Katrina Stonoff

Music and Dreams

I woke this morning from a super powerful dream. Like most of my dreams, it was a narrative––the boys in my basement love telling stories.

It was set in a dystopian future, where the government controlled every aspect of our lives, and everyone except the very highest elite lived a hard scrabble life. I had been married to a man I deeply loved, but he had disappeared, presumed dead.

Then I realized I was pregnant. A pregnant woman wasn’t safe alone in that society, so I married a good friend, a man who loved me as much as my first husband had. I couldn’t love him the same way––my heart still belonged to my baby’s father––but we had a solid marriage with respect and growing contentment.

Then my first husband returned. We were all honorable people, who wanted to hurt no one, but of course everyone was hurt.

The dream itself was quite short. In one scene, I was commuting to work when we realized the government had commandeered the bus and passengers. We didn’t know for sure, but they were probably taking us to a work camp. If I didn’t make it to work, I would lose my job, and we would starve. But I didn’t dare make a scene, or I would disappear. That scene didn’t resolve.

father and child playing in water scopio e4cee173 46a3 4c2c 8c31 62b56e280f1f

Father and child playing in water

The only other scene was watching my first husband, my deepest love, swim in a lake with our six-month-old son. So joyful. So full of love. So sweet. And sooo bitter. I woke feeling wrapped in love. Very sad, but so grateful.

I asked myself how the story would end if I were writing it. There’s no truly good ending, of course. But I had to end up with my first love. Somehow. I had to.

I realized I knew exactly how the story ended. I would have some kind of conflict with the government, and my husband––my second husband––would step in to protect me. Maybe that’s how the bus scene ends. He would be taken away. Later they would tell me he hung himself in prison, but I would never know what actually happened. So I would be free to return to my first love, but our marriage would always be overshadowed with grief and guilt.

I told Mars about the dream as he was stepping into the shower. When he got out, he told me Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” was playing in his head. “It’s the perfect soundtrack.”

He was right. But the story needs more than just the adagio. I asked Siri to play the music for me, and she chose this album, which includes several pieces by Barber. The first five told my story.

The allegro, the first movement of the violin concerto, captured the bittersweetness and growing contentment of my second marriage, which continued to grow through the first half of the second movement, the andante. In the second half, the andante rose to an uplifting joy that perfectly expressed the moment when I realized my love had returned, right before I remembered I was married to someone else.

The third movement was a presto con moto perpetuoso with lots of dissonance and rising tension. Perfect for the quandary and the bus scene. In the movie that plays in my head, this movement is split in two by the “Adagio for Strings,” which plays as I watch my beloveds get to know each other in the lake water. 

The second half of the presto plays as my second husband is taken away and when I learn he is dead.

The next song on the album is “Let Down the Bars, O Death”. It would play during the final scene, my husband’s funeral. At the end of the scene, my beloved and I would walk away together with our baby, not touching. Together, but never quite free of the stain.

I’m not sure there’s a lesson to learn here. No idea what message there might be for me, and I’m pretty sure this is a really self-indulgent blog entry. But I am endlessly fascinated by the narratives the boys in the basement send up. Think I will add this story to my Ideas file. Who knows? Maybe someday it will be a novel.

Perhaps I should add a spoiler alert at the beginning of this entry. Just in case.