I couldn’t shake the dregs of the dream off my mind. It was as if they were clinging to the ridges in my brain like dried food clings to a skillet left too long on a hot burner. So I’ve decided I might scrape those images seared to my consciousness by using the metaphor for my pen to record the inexplicable series of encounters that comprise the dream.

I stood in the lobby of an odd hotel, where I was to meet three friends I hadn’t seen in quite some time. Two of them had flown in to Dallas (I guess I lived there, in my dream) from different places; the third lived there, but was staying at the hotel. For some reason, I hadn’t picked them up at the airport but, instead, had offered to meet them at the hotel for breakfast. Unbeknownst to the three of them, a fourth person (an acquaintance from another time in my life, Tony) was to be staying in the same motel. I had not made arrangements with him to join us for breakfast, but figured I would ask him when I went to pick up my friends.

When I arrived at the hotel, it somehow became clear to me that to call my friends’ rooms to let them know I was in the lobby required me to check in as a guest. I did this and took my bags (I have no idea how I had the prescience to have bags with me) to my room. Once in the room, I discovered that the room had no telephone, so I could not call my friends’ rooms.  And, then, I looked down at the front of my shirt and realized I had spilled mushrooms and thick orange sauce on myself during he previous evening’s dinner. I changed my shirt, walked back to the elevator, and went back to the lobby. A clot of people stood in front of the hotel front desk. There was no waiting line; people spilled all around the desk. Three clerks behind the desk seemed to be chatting with some of the people. Their conversations did not seem to me about business, but, instead, about television shows and Easter egg hunts and bus tours.

Growing increasingly frustrated, I spoke to some people in front of me, but behind those standing at the desk, “Are you in line? If you are, you might try to actually form a line instead of clogging the space around the desk.  They turned to look at me, but made no response. Instead, one of the clerks spoke to me; “Sir, just be patient and wait your turn. We will get to you in due time.”

“What do you mean in due time? And how will you know it’s my turn?”

She looked directly at me and responded, “Believe me, I’ll know.”

“You are an idiot,” I responded. “You obviously don’t have an inkling that you’re here to serve the guests, not chit-chat.”

Just then, one of my friends approached me from behind.

“Here we are. What’s the plan?”

I turned to see all three of my friends behind me.

“I need to try to reach someone else in the hotel but my room has no phone. Does yours?”

“Yeah, but you can’t dial out. You can only receive calls. You have to go to the desk to use their phone.”

I turned to discover the clot of people who had been at the desk had dissipated; only a few remained and they were in an orderly line. I joined the line. Almost instantly, a male clerk spoke to me.

“May I  help you?”

“I need to call someone’s room.”

“Go to the communication window, off to your left.”

I turned to the left to see a what looked to me like a betting window in a casino.  A man with an old-style policeman’s cap sat behind it. I approached him.

“I need to call someone’s room.”

“What is the room number?”

“I don’t know the room number.”


“Tony Felos.”

The man placed a device in front of me.

“Use this to call him.”

The equipment was unlike any telephone I’ve seen. It was a black pyramid with what looked like a light-switch on top.

“How do I use this? How do I look up his room number?”

“I can’t tell you how to use a telephone, if you don’t already know.”

The woman I’d called an idiot strode down the length of the counter toward us.

“I can help you, sir. Here, just use the toggle to scroll through a list of guest names and, when you get to your friend’s name, just click.”

The appearance of the device had changed from the time I first saw it. Now, it was a black pyramid with a screen on one side; the light switch on top was now a toggle. Immediately, I knew how to use it.

“Thank you so much. I’m very sorry I was so nasty to you earlier. I had no excuse to be so unkind.”

“Do not let it worry you, sir. We are trained to be polite even when people treat us rudely without reason.”

I used the device to scroll a list of names. There it was. “Tony Felos.”

The telephone had nothing to hold to my ear; when I clicked the toggle, the sound of a phone ringing erupted from the device, followed after a few rings with a click.

“Hello?” Obviously, I had awoken him.

“Tony, this is John. I just thought you might like to join a few of my friends and me for breakfast.”

“Uh, thanks, but I got in late last night and I’ve got to catch a flight in just a while.”

“Ah, sorry to wake you. Maybe next time.”

Another click and the call ended. I turned around and saw that my friends were across the lobby, looking at magazines in a little gift shop. I walked across the lobby and into the shop, where I saw someone from yet another part of my life.

“Augie Sisco! What are you doing here? It’s great to see you.”

The guy looked like Augie, but something about him wasn’t quite the same.

“I’m Rick Nafe. Nice to see you.”

Now, I knew someone named Rick Nafe in yet another part of my life, but he looked nothing like Augie.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you were someone I knew years ago.”

“I’m Rick Nafe. I am a publisher, both print and electronic media. My team and I are here for the electronic gaming convention.”

Standing behind him was a group of young people, probably in their twenties, all wearing white polo shirts imprinted with the same green and black symbols.

One of my friends, Jim, looked at my shirt and pointed.

“Looks like you’ve got last night’s dinner all over your shirt.”

I looked down and saw the mushrooms and orange sauce.

I was confused; I thought I’d changed my shirt earlier.

“Ugh! Let me go change my shirt and then we can head out.”

I turned around to see the lobby had changed rather dramatically. Where there had been a broad expanse of open space, there was a restaurant enclosed in glass walls. The path to the elevator was a very thin strip of concrete next to one of the restaurant’s walls;  on the other side of the path was a pool of water decorated with water lilies. Swimming in the pool were dozens of orange and white koi fish.

I edged my way along the path, facing the glass wall of the restaurant. As I inched along the path, I saw that I was leaving a smear of thick orange sauce on the glass. People sitting at the tables just inside the glass wall stared at me with looks of disgust on their faces.

And that’s where the dream ended. I woke up and made notes. Then, I went back and filled in the details as best I could. I manufactured much of the dialogue, though I think it’s close to what occurred in the dream.

My state of mind when I awoke was this: shame, embarrassment, and confusion.



About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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