Van dreaming

My apartment is a mess of things on the floor and things on shelves and things on the walls. Too many things, really. The stains in the toilet would gross you out, but that's OK — you're not invited and I don't mind the stains. I'm a slob, but if I spent a few days (I'll never spend) cleaning it up, you'd say this is an ordinary apartment, same as you'd find anywhere in the modern world.

And I like it. I'm comfortable here, and expect to live here until I die. Then you're invited. Then all my family are invited like they never were when I was alive, and my few friends are invited too, but most likely it'll be a crew hired by the landlord to go through the 100,000 things I've accumulated, to trash most of it, sell what little has value, and scrub the place clean for the next tenants.

Last night, I dreamed of a different life from a long time ago. It was a new and improved long ago, because I'd rented a garage to park the van I was living in. Hell, it's a dream, so let's say I owned the garage. A nice place, designed exactly the way I'd want it — all the modern conveniences, but nothing extravagant.

The dream had no plot and nothing interesting happened, but it was sweet. I parked my van in the garage, and it was the same van I'd owned and lived in during the 1980s — black, my futon in the back, with the windows covered for privacy. In real life, I eventually sold that van and moved into a bum hotel in San Francisco, and I've never regretted that step up in life. Still dream about living in the van, though, and in this case, it's literally a dream.

I shut the engine off, step out of the vehicle, and close the door. On a shelf just two footsteps from the van, I check my answering machine, which says there are three messages, so I delete them. Then I push a button to close the garage door, now that the exhaust fumes have drifted away. With that I have absolute privacy, unless the phone rings, so I doublecheck — yes, the ringer is set to mute.

On the wall of the garage, beside the driver's side of the vehicle, is my kitchenette — fridge, sink, toaster oven, and two hotplates on the counter. I make two ham sandwiches, right there in the garage, and let me tell you, I make the best ham sandwich in my dreams. I take a diet soda from the fridge, and walk to the front of the van.

Up there, against the wall by the bumper, is a small window with a view of nothing in particular, but it's a lovely view. It's snowing, under a streetlight, so even in the dark of night I see the flakes floating down. It's cold outside, but not here in my lovely and well-heated garage. Always a perfect 77° Fahrenheit.

Beside the window is my recliner and desk. On the desk are my books, my computer, my sleeping cat, and my plate from that morning's breakfast. The plate is unbreakable, so I toss it across the room and into the sink, where I'll wash it sometime next week.

I sit in the recliner, my natural position in my natural habitat. It isn't one of those huge puffy over-upholstered things, just an ordinary comfortable chair that tilts back. After years living in that chair, though, it's perfectly contoured to my body flab.

Keyboard on my knees, big screen on the desk in front of me, I eat my sammiches and surf the web, and glance out the window once in a while. It's still snowing, and still beautiful. Sandwiches devoured, I put the plate on the desk to be tossed tomorrow, and the cat settles onto my lap.

This is Doug Holland Central, baby. Heart of the beast. This is where the magic happens, and by magic I mean nothing at all.

I take a piss and a shower in the bathroom, which isn't a room at all; it's also there in the garage — sink and toilet and etc, and a washer/dryer, all arranged in a line along the wall, beside the passenger side of the vehicle. Even in this dream of paradise, though, I have a home improvement plan; I want to add a second fridge on this side of the garage, so I can easily make another sandwich if I want a snack while I'm on the toilet.

After showering, I return to my recliner in front of the van's hood, read a chapter of a book and pet the cat, then tilt the recliner all the way back and fall asleep — in my dream. Later I wake up in my real-world recliner, here in the messy apartment where the story began, just a little bit sad that the garage was a dream.

When I actually lived in my van, it wasn't anything so idyllic as the dream. I never found that perfect parking spot, with a kitchen and shower. There were ample inconveniences, the lack of privacy was an annoyance, and there were too many unwanted conversations with inquisitive cops.

All things considered, four walls beats four wheels, but I'm glad I had my time in the van. I'd do van-living better if I could do it again, but at my age I can't do it again. I'm too lazy, and too comfortable with my recliner right where it is. But an old geezer can dream, apparently.



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