Gladys Bentley sings the arcade blues

Thursday night I dreamed I went to an arcade.

Yeah. Me. At an arcade. Me and my total lack of ANY discernible inclination toward attack strategy, and even less obvious hand-eye coordination.

We can’t all be Felicia Day, folks. G’head and take a moment to mourn that fact, and then let’s move along.

Ready?

Okay.

Takes all kinds of game guts to make an arcade.

So Thursday night I dreamed I went to an arcade. I was wandering around by the older games in the back, a twenty dollar bill in my hand. I wanted to make sure there was something I really wanted to play before exchanging my cash for what would be a pretty heavy pile of quarters.

There weren’t many folks actually playing anything. Mostly the place was just one machine after another crammed into the space side-by-side at odd angles, creating passageways through the arcade. I kept thinking how this would probably be a pretty fun dream for, say, Wil Wheaton, and how it was a shame it was being wasted on the likes of game-oblivious me.

I turned to head out when I noticed an open door tucked in a back  corner, and heard laughter coming through in short streams. I poked my head in, and saw the room was packed with rows of folding chairs filled with women watching something projected up on the wall. I want to say it was an episode of M*A*S*H. A few of the ladies saw me, said hi, and waved me over to an empty seat in the back so I could watch the show with them.

We laughed and chatted as the women introduced themselves to me. They were all dressed pretty casually, looking like they’d just left work at jobs where they don’t interact with the customers. One of the women threw an arm around the shoulders of the woman beside her, and I realized she wasn’t the only one doing so. I surveyed the room again, and saw that most of the women appeared to be there in couples.

In that dream kind of way you get where you just “know” what’s going on without anybody telling you, I realized all the gals around me were lesbians, and that this back room at the arcade was where they’d go to hang out and socialize after work. It was their place to unwind and share a few laughs away from the public eye before heading home. But something about it was– well it felt kind of secret, you know? Like they weren’t just hanging out so much as they were hiding out. I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t dreaming of the present day, but of some time in the past when this sort of secrecy would’ve been in all ways necessary.

Wondering if that was the case, I now felt really clumsy for intruding on their secret spot. Like– what the heck kind of right did I have to know where they’d found to chill out in private if it was, in fact, a secret room? The whole time they’d been totally cool to me- very friendly and welcoming- with not a hint of concern that someone had discovered their hiding place. As such I figured they must’ve just thought I was gay too since I knew about this place, not realizing I’d simply stumbled across it by accident. But I still felt bad for my unintentional intrusion, so I decided to head out. I said my goodbyes, was met by cheerful farewells, and ducked back into the arcade.

Gladys Bentley, an American blues singer during the Harlem Renaissance

As I walked toward the front door to leave, I came upon a family walking in — with speed, with purpose, with furious indignation. First came a husband and wife dressed in all black Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes, complete with hats and gloves. They were followed by their two teenage sons, also dressed all in black.

In another flash of dream-knowing I realized I was back a few decades, and that trouble was coming. I knew this family was heading back to the secret room to kick all those women out of it before exposing them publicly as lesbians, with the specific intention of getting them in trouble over it.

I looked at the mother. Studied her face real hard. African American, mid-40s, married, mother of two, and sad. I knew she was sad. I knew the only reason she knew about that hidden room was because it was full of her friends. Her family had no idea, but I knew. I knew her secret. I knew who she really was.

I tried to catch her eye as she passed. Like– what? What did I think I was going to do, you know? Was I going to figure out some kind of coded way to say “Stop!” Some way to say “You don’t have to do this?” Some hand signal, some whisper, some look that would say there was still time to not bust up movie night and get all those women kicked out and sent to jail?

But she would not look at me. She knew that I was on to her, so she kept her eyes up, up, up high over my head, the black feathers on her hat bouncing as she marched through the bells and the whistles and all the tiny lights as they blinked on and off.

I guess this is normal

Getting dressed is a fine idea.

Except when it’s not because you needn’t have bothered.

