In my unconscious exists a cave where I often hide out. The cave has been there forever, it seems, but I only recently brought a detailed image back with me when I woke.
The cave is both a refuge and a prison. I dread going down there in my dreams, even though I always go out of my own free will. I seek protection from a danger I intuit yet fail to see.
I’m never in a hurry when I descend the steps. The cave is underneath a modern building, a skyscraper, I think, with white interiors, lots of metal and glass, a soundless elevator going up—only up. The elevator is useless to access the cave. I must climb down long, straight, bare cement stairs.
Inside the cave of my unconscious, it’s not as dark and stuffy as you might expect. The cave is a room, not a cellar, a large room with closed white horizontal blinds along the walls. The blinds give you the impression that there are windows behind them. But there are not—I checked. The walls are blind. The promise of a view, however, no matter how false, remains soothing.
I sit on a white backless bench made from a type of plastic used in designer furniture. The large cabinet in my former Parisian living room was made from this material. The cabinet was always cool to the touch, easy to clean, and overall, a big reliable presence in my life. We gave it away when my husband and I decided to become homeless.
Playacting is Futile
The bench is oval-shaped and high: When I sit on it, my feet don’t touch the ground. This makes me feel as though I’m a child, aware of adult life yet not quite ready to join it. I think and dangle my legs, alone with infinity. I know what’s coming.
The cave is where my emotions emerge, unfiltered, uninhibited. Inside this white, windowless realm, playacting is futile. I cannot hide from myself what I feel. That’s why the cave is so scary: Everything down here is tremendously real. I sit and feel—grief, envy, disappointment, fear, tenderness—and reflect upon what I feel, reducing my self-ignorance. And that’s why the cave is also protective: The truth, once I know it, cannot be used against me.
I took the photo in this post in September 2020 at the exit of the Phong Nha Cave in Vietnam.