Dreaming the garden of the text

Sometime after 3:00 a.m. I had the following dream. In the heart of a large Western city there is a massive building complex that combines a national museum, national library and botanical garden. It is past closing time, but I cannot find the exits.

I am lost in the Medieval section, which appears to contain an authentic cloister, a Romanesque church and a formal garden. It is winter in the garden. I know that the city is right on the other side of the high wall, but how to get there? Useless to ask the guards – I know they will only arrest me and, as an anarchist, I am afraid of falling victim to the terror war that now imprisons all suspected enemies of the state indiscriminately, with no recourse to due process.

In the dusting of snow I notice a set of human footprints disappearing into what looks like a groundhog burrow. I have to take my coat and shirt off to fit inside, but once I do so it turns into a tunnel, then a hallway in a decrepit student housing unit like those I used to party in years ago in State College. The only occupant is a young, very serious-looking woman who looks up from her reading with a kind of calm surprise.

I throw myself on her mercy, imploring her to help me get out, without explaining why it is so urgent that I not be caught. To my surprise, she consents without a word: with one glance she is able to tell that I am both sincere and harmless. I hear the guards coming down the hallway, so I quick grab a volume from the bookshelves that cover the walls of her room and try to act casual.

It turns out to be the first volume of a complete, bilingual edition of the Babylonian Talmud, with the Hebrew and English on facing pages. It’s full of bookmarks, which lead to pencilled notes in the margins in a mixture of both languages. I glance quickly over the shelves and realize that every volume is bristling with bookmarks.

When the guards enter, without giving me a name she introduces me simply as her “friend” (which is especially believable because of my shirtless state). I realize with some shame the awkward position in which I have placed this apparently shy and circumspect young scholar.

At this point the details grow fuzzy, but I remember we all go outside together, escorted by the two or three guards, and accompanied also by a girlfriend of my benefactor who shows up from a nearby apartment. The two of them are laughing and talking together like ordinary women – no sign, now, of a typical intellectual’s introversion. When we hit the streets, my benefactor – who I notice suddenly is very good-looking – sees me off in a way that is meant to appear casual (for the benefit of the guards) but is in fact completely indifferent. A sideways, halfway hug. The suggestion of a smile.

Why did you do this – why not just turn me in? I wanted to ask but could not. I glance back for a final look, and she and her girlfriend are talking animatedly about something else entirely, disappearing among the crowds of revelers on the streets.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

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