“In dreams…I walk with you”

YaxchilanDivineSerpentI’m fascinated by Perry’s dream. If this were fiction, this section would be riddled with symbolism. There’s Biblical imagery, with the serpent in the tree. The idea that the love of money is the root of all evil. A premonition that reaching for easy riches will be his downfall.

Since I was a kid, I’ve had this same dream. Where I’m in Africa. A jungle. I’m moving through the trees toward a tree standing all alone. Jesus, it smells bad, that tree; it kind of makes me sick, the way it stinks. Only, it’s beautiful to look at – it has blue leaves and diamonds hanging everywhere. Diamonds and oranges. That’s why I’m there – to pick myself a bushel of diamonds. But I know the minute I try to, the minute I reach up, a snake is gonna fall on me. A snake that guards the tree. This fat son of a bitch living in the branches. I know beforehand, see? And Jesus, I don’t know how to fight a snake. But I figure, Well, I’ll take my chances. What it comes down to is I want the diamonds more than I’m afraid of the snake. So I go to pick one, I have the diamond in my hand, I’m pulling at it, when the snake lands on top of me. We wrestle around, but he’s a slippery sonofabitch and I can’t get a hold, he’s crushing me, you can hear my legs cracking. Now comes the part it makes me sweat to even think about. See, he starts to swallow me. Feet first. Like going down in quicksand.

And that bit about his legs cracking foreshadows his motorcycle accident. He says, “I know beforehand,” and elsewhere he talks about seeing things before they happen. If this were fiction, there would be a lot of deep meaning in this passage. But this is allegedly true. What are we to make of it then? Maybe his memory of his childhood dream is colored by his subsequent history, distorted by the repressed voice of his conscience.

And I really want to know the distinction between a “son of a bitch” and a “sonofabitch.” I can’t imagine Capote did that by accident.

Perry was checked for insanity, and the judge was having none of it. Something about the dream seems dissociative to me, although my knowledge of dream psychology is minimal.

…the parrot, which had first flown into his dreams when he was seven years old, a hated, hating half-breed child living in a California orphanage run by nuns – shrouded disciplinarians who whipped him for wetting his bed. It was after one of these beatings, one he could never forget (“She woke me up. She had a flashlight, and she hit me with it. Hit me and hit me. And when the flashlight broke, she went on hitting me in the dark”), that the parrot appeared, arrived while he slept, a bird “taller than Jesus, yellow like a sunflower,” a warrior-angel who blinded the nuns with its beak, fed upon their eyes, slaughtered them as they “pleaded for mercy,” then so gently lifted him, enfolded him, winged him away to “paradise.”

It’s one thing for a 7 year old to have an imaginary guardian angel. It’s quite another for him to imagine his guardian ripping out someone’s eyeballs. He talks a childhood trauma. I feel like there’s more that he’s not telling us. Later in the section he has a list of words worth remembering – thanatoid, facinorous, dyspathy, psilopher, depredate – all words which speak to his issues. There’s a whole “truth is stranger than fiction” thing going on in this section. Capote didn’t do that by accident either. He has a sympathy for his subject that he wants us to share.

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