The New Yinzer is a Magazine.
{ Diner }
Daniel Guzman Negron
photo by Lucy Kopp

coffee und pieAuthor's note: Nestor Ibarra was a respected professor at the Borges Institute for the Study of Lucid Dream Semiotics in Buenos Aires, Argentina. From 1981 until his death this past year, Professor Ibarra wrote many journals concerning the effects of dream cycles and the influences of the subconscious element. In his greatest works, Three Days in the Soul: Man and the Dreamscape (1987) and The Red-Eye Secret: God, Extraterrestrials, and the Sleep Machine (1992), Ibarra posed the concept that each individual passes through a series of alternate worlds manifested by the mind's "wish fulfillment machine" as they simultaneously exist in the real world shared by all. He credited insomnia to be the place in which both worlds co-existed and spent many years regulating his sleep cycle to further understand the phenomenon. He died earlier this year of complications of the brain. Ibarra was a good friend of my family's for several years, and many of his unpublished journals were kept in our basement for safekeeping. The following is taken from the incomplete notes for a collection of studies he held with a group of his best students, "The Brilliant Madmen", early in 2001; it was to be titled Diner: Lucid Underground Reports. I have taken the notes of one of his early interviews and reinterpreted it into this story.

When one does not sleep for several days, the sensation is not unlike living in a waking dream. The two concepts are actually very similar. A thin membrane separates the real world and the dream world, enabling travel between the two, and soon even that dissolves away. When this happens, the travelers remind themselves of certain lyrics, smells, and images that can act as a guide to bring them back home. On occasion, this manifestation of familiar things brings a traveler into what has been called "pocket realms", worlds that hold fragments of memory, like a photograph. The strange inhabitants of these realms allow the traveler to alter them into characters, as well as alter the traveler. The complete nature of these realms are unknown, save that perhaps they are worlds created inside the the travelers' own subconscious mind. This abduction phenomenon has been documented for several years, although it has been accredited to many different agents. I will now share with you one such curious phenomenon.
   On October 14, 2000, Louis Costro suffered from a rare slippage into the strange realms that exist between the real world and the dream world. In this instance, he recited a stream of lyrics into the void that acted as his metaphysical marker should he ever find his way back home. He continued his recitations even after losing sight of where he was coming from and who he was. After all, it was all that he could do to remind himself of his own existence.

