I don’t dream a lot. Or maybe I do, but I just don’t remember them. In any case, for me, dreams aren’t part of my reality. I rarely have to wonder what something in a dream symbolizes. I rarely am disturbed by how lifelike a dream was. I’m more often envious of those who dream a lot. I would like to dream more.
However, ever since I left Altea on November 2nd for a month of vacation, dreams – and the whole concept behind them – have entered into my consciousness much more than they have in a very long time. It started as soon as I boarded the overnight bus to Madrid. Strangely enough, as intense as my reality in Altea had been with the work schedule at AlteArte and our focused attention on building our own business, as soon as Altea’s little hill top church started to fade into the distance behind me so too did its apparent hold on me. It’s as if Altea’s power can only be felt within a certain radius, but break through the invisible barrier, and it starts becoming questionable whether Altea even really exists. The people who had colored my daily existence in Altea suddenly became muted shades of brilliance as the distance widened between us – and I wondered if they weren’t just storybook characters in a mystical land.
Crazy it may sound, but that’s how life in Altea feels: when you’re in it, it looms larger than life, and when you’re outside of it, it fades quietly in the background, making you truly wonder if your whole existence in Altea is nothing but a dream. Even leaving David behind for 2 weeks as he painted, added benches upstairs, added a big screen and a projector was not enough collateral. For when I left, I had to wonder whether Altea even existed.
But it didn’t stop there. Every night for about a week, I revisited Altea in my dreams. I hadn’t had dreams in so long, yet here they were coming in a flood! I dreamed that I was working at AlteArte after reopening but was thoroughly disoriented. I went to go grab a glass only to find that David had moved them from the shelf that they were on. I was obviously anxious about the changes that I knew David was making while I was gone, but what a weird expression of my anxiety!
After a month away, I returned to Altea on December 2nd. I was anxious to see what kind of impression it would make on me. Would I once again swoon over the cobbled streets or sweeping views as I had on my first visit more than a year ago? No, this time, the effect was completely different. David and a friend picked me up from the bus stop by car and we entered Altea but from the main road. There’s no views from the main road – only cars. And, even the next day, when I headed out for the opening day at AlteArte, the cobbled streets left little impression on me. It was as if I had gotten used to my surroundings – and brilliance had faded into the norm.
But that night, when AlteArte became packed with people welcoming us home and everywhere I looked, I saw friends, I fell in love all over again. And earlier that day, when our good friend, Warner, had sent me a text message saying, “Well, you did it! Altea is not the same without AlteArte!” it made me feel as though it was all still a dream, for it made me feel so happy that we had been so missed. And, just as my dream had foretold, I did feel disoriented and awkward after being away from AlteArte for so long, but it didn’t matter because the customers were our friends and patient as I got back into the swing of things. So, unlike my first trip to Altea, it wasn’t Altea that took my breath away. It was the people – our friends – who made my heart skip a beat and who made it all seem so dreamily perfect.
But in the days that followed, reality hit… hard. The physically demanding side of AlteArte began to take its toll on me. It’s funny how quickly I had fallen out of the routine of something that I had been doing for nearly a year. And within a week, I came down with the flu and proceeded to be sicker than I had been in a very long time. I was so weak that, for a week, David ran AlteArte alone while I stayed home in bed.
But worse yet, with a weak body came a weak mind and a wave of sadness swept over me. It was an indescribable tristesse – as if something foreign had taken a hold of me. And I couldn’t describe it to David, let alone myself. Perhaps it was fatigue from being in bed all week. Perhaps it was being far from my family while Christmas loomed just around the corner that induced me with a shot of homesickness that rivaled my summer camp days. Perhaps it was returning to Altea in December when winter has taken a firm hold and the streets are eerily quiet that contrasted too greatly with my exciting month off that left me in a state of depression. Whatever it was, it altered my vision of Altea as if I was looking through lens colored glasses that had suddenly changed a disturbing three shades darker. And I couldn’t shake it to the point that David, desperate, was ready to buy me a plane ticket home for Christmas.
And it took my words away so that I was unable to write even though I knew that I should. I was in such a weird funk that it nearly seemed that my series of dreams had turned into nightmares as I tried to shake off the terrible sadness but just couldn’t.
Something needed to change. I just didn’t know what.