I know why the caged bird dreams
When Benjamin Zephaniah was in prison, he escaped from his imprisonment only in his dreams. I remember him saying so, on a television programme: only when he slept, only when he was alone save for the contents of his head, did he feel free, because his jailers could not get him there. Those dreams were liberation: but for me, my jailers are my dreams. I cannot get away from them. My dreams - my dream, perhaps, because though it is different every time, the person about whom I dream remains the same.
It has been the same, for years.When I am stressed, or insecure, or frightened, I have that dream several times a week. When I am calm, at ease, secure, I may go several weeks before the dream returns: I can even judge my mood by the presence or the absence of the dream. Night before last, I dreamed. I wasn't in my usual bed, my flat, my home: the incompetence of roofers and the accident of rain has left the ceiling full of water and the air weighed down with damp. My home is temporarily in pieces and my head, presumably, the same. I know this because, last night, I dreamed.
I know who I dream about. I always know her name,though if, in the dream, I ever see her face, it is different every time and never really hers. But I know it is her, as, in a dream, one does. I know her: the dream consists of my trying to find her. Sometimes I never do. Sometimes I do, but then she goes away again. Sometimes, she stays with me for a while. But the dream is full of doom, the knowledge, from the start, that this is pointless. Pointless and inexplicable: unnecessary and unavoidable pain. The outcome is the same, the action similar: the location is always different. We are usually staying somewhere, or going round somewhere. I try to find her, or approach her, or talk to her. Sometimes she will talk and sometimes she will not. But everything begins and ends and takes unhappy place in an oppressive mood, sadness and disappointment. She will not talk, or talks and goes away. Three or four nights a week, when I am at my worst, I try to talk but then she goes away: and I have had this dream, recurrently, for half my adult life. For longer than the past ten years. It does not stop. It does not, in essence, change.
When I am asleep, I know her name. When I am awake, I cannot speak it, not directly. I cannot say her name. Something stops me from doing so. Some anger, some resentment, some inhibition deriving from the appalling fact that I cannot escape the dream. You cannot let go of what will not release you. Only prisoners, when they dream, are free. The rest of us are prisoners of our dreams.