A Dream of Ghosts

Yesterday morning I was talking (by Zoom) to B. and P., two old classmates. It's sixty years this month since we started, as 11-year olds, at secondary school. Back in July we should have been attending our class reunion at the Latymer Reunion Day — of course the day didn't happen on school premises, but we 70-year olds were pioneers in holding the first virtual class reunion. It was attended by just over 20 former classmates, and was, well, an experience. Because too many of us were trying to talk all at once, there wasn't as much opportunity as I would have liked to really exchange news or hear what we've been doing. And anyway, many of these are people I haven't actually met for over 50 years. So someone (all right, it was me, actually) thought it would be a good idea to compile a sort of Yearbook Sixty Years On, where we might share then-and-now photos and a few paragraphs of what we've done since leaving school. These contributions could be collated and made available electronically to all our contemporaries. Yesterday's conversation was about how we might do this, and what form the electronic sharing might take.

I wanted to propose as a kind of subtitle, Whatever happened to Malcolm George? Malcolm had been one of my closest friends at primary school; but since we left school at 18 I've not seen him, and he has not been involved in any former class reunions. In fact I think his entry in the old students' database held by the school probably reads Whereabouts Unknown.

He was one of the most popular and sought-after of my friends. Tall, good-looking, intelligent, strong, outgoing, he attracted girls in ways I could only fantasize about. He was the first of my friends who actually had sex. At least, he was the first who told me that, so who knows whether or not it's true?

And last night I dreamed about him. In my dream I was walking home at night, through dark empty streets, to the terraced house where I lived. There were no streetlights, no lights in any of the windows. Suddenly I heard footsteps behind me, hurrying and gaining on me. I walked faster, reached my door, desperate to get inside to safety and shut the door behind me. But, fumbling with my key, I knew it was too late. I turned to face my pursuer and possible assailant.

“Malcolm!” I cried. For I recognized him, knew him at once. Even though, in the way of dreams, he looked little like he had in 1967, but hardly any older either.

We went inside, and he told me he had come to help me deal with all the ghosts there were in the house. I hadn't known there were any, but one appeared in the fireplace by way of proof. It seemed there were going to be lots of them.

Such was my dream. Who knows where these things come from? Obviously I dreamed about Malcolm because we had talked about him in the morning, and for some reason he was important to me. And the ghosts? My subconscious is telling me, perhaps, that all our memories and happinesses and regrets are 'ghosts'. Our life is full of them. Why have people been so afraid of them? They seem alarming, terrifying... but after all, what is there to fear? Dealing with them is just what reflecting on our lives is about.