Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Dreams of squatting

I have these frequent recurring dreams of living temporarily, squatting in hidden areas of public places, like crashing for a month in a forgotten storage area of a Vegas hotel, or a never used classroom in an old academic building.  The dreams are so vivid and frequent that I usually wake and think they’re based on some event that actually happened, which makes me cycle through every possible place I have lived to match up the psychological trope with the actual experience, and this exercise takes me twenty minutes, especially after just waking, and it’s maddening, because I don’t know what my brain is basing this on.  I can think of a few vague experiences that almost line up with this, but they’re so forgotten, it’s amazing my brain can pick them out and form dreams from them, especially the same brain that makes me forget something I just did two seconds ago.

In my freshman year of college, the dorms closed on a Friday, but you had until Sunday to move out. This makes no sense, because if you had the key, you could still get into your room, and they didn’t lock down the front doors or pump knockout gas into the vents, so for all intents and purposes, you could still stay there.  Yeah, your meal card ran out, and it turns out they shut off the heating system, and of course this was the one time that the first week of May saw the Indiana temperature drop to 39 or something.  They also posted all of these signs warning that the dorm was closed, like anyone ever reads signs.  I stayed anyway, along with my then-girlfriend, and no harm done.

The next night, after some shitty looks from the custodial staff and/or guilt on my part, we decided to stay with some friend of the girlfriend’s.  I forget the friend’s name, something generic like Michelle or Jenny, since every other girl I knew on that campus in the early 90s was named Michelle or Jenny or Jennifer or Jen or Jenn.  (I’m not saying that in a bad way.  All of the various Jen.*s I knew were great and interesting people.  I just find fascination in the phenomenon where everyone watches some TV show, and 18 years later, you know two dozen Phoebes or Brittanies or whatever.)  Anyway, she moved into a summer sublet with a bunch of dudes from Lebanon, and offered to let us sleep on her floor for a night.  So we went to this student ghetto house south of campus, and the whole time this girl Michelle was talking about how these Middle Eastern roommates were constantly trying to bone her, and she told them she was a virgin.  This was somewhat hilarious and ironic, because the first time I met her, she was going A-Z through her address book on a Friday night and leaving messages on every dude’s machine telling them she wanted to fuck them.  We slept on the floor while trying to tune out Lebanese TV and guys yelling half-English indecent proposals at this girl.  This was just hours before I was walking into a five-hour parental lecture on my failures as a human being on the long drive home, so I wasn’t entirely focused on the scenario at hand.

Four years and a half-dozen girlfriends later, I stayed in town for a summer and then moved into a new place in the fall.  This was always a problem in a college town like Bloomington, because there was a two-week dead zone between when leases in town ended and every lease started.  There were basically three ways around this problem:  sign an extension to an existing lease, fuck someone that just signed an extension to an existing lease, or put everything you own in your car and sleep in the main library on a study table and shower in the sink of a gas station restroom for two weeks.  I guess you could also buy a house or move all of your shit to a parent’s house and then move it back 14 days later.  There were also oddball edge cases of people renting houses from some random dude instead of from a subsidiary or branch of the two companies that ran 94% of the rental properties in the city.

This time around, one of my future roommates lived in a house with an extended lease and a couple of roommates bugging out, and we arranged it so I’d move out of my old apartment, put all of my furniture and crap in a single bedroom at his old place, and then move straight into our new house two weeks later.  This meant I spent half a month in this weird limbo scenario, with four rooms of furniture stacked like a demented 3-D tetris game, surrounding a mattress on the floor, where I’d sleep.

This may be the prototype for all of my future recurring dreams, because not only were all of my possessions in a transitional state, but my entire life was, too.  I remember reading East of Eden the whole time I was there; this was in my first year of “being a writer” and was madly trying to read all of the books a writer was “supposed to” read. I don’t remember much of the Steinbeck book, but I remember reading the book, and it affecting my perception of what a book should be.  Maybe that’s the repressed memory, the thoughts about what I should be writing triggering the false memory of living where I shouldn’t live.