It amuses me how, when we dream, we often don't just dream in discrete narratives or about how tomorrow or the next day might go, but sometimes we'll dream entire alternate lives for ourselves, complete with false memories of past events that never actually transpired. For example, I dreamed I was at a party, and, as I was speaking with an old friend, I reflected on a brief stint I'd had as a major league baseball player for the San Diego Padres.
For some reason, I had had a contract with the Padres, although I had not anticipated ever taking the field for them. But then, one day, the manager called me up, saying he needed me to hit. As he explained, there was someone in the crowd that night that we needed to impress. In order to secure something of theirs in support of something of ours, we needed to sell them on the viability of our something, and the only way to do that would be to demonstrate our slugging. At the time, the Padres were a team known to have a strong pitching rotation, but we were losers because we didn't have anyone who could hit worth spit. That's why the manager now needed my bat in order to show that we could hit for power.
"Their best regular hitter at the time was Kouzmanoff," I explained. "So I was immediately stronger than anyone they had."
Yeah, in the dream, I was apparently, at some point, physically stronger than Kevin Kouzmanoff. Even in the dream, however, the way I explained it, it was as though I was only realizing the details as I was telling the story. I didn't at first remember having been a meaningful contributor to the team; it was only as I reviewed the facts, remembered that Kouzmanoff was the Padres' best hitter (only in the dream history, not real life), and that Kouzmanoff sucked (true enough, both in the dream and in real life), that I came to the retrospective realization that I must have been carrying the offense for that brief stint that I was on the team.
Anyway, as the story went, I got the call late in the game, the manager explained the situation to me, and I was brought in to pinch hit. Then, on the first pitch, first swing of my first major league at-bat, I knocked it out of the park. And the rest was history.... Except, it wasn't.
Even in sleep and in dream, during which my faculty of reason was suspended, I retained sense enough to be incredulous at my own memory. Something didn't add up, and I wasn't even thinking about all those unspecified "somethings" that were allegedly at stake leading up to my at-bat. But if I really did play for the San Diego Padres, even if it was only for a game or two, why wasn't I more famous? Why was I having to explain this story to my friend, as if he wouldn't already have known it? If the manager really did recognize my power far above anyone in the regular lineup, why wasn't I called up sooner? If I really was good enough to carry the team's offense for a while, why did my career end so quickly and unceremoniously? How did it end at all? Try as I might, I couldn't remember. And if I really did hit a home run in the major leagues, why wasn't it the proudest moment of my life? Because it certainly didn't feel that way; it felt like an obscure bit of personal trivia that I trotted out for parties.
Was it all a dream, I wondered, not realizing, of course, that even that question was being posed within a dream. No, I thought, I knew well enough the difference between a dream and a memory, and I wouldn't have spent those last several minutes detailing an accomplishment that wasn't real. Unless... my very memory and mind were unraveling, which was not just a possibility but the sensation that I was faced with, as I couldn't make sense of the events of my own life.
No, I thought to myself, if it really happened, and I still needed to believe that it had, then there must have been some record of it. It must have been in the local news, and I must have kept a copy of the story in the paper. Indeed, I seemed to recall that I had, and so I raced home and dug through my keepsakes.
I found it quickly enough. There, on the front page of the sports section, read the headline, as if it had been only yesterday: "Hot shot skylopper hits shot out."
What the hell is a skylopper? But, no, I didn't ask that question.