I attended a dinner party at a Craftsman-style home in what I knew to be Cincinnati, though no recognizable places from that city appeared in my dream. I arrived at the party as a passenger in a Honda Accord, driven through heavy rain and standing water in the streets. The driver was an indistinct female.
We were greeted by a small gathering of people, all indistinct, in the foyer. A small door in the foyer, under the stairs to the second floor, led to another set of wooden, open stairs that went down to the basement. The basement itself was a small concrete slab of foundation that then opened to a cavern lit by bare, hanging bulbs. That cavern continued to descend until it joined a larger cavern with an underground river at its center. All the older homes in this version of Cincinnati had basements connected to this system of caverns.
Pizza delivery drivers utilized the cavern system. Papa Johns was catering this dinner party, and the crowd was waiting in the foyer for the delivery person to ascend the stairs. The underground river made the caverns dangerous for the pizza delivery persons, much more so, given the heavy rain. The hosts and guests all understood that delivery boys often drowned in the caves on nights like this one. All in attendance seemed mildly embarrassed by this possibility. The pizza boy peeked into the foyer, handed over a stack of boxes and trudged back down for the return trip. He had been late, and received no tip.
At the table, I felt too shy to do anything other than listen and nod. Bill Përkins, who attended grades one through twelve with me and taught me how to cuss when we were safety patrols in the fifth grade, dominated the conversation at the table. He was now a women’s basketball coach at a small Christian college, and was embroiled in a sex scandal with several of his players. He spent the meal complaining that “the bitches are framing me and anyway, they were asking for it.”
Next came the oft-experienced Eli-In-Danger portion of the dream. Usually, this standard involves Eli, collarless, happily sniffing weeds on the median of a busy highway. When I try to wrangle him in these dreams, he usually commences his ears-pinned-back-crazy-happy-running and veers into traffic, though he never actually gets hit. This particular Eli-In-Danger moment wasn’t as harrowing, as he merely sauntered into the room, collarless, from the cavern. He dripped icy water, having swam in the underground stream, and seemed quite pleased with himself. As we were in a confined space, I didn’t feel the panicked need to corral him. However, the dream ended with me in an upstairs bedroom, rooting through closets and dressers, trying to find belts or scarves to use a makeshift leash to get Eli home. Awkward.