Dressing-up, Tbilisi, South Africa

“What’s on your mind, Uphie?” Facebook prompts.

A lot, actually, quite a lot. Like the universe, the mind is filled with everything and nothing at the same time; importance is a spectrum that constantly fluctuates depends on the observer exactly as would a quantum particle.

In dreams, we play dress-up, we traverse numerous continents over land and seas, we time-travel. In reality, what stops us from doing so is society’s normative conventions, economics, adult responsibilities. There is freedom in dreams.

***

Last night, I wore a strawberry-milk t-shirt, calves-length red socks, a pair of black baggy parachute sports pants with elastic ankles, brown leather boots, while slinging on my shoulders a large, rectangular tote bag. The tote bag was a Michael Kors of mint-ice-cream color, crocodile skin motif, glossy veneer, gold zippers and chains. It was full to the brim with daily paraphernalia.

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Stepping out of my house, I entered the passenger seat of a blood red convertible, a classic Cadillac, with creme fraiche upholstery. My boss, a tall lady in sharp blazer and knee-length skirt and designer shades, her wavy brown hair slicked back into a stylish but professional tight ponytail, was driving.

She said, “We’re sending you to Tbilisi for work. Let me send an e-mail first, though.” As we stopped in an intersection, a handsome young diplomat passed by and mentioned “Karshinck”. My boss flicked open her clam-shell phone, asked me “how do you spell ‘Karshinck’?” and proceeded to write, apparently an officer in Georgia, the following:

“One of our staff will be traveling there. Could you please let us know the security situation there? How many violent counterattacks of demonstrations are expected?”

What was that all about?

And so, the streets morphed into downtown Tbilisi, which according to this dream’s version was tall buildings made of stone, many colorful doors and facades of Rothko red and aquamarine and tangerine, stylish cafe bearing resemblances with taverns from the medieval scattered throughout the small, cobblestone avenues.

As I stood amid all this, seemingly a square or an opening of sorts where those avenues meet, flickers of orange began to pepper the horizon. In broad daylight, bullets were exchanged, spewed forcefully by hundreds of assault rifles from the numerous windows of the stone buildings, right onto my direction and from all around. They were like twinkling stars too close for comfort, like train signals indicating the arrival of a runaway lorry. A tank of light green suddenly charged into the square like a hurt rhinoceros, soldiers bursting from inside it like angered wasps.

It was a moment of being utterly torn: does one stare in fascination of the flashing lights, seemingly in denial of its warning an impending bullet? Or does one duck down immediately and curl up in a ball, as one always does? Or, fatalistically speaking, is whichever option too late to take, anyway?

Like a mafia victim wearing cement shoes following a cleansing execution shot, the next second I found myself conscious was when swimming the open seas of Africa’s southern horn. Ghanaian pageant queens (didn’t know why particularly Ghana) dressed in stunning jumpsuits of bright tangerine with thin-strap golden belt, or black-and-white houndstooth, head wrapped in a slick regal headdress, walked by the piers and boardwalk lushly canopied by sugar palm. Meanwhile, in Windhoek, amicable village ladies swept and cleaned humble beachside resorts consisting of open bungalows whose wooden walls were made from ebony.

As I pulled ashore and walk through the streets, I was with a Chinese friend, short and quiet but fierce, her shoulder-length hair straight as a needle in a freestyle fringe. We were walking through the tree-canopied streets of Africa, not sure exactly at what city but perhaps South Africa. A beautiful young girl with auburn eyes, shoulder length and slightly curly brown hair, and skin complexion of blond latte, sat on the pavement under a royal poinciana tree selling newspaper. She was filling crosswords as her eyes caught mine.

Those eyes were sad, as if conveying golden opportunities that have slipped through her fingers throughout these years, but her unpainted lips broke into a smile — not a big one but as genuine as can be.

I and my friend spoke to more people, making acquaintances and learning more about their lives. My friend said, “let’s cut the fat: we need to look for more psychologists or entrepreneurs. Only those who are relevant.”

As I looked down on my feet, it turned out I was not able to walk. I was carting myself on a wheelchair, sometimes on all fours dragging my paralyzed lower half.

Finally, I entered a movie theater. It was expensive with adornment of quality hardwood, sometimes covered in paints of real golden enamel, with dramatic carvings of aesthetic elements, old Hollywood style with red velvet walls and carpet and upholstery. As we sit on a row of seats under a crystalline chandelier whose west side faces a majestic open window right above the screen (intended to capture the sunset strong beams into glorious refraction by the chandelier; thick curtains of red velvet would shield the theater from any sunlight during a movie’s play), smoke appears.

Smoke appears. Initially, just dry ice indicative of a dramatic beginning of operatic play. However, a loud thud was heard from above. We quickly realized, it was actually the explosion of a bomb. It was a somewhat full theater with limited exits, every surface of the room is covered with heat-trapping flammable material. The biggest voice that crossed my mind was: “how do we ensure that everyone here does not panic? What’s the best communication strategy to guarantee maximum transition of this flock into safety?”

***

In dreams, we play dress-up, we traverse numerous continents over land and seas, we time-travel. In reality, what stops us from doing so is society’s normative conventions, economics, adult responsibilities. Dreams, free of the confines of the realistic world, are defiance of time and space, a milieu of surreal episodes, a strong-stenched potpourri of astral tableaus.

If so, then why does freedom feel like imprisonment?

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One thought on “Dressing-up, Tbilisi, South Africa

  1. Oh Uphie… there is a book in these dreamscapes…. I could hardly get past how you were dressed… love..Timothy

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