The Robb’d that Smiles

Last night, my dreams were back to weird, but at least they had a narrative structure, which is fairly rare.

The one I remember most clearly:

I was on a long trip somewhere with Mike, and we stopped at a gas station.  As Mike was filling up, I went inside to get some snacks.  As I approached the counter, I put the snacks down on it (or sometimes it was suddenly a bakery and I was ready to order a slice of cake instead), but the cashier had something that needed doing in the back room, and faceless s/he went off to do it, leaving a pile of something s/he’d been sorting strewn over the counter.

As soon as she was gone, two people approached me, on either side, like a “V”, preventing my easily walking away from them.  One was a tall, slender, chestnut-skinned black man, maybe 19 years old, attractive, if a little scruffy.  The other was a a petite, pale (practically translucent), white woman, around the same age, with greasy black hair pulled up into a high ponytail; she was obviously very pregnant.  They both looked like they’d been living rough for a while, and although they seemed to have some kind of friendly relationship, they didn’t seem like friends.  I also knew, in that way you know things in dreams, that the baby wasn’t his.

I also also knew that they were gonna hit me up for money.  I had gotten out my wallet to be ready to pay for the snacks (or cake), and I had another thing in my hand, too… I wanna say it was a second wallet, but for the sake of sense, let’s say I’d pulled some cash out of my wallet and was holding that too.  I got this feeling from them that they were going to try a con, one of those “Our car broke down and we just need money for the bus” deals, but I also got… something else.  They struck me as dangerous.  Like, they’d try the con, but if I didn’t give them anything, they’d mug me.

I had this bizarre mix of fear of them and a sort of maternal feeling — not the kind of “Oh, you poor baby, let me cradle you and make it all right!” maternal feeling that people think of when they hear that phrase — more of an “I didn’t raise you to steal!  You get the hell outta that woman’s face and find a way to make an honest living!” sort of feeling.  Like anger and pity and sadness.

They start their con.  I can’t remember now what they said, but it was pretty elaborate.  (Side note:  they kinda reminded me of the Thénardiers in this moment.)  To my surprise, they didn’t center the con around the woman’s baby, which seemed to be incidental, as if she’d been conning longer than she’d been pregnant and she never modified her game.

I didn’t pay much attention to the con, because the anger and panic was bubbling up in me… so a few minutes in, when I thought surely the cashier or another customer would be walking in at any time, I started giving them what for.  I can’t remember what I said either, but basically I was admonishing them for trying to steal other people’s money — I said phrases like that very loudly, in the hopes that someone would hear, figure out what was happening, and help me out — and I told them they were young and should be trying to make something of themselves instead of leeching off folks in gas stations.

All of a sudden, there were a LOT of people in the gas station, and I was phrasing things a little more boldly:  “I know you think you need HELP from ME, but you ought to SEE what’s going on here.  You could do anything!  Become POLICEmen or something.”  Everyone in the place, basically in unison, a la a flash mob, pulled out a cell phone and started calling, I assumed, the police.

Finally, the kids, who had gotten quite close to me, physically, started backing off, but they didn’t get out before the police showed up.  The girl got arrested, I think, ’cause she wasn’t really present in the dream after that.  I had gotten the feeling from her that she was malevolent, not just stupid, and I thought there was no hope for pulling her out of this downward spiral.

But the boy struck me as different.  He had a gentleness that wasn’t at all far beneath the crust of survival-on-the-streets.  He seemed really intelligent… and… fun and funny.  Like he could easily be a really likable person if he didn’t feel like he had to mug folks.

So as the cops (and there were about 100 cops — I assume they’d gotten the word that a convenience store was being robbed) were dealing with the girl and interviewing other customers, I turned to the boy.  The dream sorta zoomed in, and the background noise faded as I talked to him.

Me:  You don’t have to do this, you know.  You seem like a really smart guy.

Him:  I don’t have a dime to my name.  What options do I have?

Me:  Hell, I bet you could get into college.  Maybe even study performance or something.  You’ve got a good look and a sense of showmanship.

Him:  I tell you what, I’ll go to college if I can get in.  You put in a good word for me at FMU?

Me:  I don’t know that my word has any weight there, but I’ll sure try.  Gimme your name.

That was pretty much the end, although there was some more milling about and maybe a plan on how to contact each other?

Here’s the funny part:  “FMU” stands for Francis Marion University, a school in Florence, SC.  I did not attend FMU.  I never applied to FMU.  Although I know some people who went there, I don’t know any administrators, professors, or advisers at FMU.  I have NO connection to that school whatsoever.

In the dream, I was going to “put in a good word” for this kid on the basis of my… what?  teaching stage combat to 5th-graders?  assistant-directing community theatre?  I think maybe I was planning to use my “pull” as an NCSA alumna.  In any case, it’s that silly dream-only sort of logic.

I like to think things worked out well for the kid.

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