I put on a dark blue shirt. A form-fitting cotton thing with a v-neck. I love the way it frames my favorite necklace; soapstone looking material carved into a large, flat pendant I wear on a thin black cord. When the only light was from the far window, I looked good in the mirror, all things considered. I tucked the shirt into my jeans, which I pulled up over the best part of the muffin. But I don’t have the core strength to maintain the posture necessary to pull off fitted cotton tops, so I buttoned over it a long-sleeved yellow shirt flecked with tiny blue flowers. And over that: A faded, dark blue cardigan.

I wasn’t trying to hide. I just like blue.

And green.

And sometimes orange and purple, but rarely to wear.

Dressed, I went back into my living room (a converted bedroom at my parents’ house). It was 8 am. I’d been up since 7:20. Getting dressed was my only planned activity for the day. Well, besides showering. I showered. I didn’t brush my teeth, though. I’m almost out of toothpaste and when I tried using a Target gift card on my smart phone the other day to buy more, the app wouldn’t load, so I left without buying anything.

It’s 9:27 pm. I can’t go to bed yet or I’ll wake up even earlier tomorrow than I did today, and tomorrow has even fewer plans.

Coffee break at 30′

I “work” with my dad during the day. I help him write reports for his business. I make calls. I fill out paperwork. I create systems. I connect with people. We finished a job last week. Early mornings and a world still covered with frost. We watched our breath and worked with pressure washers and Hudson sprayers and ladders and boom lifts. We had coffee breaks. We warmed caulk inside our coats. One time, we spit. But it was just for show because mom had come to visit with leftover pumpkin bars she made for the school where she is a learning facilitator.

And now that job is over, and there is nothing new on its way in. Emails have been sent, past connections connectedly connected, but nothing has turned into anything yet, so I make plans like “Get up. Get dressed. Set new Zuma Blitz high score.”

It’s nice, “working” like this with my dad. But it doesn’t pay. By which I mean: At all. It’s such a long story, and it involves The Economy, so I won’t get into it. All I know is: I live rent free, direction free, goal free, income free. I float.

I am a fish, so I guess this is normal.

Except for the getting dressed part.

And maybe the tooth brushing.

Mom just came in for a visit. We’re driving to grandma’s tomorrow. No rivers. No woods. I’m making a tuna casserole. It’s my only casserole.

[[Paragraph redacted, because anonymity rarely lasts.]]

We will listen to music and talk and laugh and love each other. This is the day the Lord has made. The day [[when redacted happens]] will be His day, too.

Float float float.

I ask God for wisdom. Every time I talk with Him, it comes up. I’ve soured myself for discipline, though, so I have a hard time sitting down and focusing on the 1,383 pages of chain referenced wisdom on my nightstand.

Joyce Meyer just tweeted “One of the best gifts we can give ourselves is time alone with God.”

So. God. This is not our call. This is not our timing. So.

“But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (Is. 52: 12)

I read that tonight. Am I allowed to apply it here? Does that work? He is in this place, and He is in the place where we will go. Wherever that will be. Reading that- it’s like honey filling in every pore in my toast.

Last night I read this:

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord who has compassion on you.” (Is. 54:10)

Honey filling every pore and dripping over the edges, running over my fingers so no matter what I do I cannot keep it from spreading everywhere, touching everything. This truth is sweet. This Lord has compassion on me. Though the economy be shaken and the house removed, His unfailing love for me will not be shaken nor his covenant of peace be removed.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55: 8-9)

Yesterday Joyce tweeted “As believers, we are supposed to believe. Otherwise we’d be called achievers. We must first learn how to “be” instead of “do.”

I believe. Because I want to. And because I just do. And because even when I have doubts I find it is still God I am telling them to.

“But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Is. 57:13b)

God: You are great. You are enormous and great and wise. You created. You create. You are compassionate and just. I love you. Do you love me? (Circle one: Yes | No) Will you be my refuge? You have guided me to your Word. Will you hold me in it and teach me through it and use it to show me how to believe anew every day, and how to love you more, and how to love others more? Even when they are a bit awful?

I’ve stayed up long enough. I can sleep now, and get up at 7, and shower, and dress again because tomorrow my grandma will see that I’ve done so. I will brush my teeth. I will make a casserole. I will make it to Isaiah 60.

But I will not shave my legs, because that shit is just ridiculous.