Nilton rarely remembers his dreams. He believes he sleeps so soundly that his slumber precludes a conscious recollection of anything, let alone of a full narrative to a dream. But last night he did, in fact, remember his dream -- the first one he could recall in over ten years.
Birds chirped outside Nilton's window, singing ancient and wondrous, though somber, songs -- songs that tugged at his heartstrings, causing him to cry (both in the dream and in reality). As the day broke and the first band of sunlight streaked across his face, he got out of bed and opened his bedroom window to greet the birds. Only, when he did, the birds crumbled like ashes from the branches of the tortuous eucalyptus tree in the backyard.
The tree's roots penetrated deep into a white void, which enveloped everything, save for the sun, which was like a giant mirror, reflecting a carrousel of judgmental expressions from vaguely familiar faces. The tree's branches stretched yearningly into the white void. Along with the sun, the tree was the only thing that managed to maintain form; it had an immemorial presence as well. The presence, while profound, was also deeply foreboding.
Suddenly, the tree vibrated in the whiteness, dusting itself of the birds and other little creatures that perched and dithered on its branches. It had had enough. Something in the air -- in the void of the whiteness -- admonished to Nilton that a decision had to be made, that action had to be taken. As Nilton contemplated this, he awoke with tension and a feeling of regret.
Nilton, 27, is a gay, Latino male who lives in New York City. He is a Wall Street lawyer, having graduated from Stanford Law three years ago. He is originally from Miami, and is very close with his family, all of whom know he is gay.
Three weeks ago, after an "atypical" night out the month prior, he seroconverted. When he learned of his HIV status he was stunned. He did not use protection when he had had sex that fateful night out, but the sex was "brief and uneventful."
No one in his family knows about his status, but his dream indicates his desire to share it with them. The various faces in the reflective sun, which is the only fixture in the dream aside from the tree, represent very personal (and personalized) fears fueled by guilt, shame, and unknowingness. The tree is Nilton, himself, with the various combusting animals symbolizing fleeting opportunities to take action, culminating with the tree's unsolicited but marked frustration.
[Incidentally, eucalyptus trees are known for their medicinal oils, honeys, pulpwood, and dies. They are also a ruthlessly invasive species.]
The fact that both, the tree's roots and the tree's branches, stretch out into a white void indicates uncertainty -- uncertainty about the past (e.g., the roots) and uncertainty about the future (e.g., the outstretching branches). Uncertainty about the future is common, obviously. We all have it. But so, too, is uncertainty about the past -- when thinking about the past are we perhaps being somewhat revisionist, overly-nostalgic, or even repressive about things we would rather not recall, for a multitude of reasons, in our conscious state?
Despite the oppressive uncertainty, the white void represents an even greater sign (which is one of profound optimism). The white void is, in a way, a blank canvas onto which Nilton has carte blanche (pun intended) to paint his life story. In other words, Nilton is, in fact, in control, contrary to his felling of regret.
The tree (i.e., Nilton) and the sun (i.e., his nourishing family and friends) are not just fixtures in the dream but anchors, signifying strength and stability despite the amorphous faces and the combusting animals, which are impermanent, fleeting, and, ultimately, not significant enough on which to fixate. Essentially, Nilton is telling himself, rather poetically, to share his status with his family and friends. And however his friends and family initially respond, we are almost certain that the tree and the sun will live to tell much more than this one truth.