In the dream I'm walking up the long road to the houses and buildings of Wimpstone Fields farm. This is in rural Warwickshire in England, and Wimpstone Fields was the next farm along from Sweet Knowle, the farm on which I grew up. Wimpstone Fields was a poultry farm, and Paul, the son of the family who ran the place, was my best friend at the infants and junior school in the village of Ilmington. We lived on neighbouring farms and we were roughly the same size, so that was that.
Paul now lives in Australia, and yet here I am in the dream walking up the road towards his house as I remember it. The large farm building at the end of the road has been converted into a Royal Mail sorting office, and that's where I'm heading, because that was my job for twenty-one years. It's been converted to a Royal Mail sorting office without utilising any of the actual features you might find in a Royal Mail sorting office - packet frames and so on - but none of us are worrying about this too much. We're just getting on with it, because it's a dream and is therefore under no obligation to make sense. I'm sorting letters inside a brick structure within the building, like a rectangular space with an opening for entrance and exit at opposite ends of the two longer walls which face each other. It's about the size of a lavatory or a large broom cupboard. Lee Cooper, my manager at Royal Mail, appears. He looks worried.
My most enduring memory from growing up on Sweet Knowle Farm is of the dark. We were miles from even the nearest small town, or anywhere with street lights. When I looked out of my bedroom window at night, if there was neither moon nor starlight, all I could ever see was black and then the near black of sky up above. Sometimes I saw that the lights were still on over at Wimpstone Fields across the shallow dip of hills dividing us, if it wasn't too late; and on such occasions it felt like Paul and myself might be the only two kids left in the universe.
Back in the dream. Lee looks worried, but then he always had that kind of face. He probably wasn't the greatest manager in real life, for the simple reason that he tended to empathise with those he managed and lacked the nastier, more ruthless qualities required by modern business practice. Some regarded him as a soft touch whilst others considered him ineffectual. Being as I was never that bothered about trying to wriggle out of anything I'd been asked to do, I never had a problem with the man. He was one of the few managers I wouldn't cross the road to avoid were I to see him now.
I do see him now and he looks worried, although as I say it's a dream. He seems to be apologising and I understand when Dora the Explorer enters the building. She must have come and asked if I was here, and Lee has brought her in to see me. Her name isn't really Dora the Explorer but I'm calling her that because there's a resemblance and it amuses me. Dora was my girlfriend for three unfortunate years. We broke up in 2009 because it was either that or top myself, and I know this because I know that I'm dreaming. Dora the Explorer turning up at a Royal Mail sorting office on Wimpstone Fields farm makes no sense otherwise.
She has somehow found a way to print out the entire run of my bank statements for the duration of our relationship, and she is showing them to me with her customary blend of righteous indignation and glee. She has found me out and it makes her so happy that she can barely contain herself, but she is also angry because of what she has found out and because she is always angry regardless of contributing factors.
What are you going to do about this, Lawrence?
She has added up the wages I made during those three years and decided that she was entitled to half of the sum, and now she would like to know what I've done with her money.
Luckily it is at this point that Enoch wakes me up. Enoch is our smallest and loudest cat. I usually put him outside at night, but it has been cold so I've let him stay in, hoping he will behave; but as usual he's taken to walking around the house meowing his head off at four in the morning. It sounds like somebody playing jazz trumpet, so I have to get up and put him outside. As I do so, I roll the dream over and over in my thoughts, hoping to remember the details.
I don't know why I still get these dreams, specifically subconscious episodes in which Dora the Explorer remains very much the passive-aggressive predatory presence she was in daily life. I suspect she might even be pleased to know that her image continues to inspire discomfort, to belittle and hector in my thoughts without any active effort on her part. She didn't really do active effort as such. The eternal failure of everyone else in the entire universe was really more her thing.
The last time I heard from her was Wednesday the 10th of June, 2009, a text message reading don't bother about yr stuff in attic, I'll ask someone else 2 help. I won't contact u 4 6 months.
When I moved out of her place the previous December, I had left some of my belongings in the attic because I was keen to be gone as soon as possible, it wasn't stuff I needed, and I was past caring. Specifically it was a small wooden rack I had made to hold compact discs - about four foot in length by eight or so inches high, a cassette deck which no longer worked and I had been carting around with me for a couple of years for no good reason, and maybe a carrier bag of old newspapers. Together, these didn't take up a great deal of room in Dora's attic, besides which, she never went up there due to being too short to make the ascent from the uppermost step of the stepladder. I couldn't even work out how she had realised that I'd left these few things behind. Maybe someone had given her a periscope.
Anyway, when she discovered this latest crime against her person, she phoned to tell me that the presence of a knackered tape deck in the attic was destroying her life, and what was I going to do about it, and why oh why oh why did she always have to do everything herself? She had never quite grasped just how counterproductive it can be to treat someone like a cunt as you attempt to enlist their assistance, but happily I was no longer obliged to deal with her bullshit. I told her that I didn't know, and that I didn't really care, and I suggested that maybe it would be an idea if we had no contact with each other for a while. The six months passed without yielding any reason why either of us should speak to each other ever again, and so we didn't.
In June 2015 I was back in England, stood outside the Plough in East Dulwich waiting for my friend Pete, when I saw a small, angry looking figure heading towards me along Eynella Road. It was Dora the Explorer and I experienced genuine terror, a queasy feeling deep in my gut; but luckily she either hadn't seen me, or had seen me and was pretending that she hadn't. I ran into the pub and peered out, waiting for her to pass, as she did. I was still shaking a little when my friend Pete arrived at the agreed time.
These days, whilst my life may not be perfect, I have no cause for complaint and there is much which makes me happy. I sometimes wonder over the meaning of these not-infrequent nocturnal visits from the Ghost of Christmas Which Would Have Been Much Better If You Hadn't Ruined Everything and Why Do I Have to Do Everything Myself? She might be an expression of my subconscious reminding me that those who attribute all the evils of the world to a former, now shunned partner tend to be arseholes who might be well-advised to take a look at their own lives; although if this is the case, my subconscious clearly doesn't know what it's talking about, and the existence of arseholes who might be well-advised to take a look at their own lives does not preclude the possibility of Dora the Explorer having been a genuine sociopath. She herself might suggest it is my conscience kicking me in the shins for the burden of guilt of the three years I spent letting her down, ruining her life, and failing to obey orders; but to suggest that, she would have to hear about it in the first place, which isn't going to happen.
Sometimes I compose an imaginary postcard, something I will send from Texas bearing a US stamp.
I've been happily married for five years now, and I'm not sure my wife and I have had anything you'd really call an argument in all that time, so I guess it really was you after all. Isn't it fucking funny how things work out?
Of course, I don't do it and I never will, because whilst the thought may be a lot of fun, it won't benefit anyone in the real world and nothing will be learned. I've exorcised the pain, and have now written up almost every significant or otherwise memorable incident of those three years so that I can at least take pleasure from reading it back as farce. There's nothing left to write and yet still I have the dreams from time to time, although it's probably no coincidence that this is also how Cthulhu communicates his will to minions and victims alike.
The point is, I suppose, the contrast, or at least that's what I take from it. The point is that I survived, and that some days I just can't believe how fucking fantastic it feels to be able to say that; so thank you, Dora the Explorer.
Thank you for showing me just how bad it could have been.
After I've put Enoch outside I go back to bed, but I doze rather than sleep. I get up to feed the cats at a quarter to seven. The sun is rising over Fort Sam, or whatever there is to be found at the back of the houses opposite. The sky is crimson and there's a light frost on the front lawn. It will be another good day, if that doesn't sound too sappy.