Sunday night, the basement felt like it held secrets in its walls, and in any given moment one of them would burst out and shock me.
A recurring dream I've had since I was little was of my old elementary school. That truly is a building to behold in reality. It's an old, three-story Catholic school that used to be a rectory for the priests, and after it became a school, was connected to the rectory where the priests resided.
It had long, wide corridors and faded brown carpet. When I was a kid my parents were co-presidents of the PTA and on the Sports Boosters committee, so often they would hold meetings in one of the classrooms at night, and we kids would have the dark hallways to ourselves to wander. We played this game where we would race each other down the corridors. One of kids died in a car accident years later, and I still have dreams about running down those dark hallways of the school, turning a corner and she is there--white, bloated, floating.
Another recurring dream I've had for as long as I can remember is at my own childhood home. Children in the neighborhood keep disappearing and my parents invite our alarmed neighbors over to the house to have a meeting about it. As they all sit around the living room discussing safety measures, an older, hunchback woman with crooked teeth standing at the edge of the room creeps over to me and cackles. When she gets near me I freeze in fear. In that moment I know--I know--she is the reason the children are missing. The fear grips me and I cannot move, I cannot speak, I cannot do anything but listen as she whispers in my ear "they're in your room."
Everyone fades away and even though in our small house, the living room was just mere steps away from my bedroom, it my dream it feels like I am separated from everyone but the old woman by miles when I end up in my bedroom. I am alone, deserted, the keeper of this terrible secret that I know with every fiber of my being. I shut my bedroom door. There, on the doorknob, is the Halloween bag my mother sewed for me. Normally there would be candy in that bag. But when I open it--and I know, I know, what terrible thing is waiting for me in there but I cannot stop myself from opening that bag--and inside are bones, hair, fingers of little children, and in my horror I open my mouth to scream but nothing comes out, and when I wake up I can still hear that old woman's cackle in my ears.
I've often wondered why I dream about houses and buildings and ghosts, and my curiosity has led me to dream interpretation books and websites. I've learned that exploring homes means you are restless and searching for meaning within yourself, looking at the past and working toward the future when you renovate the home, blah blah blah.
That may be true, but the first thought I always have when I wake up from these dreams is I need to write a story about this.
I've tried. But it comes across as so cheesy and cliched. I wish I could find a way to translate the vibrancy and love and suspense these houses hold into a story without it sounding like every ghost story every written or Under the Tuscan Sun.