Dream of: 27 May 1996 "Gifts"

I was sitting in a chair in what appeared to be a classroom filed with 30-40 people who seemed of different ages, but mostly in their early twenties. In front of the room was a long table which had ten or so boxes on it, boxes which I knew contained gifts (perhaps for Christmas) for some of the people in the classroom. I knew the boxes contained gifts, for I myself had brought in one of the boxes and had set it on the table when I had first come into the room. However I also knew there was a significant difference between my box and the boxes of the others: whereas the other boxes had been brought by one person as a gift for another person, the box which I had brought had my name on it and was intended as a gift to myself.

It wasn't entirely clear why I had done this. I didn't think any big deal was going to be made out of the gift giving, and I wasn't even sure the gifts would be opened. I simply wanted to have the gift there. Thus it came as a surprise to me when all the people who were being given gifts, whose names were on the boxes as recipients of the gifts, were called to the front of the room to receive their gifts.

I was the last one called, and when I heard my name, I stood and walked toward the front of the room, where the other recipients were already standing, waiting to open their gifts. As I walked forward, some people applauded me. But I realized it was a desultory mediocre applause which seemed to me to indicate that I wasn't held in the highest regard by the other students.

As if that fact weren't disconcerting enough, I began to wonder if anyone had seen me set my box on the table when I had originally entered the room. How scandalous if it were to be known that no one had actually brought me a gift, that I had stooped so low as to bring a gift for myself. I tried to think of a way out of this whole charade, but I felt caught in my own trap, and I saw no escape. I decided to just play along and see it through.

Once I was in front of the room, with a blackboard behind us, we, the ten or so recipients of the gifts, looked out over the table and the gifts to the faces of those who were still left sitting and who had received no gifts. Many more people hadn't received gifts than those who had.

At least now I didn't feel quite as bad. I was well-dressed with a blue dress shirt, navy blue sports coat and tie. I was trim and in good physical shape – which was good, because most people standing in front of the room were females, and I thought I might be interested in getting to know some. Only one other fellow in the front – a casually dressed fellow with no particular charm. I sensed that some of the women might also be interested in me.

The opening of the presents began. One after the other, the women and the fellow opened their presents, made some short comment, and then sat down. I only noticed one of the presents, and I didn't actually see it. But I heard one girl shake her box, and it sounded as if it contained a jigsaw puzzle. I thought to myself that that was a pretty cheap gift – a jigsaw puzzle.

Finally the others had finished and I was the last one standing. I picked up my box and made a step back toward my seat, thinking I would just sit down without opening the box. I already knew what was in the box anyway, and I wanted to get this whole thing over as quickly as possible. But I suddenly stopped in my tracks, sensing a certain inquisitiveness from the audience. I suddenly realized this wasn't good – to try to sit down without opening the box. Everyone would now be suspicious, and that could lead to questions. So I set the box down on the table, and opened it.

I knew the box actually contained three smaller boxes with three individual gifts. I took out the first smaller box, opened it and showed it to the people sitting and looking at me. I then took out the second box. The second box was in the shape of a red heart about a foot across and about two inches high. I opened the box and pulled out what appeared to be a pile of Christmas cards, probably 30-40, and held them up for everyone to see. I said something about a "bunch of Christmas cards" and pointed out that all the cards were unused and hadn't been written on, and were meant as a gift for me to use.

There was a definite silence in the room, as everyone looked at my strange gift. I could tell from their faces that they thought it was bizarre to receive a bunch of Christmas cards as a present. I had to admit that even I myself found the whole thing rather bizarre, and just hoped I could somehow get out of this without anyone knowing that it was I who had put this weirdo gift in the box in the first place.

On top of that, the cards didn't even look like normal Christmas cards. Instead of being rectangular, they were shaped more like a smashed starfish or smashed octopus, with irregular arm-like appendages radiating off the sun-like center. After holding the cards up, I quickly put them back in the box and set it down.

I then turned to the third box, which was also red and shaped in the form of Valentine heart, the same size as the second box. I opened it and held it up for everyone to see that it was filled with assorted chocolates – thank goodness – something that could be considered a normal present.

Finally I was finished, but I knew I still had one thing left to do to complete the show. I had to show my gratitude to the person who had given me the gift. I found this especially demeaning since I knew I would be faking the whole thing. Nevertheless, with as much sincerity as I could muster, I looked out into the audience, pretended I was looking for the face of the person who had given me the gifts, and said, "Thank you. Thank you."

At last I felt free to return to my seat and as quietly as I could I walked back and sat down. The lids of my boxes were still off, but I didn't bother to put them back on. Instead I just put the boxes down on the floor right in front of me, partly under the seat in front of me. At last I was feeling some relief, thinking I might have pulled off the whole act. In fact, I began looking at the chocolates in the heart-shaped box, and noticed how good they looked. And I was suddenly feeling quite hungry. I wouldn't mind eating some of the chocolates right now. But then I thought I would have to share them with the other people in the room. I didn't mind sharing, but I hated the idea of staying in the room any longer than necessary. I just wanted to get this whole thing over with and get out of there.

The teacher, a stout man (probably in his mid 40s) stood up in front of the room and began talking. He said the class was now going to take a break, and when we returned we would discuss something which we were all supposed to have read, something dealing with history. The teacher also mentioned the name of the author of the piece, and it sounded to me as if he said "Charlton Heston." That surprised me because I knew Charlton Heston was an actor, and I couldn't believe he had been writing works on history. But the teacher repeated the name again, and I realized the name he was saying was "Charlton Hulton", someone I had never heard of, but who apparently was some kind of historian.

I debated what I was going to do after the break. I certainly didn't want to return to the class. And I also remembered that this was the last day of school before vacation (Christmas?) and that we wouldn't have another class for ten days or two weeks. If I just skipped out after the break, I could extricate myself from this mess, and by the time the classes resumed after vacation, the teacher would probably not even remember that I had skipped. I was sure that was what I was going to do.

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