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Green Apples Will Explode

Dreams, machines, plans.

I had a dream last night that you wouldn't—but dreams are boring. Other people want to tell you about their dreams and it wears you out. It's even worse over the phone. Unless you're in the dream, then suddenly it's Jungville. They say: “You were covered in ice cream and crying.” You sit there wondering why you would be covered in ice cream. If it was vanilla or chocolate. Either way, not good.

Normally sleep is an empty interruption and I don't remember my dreams. But I am working on a website right now. It is comprised of 1,200,000 different things: files, images, literals, bnodes, URIs. The mind can hold seven things at once, cognitive scientists say. (I think it's the human mind. It might be birds'.) So I am 171,428 times out of my depth. I eat ice cream sandwiches and shuffle symbols as blue screen-light enters my half-asleep mouth, and I am lost in the city of files, images, literals, bnodes, and URIs. My gut pokes over my belt, my night brain looks for a map.

Not last night, but often, I dream in Java code. Colored words, dancing graphs with arrows. I've read that the main character in a dream is always oneself; therefore I am

Dreamer paul = new (Dreamer)Person();
—maybe I should use a factory class? I quit the program and wake up with a shock as the bordered window evaporates.

Other than what to do with the 1.2 million abstract things, the other question is: what have I learned in the last 10 years? I've been asked back to my college to participate in a workshop about fiction and give a reading. Glorious ego-gratification! At first.

But now I wonder: when I get out of the rental car and step back on the March grass of the Alma Mothership, what can I teach? I am there not to serve my ego but the desires of the students. My novel is a common story plainly told about a not-quite-yet-a-man 22-year-old who has to learn that indie rock fantasies are not reality. It is my first child and I raised it as best I could but what did I know? I was so young; we were so poor; there was so much mercury in the tuna. My next novel is shaping itself into a monstrosity, a collection of interlocking stories at war with one another—as complicated underneath as the website and even less realized. I don't want to give the students advice I don't actually have. What I have is my motto: “Stumble Wisely.”

What have I learned in the last 10 years? A partial list: My family is normal. Everyone toadies, and remorseless fuckers prosper. The minute anyone tells you that they want to create their own Algonquin Round Table, but with bloggers, run. Run. Also, if you can spend any time napping in a field on a summer day when you are younger—do so. That can be the place you visit in your mind when you're standing on a crowded subway, stooped with back pain, sweating like your pores are water-piks, while a beggar in stained and drooping sweatpants yells in your ear.

And so what? None of those lessons are original; they're the sort of thing that anyone picks up when they rent their place in time. I'll tell you instead, even if it is boring, what I learned from last night's dream: Roseanne Barr has a very large apartment in Las Vegas—a place big enough for police to play soccer across its carpet. When you leave Las Vegas you enter Yemen. And green—not red, but green—apples will explode.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

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