In Dreams, Always Beginning

by Lynne Tillman

I am with a few well-known male writers, one is a close friend. We’re going to see a play by Sam Shepard. I don’t like his plays much but knew him when I was in college. We’re too early, and I invite the group to our apartment, where I live with David. David’s been moving things around, it’s a mess. I can’t find anything to serve them. I explain that David has been fixing up the apartment, but I’m humiliated. Then we go to the theater, but when we enter, I can’t find my seat. So I sit on the floor. People glare at me, and I move to an empty seat. Someone says, angrily, “You better watch out. They don’t want you in this theater, because of the last time.” I say, “I’ve never been here before.” Then I wonder if that’s true.

I am presenting a paper in Brighton, England, at the University of Sussex. I am driven from the airport, to present it immediately, and I’m very jet-lagged. The paper is about voice. I make a distinction between voice and something else. I say that voice is the constructed version of .... maybe speech. After I present the paper, I realize I haven’t read the first three pages, so I didn’t give the premise of my argument. I want to give my talk again, but the organizers won’t let me. I realize all my work will be lost.

In the dream, I commit suicide, and then keep on speaking. I am defending myself, or explaining my positions, when someone says, you can’t defend yourself, because you’re dead. Then I realize, in the dream, how final death is.

Lynne Tillman's latest novel, Men and Apparitions, appeared in March 2018 from Soft Skull Press, and, from the same press, in 2019, a new edition of American Genius, A Comedy, her fifth novel. In 2021, a book of selected short stories will be published.

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