The Perfect Line

This morning–and this is true–I had a dream unlike any that I can recall. There were no images except for words scrolling by, and no characters except for a disembodied man’s voice reading the words as they crawled. Unlike most dreams where words seem elusive upon waking, this time the entire script remained in my mind almost intact. I quickly wrote everything down from memory. Here is what the voice said:

Have you ever been in a conversation in which you’re fully engaged and contributing easily, and it’s all going so well that, like a chess player, you begin to think of responses and rejoinders several sentences in advance, until at one point you think of a turn of phrase that, while delectable, doesn’t quite fit into the context of the conversation, but instead of discarding it completely you inexplicably continue turning it over in your head just because you appreciate the rhythm and flow of your fragment? Isn’t it especially funny how you’ll keep the germ of an idea even when it’s not perfect–even when it might be far more efficient to discard it completely and respond in a more natural way? “Or blues, in this case,” you think, even though the conversation has nothing to do with “blues” and you don’t even know where that phrase came from, but the key is “in this case” which sounds quite smart, particularly since no one’s said “in this case” yet. Then you think, “or words, in this case,” which is the perfect fit for the conversation at hand because it allows you to riff off of the words of the other person while at the same time sounding confident with impressive economy. All you have to do is wait for an opportunity – have you missed one already? You kind of drifted off there for a moment, though it will be worth it when the entire conversation benefits from your contribution.

As the dream faded, and as I drifted back up toward the surface, I remember thinking, “That’s one damn insightful observation about the mechanics of the human psyche. Dammit. It would have been perfect for a story… if only I’d thought of it first.”

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