A dream last night. An unfamiliar dream. In a very familiar place.

A roller coaster in an amusement park I have never visited. I can tell you where the coaster is on the grounds; how far from the main gate; where it is, past another, smaller coaster at the back of the huge property, near the raised highway. I know because I’ve been there before.

I’ve had this dream before, more than once. I couldn’t tell you when…except that it was some time ago. When I dream it, I remember all the other times I have dreamt the same thing–it is that familiar. I could draw it for you.

The things I see are always the same. Outside, the coaster is dark and monolithic, not open and serpentine as most coasters are. The climb to the ticket booth is long and high…ramps that go up ten stories to the place where the ride begins. The walls along the ramps are vaguely industrial; dark, with some natural light creeping past the beams. Through the spaces between wall and girder, you can see the hills past the highway as you climb higher. Each of the ramps is decorated with posters that seem, sadly, to be trying too hard to get the soon-to-be-rider fired up about the adventure to come. Mostly, the rider is just tired from the climb.

The place where the rider pays for the ride is a black booth near the top. The booth attendant is crabby—always is. One must wait in a medium-sized room for the last riders to clear the cars before one can enter. Some riders queue near the door to get the best seats.

The place where the ride begins is brighter, with an indoor-outdoor feel. The coaster’s seats are benches that will hold maybe seven, eight people. The coaster is stopped against a bumper, rather like a train in a station; the direction the seats face make a confusion of which way the coaster is headed…which is the front seat if the seats are facing this way? I can’t tell–I am as dyslexic in the dream as I am in life.

In this dream, I ride the coaster several times—or at least I have several discussions about which car is the lead one, and whether that particular seat will be sufficiently scary or just too scary. The coaster takes off in its slow climb up the high hill; although we’ve already climbed ten stories the summit is way higher still.

I never remember the ride.

When it’s over, I ride again. The rider must descend a different system of ramps to start over; to climb down so one can climb up all over again. I can see other people heading up as I am heading down. I know that there is another ride ahead. It will be the same as the last, but from a different seat.

A dream that has no reason to be so clearly and consistently the same. An amusement park in an alternate universe. What does it mean?

I know that this is the ride up without the plummet, and I know that I’m glad for that. I know that the experience is fairly disturbing for me; not glad for that at all. Every time I dream of this coaster it is exactly the same, and that may be the most disturbing thing of all. If I am the climb, the coaster, the competitive wait for the scariest seat…the crabby ticket booth attendant and the higher hill to the start of the climb…the ride I don’t remember yet want to take again…is this the writer’s journey? I don’t know.

I do know that if I don’t dream this dream again for another couple of years it will be just fine with me.