This is a picture I took of Dan at a real-life party. It's the closest facsimile of what I experienced this morning. You'll understand all in a moment...
A friend of mine was describing this feeling she felt that I, too, had felt but couldn't quite put into words. Have you ever had something important you wanted to share with someone but the connection couldn't be made? "It's like I have a secret I can't tell you," she said. "And it's not that I can't tell you because you aren't allowed to know; I can't tell you because you wouldn't understand." I've had two experiences of this nature that I can vividly recount. One of them happened eight years ago, and one of them happened just this morning.
First, the one that happened eight years ago. I like to call this "Strangers on a Subway." I was riding the subway in New York to visit a friend of mine in the winter of 2003. This is a person I had known for a very long time, whose actions and words had impacted me greatly over the years. In his mind, he probably hadn't known me quite so well for quite so long. The anticipation of this interaction was very intense for me. It felt like a pilgrimage to get to this almost-arrival -- going back to the Port Authority station a few subway stops ago; the 5-hour bus ride from Massachusetts; the previous California summer where a few casual words he said helped me make a huge life decision; the summer 10 years before that where I had seen him and remembered him, though we never actually met.
I got off the train somewhere on the lower East side. It's been eight years since I visited New York, but the hustle and bustle of that moment still feels very alive. A sea of scurrying people; footsteps echoing; eyes darting; heart pounding; and in the middle of it all, a woman with the guitar, singing "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Maybe it was the melody itself, bursting with melancholy and soul. Maybe it was the fact that I'd heard someone strumming the song that previous summer at a particularly poignant moment. Or maybe this woman and this song served merely as the sponge for my supersaturated well of emotion. Whatever the case, her song touched me. I wanted to go up to her; hold her callused fingers; tell her how much her song meant to me. I approached her and said, "That was nice." A chink in the floodgates. "Oh, thanks," she replied, followed by something appallingly casual like, "I like that song too" or "It's good to sing in the subway". Looking at her up close, I could see that her eyes were bleary. She was probably drunk or on drugs or in some other kind of weird, happy haze. I could spill her the secrets of my soul, but she wouldn't really get it. At least, not in the way I meant it. A few moments later, I found my friend, filled with the secret of the secret I could not tell.
I went to bed at 5 this morning after an amazing night of music, dancing, and fire spinning with friends who feel like family. Flow Temple, who organizes this mind-blowing monthly jam, is the brainchild of Burning Dan, who left the planet not three months ago. Of course, his essence is infused throughout the event. The entire flow family thinks of him when we spin, and we feel him especially strongly when we gather at this event. I had a particularly intense rush of emotion at the very end of the night when the MC, Alex Polinsky, said, "We honor those who are here, and those who aren't here because they couldn't be..."
Despite not getting home until about 4 AM, it took me a little while to unwind before going to sleep. The fire, the intense creative energy, the amazing conversations, and an idea I had schemed up for a new short film left me buzzing; inspired; unable to enter slumberland. I burned some candles, contemplated, wrote. Normally, I don't burn candles. I think the last time I burned candles was when Dan came over last April. But I was craving the fire or the sense memory or both, and somehow as the wax melted, Dan trickled his way into my dreams.
We were at a party at someone's house; not a location I'd recognize in real life, but it felt familiar in the dream. It was early in the morning. We'd been up all night. He talked to us; smiled; was his usual happy, sparkly Dan self. I think it was after a Flow Temple Party. I'd never gone to a Flow Temple after party with him, but there we were in the dream. Seeing him was bittersweet. It was wonderful to see him, but I knew he was going to die. He kept making these plans for things we were going to do the next time we hung out. He was making these plans with everybody. At one point, he looked at me with a point and a wink and said, "Next Flow Temple party?" "Yeah," I said, knowing that I would be there and he wouldn't. There was no way I could tell him because I couldn't change his future. It was all I could do to keep myself from looking into the crystal ball, predicting his fate, telling him all the things you would say to person if you knew they were going to die. But he was like a kid on Christmas, and I knew it would break his heart if I told him Santa didn't exist. "It's like I have a secret I can't tell you. And it's not that I can't tell you because you aren't allowed to know; I can't tell you because you wouldn't understand..."
There is no Freudian analysis to be had on this dream, nor is it entirely unresolved. It is filled with empty space; ambiguity; possibility...