(…) in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea journey on the highway across America in tears to the door of my cottage in the Western night.
Allen Ginsberg, “Howl” (1955)
Wind, there was wind everywhere, going through everything and bedding everywhere it wanted to, a hot day it was. And the wind also danced the way it wanted to – taking Dean’s hair up and down, here and there, back and over his face, covering his sunglasses – but what mattered was America, his beloved America and the fact that She had never belonged to anyone more than to him at that very moment, with that wind, that desire, that u n b e l i e v a b l e desire to live, to finally live and live and absorb this wind, exactly this wind and this air, straight from the road. He was going where the Road was leading him, where it wanted to lead him, so that it could finally seduce him because what is life if not seduction, if not love, no matter where it goes, where it can take you, where it eventually takes you.
Dean was leaving, but he had no idea what the thing was that he had left behind. And it was a light, ethereal creature that he resembled; a creature that was close to mixing with the wind, almost being carried by it. He was thinking about Ginsberg and he felt a heavy load on his back; the load of his backpack, of his dreams, his wishes. He was thinking about Ginsberg when he was coming back in the morning after a long and exhausting trip into his memories. He was coming from it and going back there, expecting some birds to chirp cheerfully in the morning. He was thinking about Ginsberg and dreaming about a bed; about any bed that would give him some relief and would heal his back and his unnerved soul. He was thinking about Ginsberg because there was nothing like thinking about him when wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt and an old cowboy hat stolen from some gas station in the middle of nowhere.
And Dean’s mind was also in the middle of nowhere right now. He stopped his beloved car, Wildcat, but he started to think. His thoughts were the only thing that kept him alive and led straight to death at the same time; to death – or at least to great danger. He started to think and he started to wander – for he could not stay in one place for a longer time. Never resting, never letting it go – this is how he was. He longed to tell somebody of his dreams. But he also knew that under no circumstances should some things be discussed. Like dreams of that kind. Dreams that made him run. Leave everything he knew for sure and start chasing the Uncertain.
Dreams that after disappearing – never come back and can never be caught again. Oh, how lovely is this smile which one can have when being caught daydreaming about one’s own dreams and then nibbling one’s lips, blushing, hoping that the sweetest secret from the previous night would stay safe in the place where it had been hidden: dreams, thoughts, sounds, feelings and scents, having merged with an inaccessible reality of a dream.
And then one opens up one’s eyes and is the same person once again. A person that one knows perfectly; or a person one never used to be. Or was from time to time. In dreams like these the place one is dreaming about is always real. And there is this strange feeling that this place which should never have been abandoned – was abandoned. It did not have to be asked for – but this different world visited was the only one that could become home.
“People should not talk about dreams”, Dean thought. Nobody should label themselves as a criminal having committed a crime by violating sacred magic. A criminal that lost this extraordinary feeling of satisfaction – so strong in the first few seconds after coming back.
Dean knew that there were dreams that should not be spoken of.
“The colors of the summer afternoon gain shapes and tastes and you can touch them and feel them,” he used to say. He understood that nobody, except him, could understand that.
And one ought not to talk about dreams in which the pace of pictures in front of one’s eyes is the same as the pace of the sunbeams dancing in long fair hair. Willow’s hair. One ought not to talk about dreams where the first touch of a hand is the greatest prize to imagine. It is a sacrament, meditation, fulfillment, which finds meaning and ultimate truth.
To Dean – Willow’s kisses and smiles were not only a question but an answer as well. That was why he wanted to find her. He wanted to find uncertainty and confirmation at the same time. Shyness and desire. The moment when male and female particles join two separate sources of energy together – co-existing but unable to meet each other. The ones that, having everything, want everything twice more. That was what he considered love.
Dean tried to live without his dreams but he never really wanted to exist without them. In real life he was afraid of making decisions and in those night journeys of his mind he knew no fear of anything.
“Dude, it’s love, it’s the energy,” he used to hear. Jim, his companion, always knew what to say after having visited his personal extra-terrestrial world. But then his friend would add: “You don’t have to come back if you don’t want to, man.”
