Last night I had a dream that woke me up from a dead sleep at 2am. It was so vivid and felt so real that I can’t stop thinking about it.
I’m in London in a neighborhood I don’t know. I have my camera and am doing some street photography. It’s dusk and cold. An older woman approaches me. She tells me that I should be careful as it is getting dark and the neighborhood is not safe at night, especially for someone like me. There are no other faces that look like mine in this neighborhood. She doesn’t look like me.
I tell her I’m not afraid, thank you, and that I feel safe. She insists I follow her to the nearest Tube station. She looks trustworthy. Since this is her neighborhood, I follow her even though I want to stay and take more pictures. As I follow her down a side street, a group of teens causes a distraction and one of them grabs my phone. The older woman, my escort, grabs my purse and camera and everyone scatters.
Suddenly, I’m alone and it’s quiet. Everything I had with me is gone. It’s a scam and I’ve been set up. I’m not frightened but I am furious. Furious that I’ve been set up. Furious that I was so trusting. Furious that I fell for it. Angry that maybe the warnings I had been given about people like this were right?
I shout and swear to the empty street: “Why?!” A voice of someone I can’t make out (not the woman) evenly, unemotionally answers: “Because you have everything and we have nothing and you think you see that, but you can’t really see.” My fury shrinks and turns to shame and I begin to weep. Uncontrollably and for a long time, because maybe actually, that voice is more right.
When I look up, the young man who took my phone is standing in front of me. He hands me my phone and when I ask why he is giving it back, he softly answers: “Because I saw HOW you cried.” I tell him that I could call the police. He is returning the phone to me at great personal risk. Softly again he answers: “I know.” I don’t call the police. He does not seem surprised.
Later at home, a knock on the door. My husband tells me there is a group of woman at the front door, for me. It’s the older woman. She has brought friends. She hands me my purse and camera and says sorry. The tenor of her voice tells me she means it. She tells me that she took some pictures on my camera she hoped I might like. I thank her and close the door.
Back inside, I check my purse. Everything is in it. I pull out the camera and scroll through the pictures. The photos aren’t carefully framed or the work of an artist but they take my breath away. They have captured the soul of their neighborhood -- the joys, sorrows, hardships, humor – all scenes I couldn’t see when I was trying to photograph their streets. I cry again this time a mix of tears and smiles. It’s not my stuff they wanted. It was compassion they were looking for.
I run back to the front door and open it again. The women are still standing there. They are ready with their “Yes” when I ask if they’d like to come in.
I can’t help but wonder how this dream relates to this quote I read less than 12 hours later in Beartown by Fredrik Backman:
“Hate can be a deeply stimulating emotion. The world becomes much easier to understand and much less terrifying if you divide everything and everyone into friends and enemies, we and they, good and evil. The easiest way to unite a group isn’t through love, because love is hard. It makes demands. Hate is simple.”