Louis tried to listen to what Brian was telling him across the table, but he was more focused on the napkin that he was tearing with his fingers. He couldn't remember what he said to Brian, whether he agreed or not. He looked at the selections on the music box by his table, wondered if the Roy Orbison song he selected was ever going to play. The kids in the other booth were monopolizing the time with their modern pop ballads. The waitress, a heavyset woman in her mid-40s, walked over to the kids' table, poured them each another cup of coffee, and walked away. Louis observed all this and occasionally nodded his head to keep Brian from suspecting that he was little more than a character in his dream world.
   Louis wanted to care about where he was, what was so important about being here now, with this music playing and this friend talking, but he couldn't focus on anything for too long. He tried to separate the lyrics of the pop song that played but it was all too simple for him to understand. His mind shifted from thought to thought like the unraveling of a thread. He looked at the label on the ketchup bottle and wondered if he had become too silent for Brian's liking. He nodded once more just to show he was listening.
   The waitress came by their table and filled Louis' cup without asking. He took a sip and the caffeine hit him hard enough to pull him out of his thoughts. He lit up a cigarette to keep the buzz going. He forgot for a moment the nature of this diner, its placement in his memories. He knew he had had this conversation before.
   Brian pulled out a cigarette in response to Louis. The waitress poured coffee into his cup. She asked if they were ready to order. Her hair was blue. Her face shifted from the waitress to that of Louis' mother. She winked, and her face became that of a strange creature that does not bear describing in this passage for sake of brevity. Louis averted his eyes to keep from getting lost in thought again. It was all that he could do to keep the waitress from disappearing. She smiled warmly at him.
   What Louis and Brian ordered is of no importance save that in secret, Louis felt a sense of triumph in having beaten Brian in ordering their meals.
   The creature/waitress smiled a thousand teeth and disappeared into the edges of the diner. Louis' eyes fell down to the strips of napkin scattered on his side of the booth. Brian kept his area neat, his hands well within his borders, with the occasional finger pointing to invade the imaginary line.
   The suspicion was prevalent that this was a thread of a previous conversation Louis had shared with Brian at an earlier engagement at the same diner. Brian was a persistent element in LouisÕ dreams, although there was no clear indication whether this was the true Brian sharing in Louis' knowledge of the place between worlds or merely a strange being of the realm made to look like him. If Brian had any knowledge, the simplicity of his dialogue did not reveal it. The sense that the situation was very real and dangerous was unsettling. He could not remember anything outside of the diner.
   "Trust me," Brian said, his finger jutting at Louis. "This story is going to be great."
   "It's a good idea," Louis said.
   "Good? No, it's gonna' be great," Brian said. "Think of it, man. Two guys and a girl in the woods. They're on acid. They're driving around, and they come across this body. Who killed the guy?" He swept his hands in a grand gesture, and Louis was brought back to him. "They start seeing flashes of the killer, but they don't know if it's real or if they're just tripping. I'm telling you, we got something."
   Roger joined them. He was late getting in because of the woman he was with. Her name was Joy. Whether this was her real name or merely an adjective Louis placed on her will never be determined. Louis never liked Joy; she was too bubbly and always interrupted with the wrong thing to say. He didn't think she cared enough to contribute anything but what she felt was important. Because of a long-time friendship with Roger, he accepted her at the table.
   Louis heard a new song come on the music box, and it was not Roy Orbison. He looked over at the other booth and noticed a girl sitting with a guy. He noticed that the girlÕs skin was pale, almost like milk. Her boyfriend was playing with her long red hair. Could they sense the dream world breaking through like he did? He was getting bored with Brian. This other life was more interesting, these characters sitting and breathing in the booth next to his, with their music and cigarettes and belief in a simple, true love. He felt like he could reach into their thoughts, with his mind teetering perfectly between his two worlds, give them a phrase that would link them together.
   "Talking about your movie, Brian?" Roger asked. "That's all you talk about."
   "You should get on board with us, man, it's gonna' be good," Brian said.
   "I never said I was on board yet," Louis said.
   Joy giggled. Louis really hated her.
   "I thought you said you were gonna be in on this," Brian said. "Don't flake out now. Are you in or what?"
   "I need some time to think. It seems like it's going to be a bigger deal than I thought, and I've already been stretching myself to finish my projects before the break next week," Louis said. He focused his eyes on the torn napkin. Louis reminded himself not to look in Brian's eyes.
   "That's perfect, don't you see? You finish this work, and we'll spend the break writing up the script. You do the dialogue, I'll do the plot," Brian said. "Just like old times. I'll buy the drinks."
   "Joy laughed. "You're always so bossy," she said to Brian. "Why don't you let someone else run the show for a while?"
   The arguments that began at this point escalated quickly and decidedly when Joy stood up from the table, slapped Louis for an off-color remark he said, and ran to the bathroom, crying. Roger dismissed himself from the table and disappeared from Louis' thoughts. Brian sat and smoked a cigarette. Louis noticed the red-haired girl at the other table. She was watching him.
   The music switched to the Roy Orbison track that he had been waiting for, and the mood of the diner changed. Louis talked pleasantly with Brian, as it was a repetition of their conversation before the arrival of Joy and Roger. The waitress appeared again to pour more coffee into their cups; only she maintained her original shape this time.
   And then he heard it. The lyrics came through to him from out of the air of this realm:

Yeah Yeah
We are the living Madmen
Oh say, oh say
Can we see what changes are in store
Can we see what the future holds
Look into my crystal ball
My mind's eye
We are Brilliant Madmen

   The words were coming out of the redheaded girl's mouth. She stood up on her seat and sang them to Louis. She sang it tenderly, like a love song. The girl's boyfriend sat and stared, as did Brian and the waitress. No one spoke.
   Louis recognized this to be his mantra, the one he used when traveling between worlds. He knew he was dreaming, he knew that this was an imaginary place. However, he couldn't understand the importance of the girl in his dreams. He continued his conversation with Brian while he quietly considered all the possibilities that the girl's appearance had. At last, he could not wait any longer and he stood up from the table and approached the girl. It was there that he realized the girl was he, and that he was not a Louis at all, rather a Louise. She was a traveler between worlds, and she had dreamt the conversation from a fantasy she once held for an old acquaintance named Brian. As Louis approached Louise, he realized that he was not the creator of this world; rather he was merely a character, like the others, in the mind of the redheaded dreamer.

On October 14, 2000, Louise Costro woke up from her phenomenon and went to her dream journal to record this strange event. Later that evening, she would call me to have this event analyzed. Her proof? Simply put, although she was in fact Louise, one of my finest female students, from that day forward she remained in the body of her dream self; that is, she remained in the body of her male counterpart, Louis. A gift from the strangers of the pocket realm for insulting the dream-stranger Joy, and a most curious phenomenon, indeed.

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