But it wasn’t possible to come back anyway. These kinds of trips weren’t Dean’s issue. Jim was able to tune in and drop out when it came to experiencing things with a little help of drug-friends but he had no idea what Dean had to deal with. He couldn’t take another pill. Not only because he was more of a herbal man, but also because these dreams were the only thing that he knew could never be controlled by anything. They were the ones that controlled him and his miserable life.
“What would your dreams be like if you were able to make decisions about them, huh? If you could dream them freely?” Jim often asked. “Would you even be close to directing them in such an intense way?”
“No,” said Dean. “I would never manage to hear her laugh. There would be no dreams in which I would believe in her existence so strongly. There would be no dreams where ‘it’ is wonderful and there’s just ‘it’ and nothing more.”
“And I only need your eyes to survive,” he thought that moment, standing by his Wildcat and wild was he, hoping that his mission would ever succeed.
He perfectly remembered the moment when he started missing Willow. Flower-children, this is what they were called. They had no names. They were nobody. They were everyone. And for him, she was Willow. Her long hair like leaves near water. He started missing her when the only thing that he could hear on that warm night in Frisco was screaming. One belonged to little Allan, whining and disturbing his exhausted parents, and the other one – to Steve, who hadn’t spent a single night sleeping since he came back. Steve, who was so bothered with his nightmares that he constantly woke up in the middle of the night – screaming and begging somebody ‘to stop’. But nothing could heal his ‘million-dollar’ wounds. Post-Traumatic Syndrome. This is what they started calling it.
Dean shared his neighbor’s feelings. He was angry at him since he did not let him sleep but he wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. Some parts of their souls were stolen. Some evil guy inside was in charge of their lives right then. It was him who decided what their days and nights could look like. Both Steve and Dean needed somebody to watch over them; somebody to protect and guard them. Because the guy inside wanted to fight. And god, he was stronger. That was why Dean had let her go before. None of them were in one piece that warm Frisco night.
Willow would ignore the screaming. She would watch Dean sleep and, if he woke up, she would hug him and say ”that’s OK, baby, that’s OK.” And she would be there for him and his anxiety. She would find a cure, as always. For she had a cure for each poor soul of their community of social wrecks trying to create a perfect world in the Haight-Ashbury district. And then, one day, she left. And Dean let her do that. For him there was still hope to live his dreams.
He had to convince himself that it was the right thing to do. He had spent a great amount of time thinking about it before he finally left everything behind and set off on a journey that undoubtedly was the most significant moment of his life. But he had had thousands of doubts before and that was why he provided himself a reason to choose life on the road again. He had had everything and he lost everything. He had been afraid of everything and now this ‘everything’ made him even more insecure.
“We’re wild, man. And wild are our days. Why change anything? Don’t sweat it.” Jim kept saying. And Dean listened to him. He was a man of his name indeed. A soul-mate of James Dean. He was exactly like him. Always alone. Always surrounded by women wanting to touch his wavy, messy hair living its own life; and women wanting to make love to him looking at his rascal smile. And he made love to women. He always rocked out with Jim. Mr. Tambourine Man played his songs to them. And for a short moment, before Dean’s life went to his kind of normal, he had been different. She was different. And before he started dreaming about her – Willow had been real as hell.
“Don’t know why nobody ever wants me,” she once said. “I don’t even remember anybody holding my hand for a sec.”
And then they danced together, holding hands and heading to the railway station from where they had planned to take a train to Wherever. In their lives and their hometown everything was about trains. Without trains that place wouldn’t exist. Without trains they wouldn’t exist. That lovely narrow path between the forest and the railroad would never see so much hidden love, would never inhale so much smoke, would never absorb so much beer and would never listen to so many depressing poems. And they were holding hands that day.
“You can just lie and think that you’re not strong enough to make tea, you know,” Willow said. “But that’s not the point. The world doesn’t care if you get up eventually and pour this damn hot water into your cup or straight onto your face so that you can be a talk-show star and tell people how you survived a terrible accident. Do any of the things I do have any meaning? Huh?”
They were discussing if life had any meaning or not. For her, in spite of having better and worse days – life was just a pointless search for things to fill this emotional void between birth and death. After having given her tea speech, Willow expected Dean to share her opinion. But she was wrong.
“Of course life has meaning!” he exclaimed, smiling, when they were continuing their conversation, swimming through the streets deserted at night; the streets that never wake up. “I will show you something when we get onto the train.”
