Can I Extrovert Safely?

I’m dreaming in color of driving dead friends like cargo through towns I don’t know until I arrive home with their bodies. I don’t know what to do when I get there, so I just leave the back windows open 4″ or so and go back in my apartment. But once I’m inside, I’m obsessed with the corpses in my vehicle.

My favorite writing teacher preached the tedium of telling other people your dreams, but this time it feels significant to the story.

I’ve started letting myself read about what’s happening outside my apartment. (I typed this next: I need to play my guitar instead, then I deleted it. Revision:) I need to play my guitar too.

I think there’s been a shift in my coping skills and needs. I don’t feel like cherry-picking the outside world is the right path for me anymore. It got me through the first few weeks, but I’ve lost track of time in here, and the thing about extroverts is we charge our batteries through contact. This is why I love going to concerts, photographing rallies, and working behind busy bars. It’s osmosis. I had to look that up to make sure it really is the word I want. It is. We’re talking about energy, and that’s all science.

If I don’t go out into the world and engage the “process by which molecules of a solvent tend to pass through a semipermeable membrane from a less concentrated solution into a more concentrated one, thus equalizing the concentrations on each side of the membrane”—if I don’t fill my cup from the well of humanity around me and swim the same waters—there’s no alchemy of words, music, or caring.

Head-on shot of protestors carrying signs coming across a bridge in Chicago with a little snow on the ground

I’m happiest on the edge of a crowd. I thought my last ex-boyfriend was The One because he held my jacket and beamed while I climbed a light pole with my camera to get a better shot of a sprawling, roaring crowd marching across Michigan Avenue in winter. It was our fourth or fifth date. There was so much energy inside me after a couple hours of it that I had a sweating, shaking, teary panic attack after the march when I tried to walk up a staircase in a museum with him—date part deux—then he made out with me in the elevator we took instead. I thought we would die together.

There are no rallies I can photograph. I can’t leave my kids to drive to capitols where militias are marching with my camera. I’m anchored here, and that’s a key to not dreaming about being a keeper of corpses with no place to go—anchoring. I have to stay grounded.

I have to go out there too, though, however I’m able. That means reading social media posts about losses and looking at photos of funeral homes filled past capacity. I have to experience the world still as much as I can. I can’t disconnect, and I’m still going to dream.

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