In the dream, I wake from a dream of swimming thinking of the story as I walk down streets paved with large rocks. It’s one of those dreams in which I’m in wide canals as the water gets higher and the current and waves throw me in the air and I come back into the water and float or swim some more. In this revery, I’m walking through the boulders thinking of another story about swimming. Both the town in the dream and the town I wake in have old crooked buildings. But the town I wake into is hotter and arid. I look at a ceramic display on a street corner with words from prayers in Hebrew and English and possibly other languages, and continue walking towards my flat thinking of writing about swimming, about learning to swim, and about water.

Canal-Walk-Foot-BridgeA man, thin, wizened, about 55, stops me and asks if I have money. He wears shorts that are a little baggy on him and a faded t-shirt, though he doesn’t seem like a bum. I think of the small wallet in my pocket which contains maybe 40 euros. He speaks to me immediately in English, which is odd. Tells me I’m brave for admitting about the money, and ask if I mind talking with him. The small avenues are paved like something out of Gaudi or Hundertwasser. As I would in waking life, I do talk to him even though I’d rather be walking home and thinking about writing and thinking about swimming.

We sit on a bench for a bit and he tells me that he makes naambords (signs that go next to the front door of Dutch houses with the family name and house number) – that he makes them just with street names and post codes for the city. He shows me a catalogue printed in colour on cheap paper. In it there’s a picture of very young him – maybe 20 wearing big glasses with plastic frames. It looks like an early 1980s photo of a radio shack geek. His parents encouraged him to do woodwork, as he had a passion for it. I tell him we’ve only this year bought a naambord, and I think of the slate one we actually have. He tells me it doesn’t matter. His name is something like Garry Barr.

I walk back home, thinking I want to write this story down. About the swimming dream and learning to swim and about meeting Garry Barr. The place I arrive at has a cave-like entrance that reminds me now of Tim Dedopulos’ place up from Nerudova (near Prague Castle). There’s a shop just inside and I ask after some chocolates, half-distracted because I want to go inside and write. I’m thinking of a ream of paper I’ve recently bought and of my typewriter. The shop is tiny and I ask if he has chocolate – the proprietor takes down a shoebox from a high shelf – there are white kit-kat bars that come in double packs with eight sticks. I know I don’t want that many, but they’re only a euro so I buy one. Whatever I’m carrying is bulky and I pass Jeff Rubinoff (an American friend of mine from Prague) who asks after the chocolate and I point him to the shopkeeper, instead of giving him half of what I’ve just bought. Even in my dreams, I’m greedy.

I’m a little anxious to start writing – I don’t want to lose the content of the dream and the discussion with Garry Barr. I have images still of swimming down wide canals with waves that toss me in the air and make me fear just a little bit breaking my legs as I hit the bottom, but that never happens in these dreams – the water is never too cold, and I never fear drowning more than just a little – it’s too exhilarating.

Down a short low corridor that feels a little like a cave, I enter a very small apartment, ready to eat a little of my chocolate bar and start typing. The room I enter is small, crowded and dark. My wife is ironing, and points to a bed on top of which a skinny girl of indeterminate age sleeps, wearing only a pair of panties. I’m disappointed because the noise of getting out the typewriter and the paper, even though I know where they are, will wake the girl. At this moment, I wake myself, needing to write.