She reacted too cheerfully and seemed too excited, but he, as if he was reading her nasty and flirty mind, said: “Not that. But I can show it to you as well if you want me to.”
But he didn’t. Instead of that, Dean showed Willow a completely different path. All of them always took them to the railroad anyway, especially in that lonely little town. He told her that, for him, most people were like onions. Because onions were like the human mentality – lacking quality in so many layers – and, what is more – they always made somebody cry.
“The worst thing is,” she said, “that we are the core of this fuckin’ onion. Somebody planted us in this Onionland and expected us to bring some salvation there.”
They didn’t Both of them were writer wannabes; cultivating the Beat Generation traditions of alcohol and perdition. But only one of them believed that life had meaning. Maybe it had but who cared about that when she had a headache thinking about the past, the present and the future? They entered the train.
And now, getting into his Wildcat again, Dean was wondering if she was ok at that moment. After she had left Frisco and him and he understood what it meant to him, he just looked at his reflection in the mirror. A blond-haired fan of long trips and green fairies. Somebody who decided to drop out completely. ‘Cause there was nothing for him. And nobody. How was it possible that he could think that someone like him could live a different life? Life without anxiety. Life without that terrible inner and personal loneliness that was his only companion? So he had let her go before he understood how much he loved her although she had never belonged to him. And his own world embraced him once again and wanted to keep him forever. It kept his soul. It kept his mind. It kept his dreams.
For those dreams were the only things he could ever possess. And he was so good at dreaming. They started calling Dean ‘the Wildcat’ after he purchased that groovy dark red machine from a guy that wanted to get rid of his belongings and explore the life of an ascetic. He was perfectly unhappy driving it. Perfectly alone. Perfectly stoned. Without any danger of somebody wanting to change that. Not that Willow wanted to do it from the beginning. They lived together for some time, as many youngsters did. But she left.
“I want a normal life,” she said Those were her last words.
And then he knew that she had changed everything. Willow was Change. Being with her meant things would be different.
Dean kept asking himself how he could be ‘good’. It was not him. It was not his life. His life was about being free. And by being with her he would destroy himself more than he had used to destroy himself before. But that night in Frisco when he woke up and could hear that scream… He started being scared to death. There was nobody for him. Nobody to share his fears with. Nobody to take care of and pretend that it was not him who was afraid of something. And finally – there was nobody to answer his questions.
“It was your damn choice”, said J. It was a starless night, a drunk night, a night on the roof. Jim looked as if he had a moment of actually being conscious. “You wanted to live but you look like the living dead, my friend.
“I wanted to be as perennial as grass but I only made myself more like a square recalling his best moments instead of living them.”
“Tell me about that dream of yours. I heard you talk in your sleep.”
“Can’t do that, man. You won’t get it.”
He wouldn’t. His pupils were as big as the moon. And it was the moon that told Dean to leave San Francisco. Escape. It was the thing that he was the greatest at. He and his Wildcat became one.
And there he was now – smoking a joint and thinking about those dreams that should be chased but never talked about. He was lost and he had been lost when he had made the decision to be safe and sound. To have nothing but the air. Not to have bread but his very freedom instead of it. As many similar to him – Dean just wanted to live. That was why he had gone to Frisco at first and asked Willow to come with him. And now he was coming back to what he had left a long time before when becoming the free spirit. It only took some time to realize that Willow was Life.
When he finally got to their hometown he took a glance at that good old path, and heart-warming but still painful memories started returning to him.
He was thinking about Ginsberg. For he was his only companion on the road to the Unknown. He was thinking about Ginsberg. For his words sounded in Dean’s head and warmed up his frozen hands as he climbed the stairs to Willow’s. He was thinking about Ginsberg. And Ginsberg’s words were the only thing that came to his mind when she opened the door.
“I cut my wrists successively unsuccessfully,” he said, not letting her ask what he was doing there. “I give up and I’m forced to open an antique store where I think I’m going to grow old.”
She was thinking about Ginsberg. For she knew his words were sacred to Dean. She was thinking about Ginsberg, as she looked into Dean’s eyes. There was no moon in his pupils, but was he a different man now?