He sat down at the table. The man who had asked him to talk looked nice enough, all though he was eating all by himself. There was already food for both of them to eat. His favorite meal: a burger and fries. The day outside was wet and gray.
“The reality of it,” the man across from him said, “is that nobody knows what dreams are.” He used his hands when he spoke, and gestured wherever a gesture was due. “Are they little slices of the lives we lived before this one? Do they represent some perspective from a world beyond our own? Or are they simply just what the generally accepted scientific theory make them out to be: the purging of forgotten memories? I mean really, what purpose do dreams serve? What part of evolution decided to make dreams a part of the human anatomy? Is it bad that we attach meaning to some of our dreams? What were to happen to us if we didn’t dream? Would we go crazy?”
“And the thing about it is that in what way could we figure out what dreams are?” he chipped in, “we could throw all the science that we have into it and we would never be able to figure it out, just like we’ll never be able to figure out the rest of the human brain. It doesn’t seem to make sense to say that the brain can understand how the brain works. It’s amazing that we already know what we know, but even most of that is only speculation. I mean, how do we know that we are actually sitting here right now,” unlike the man opposite would have done, he did not gesture vaguely around him, “and we’re not simply just in a dream. What if our dreams represent a life that we live in some alternate universe.”
“No,” the man said, shaking his hands, waving him off, “it’s easy to tell when you’re in a dream. What I always do is look at my watch or flip a light switch, technology never seems to work right in a dream, did you ever notice that? But I only ever take notice of those things whenever I have lucid dreams and such… Do you know what that is? A lucid dream?” He nodded his head at the man while taking a bite out of his burger. It had mayonnaise, which didn’t agree with his tastebuds, but he hardly noticed. “Relating it to your theory on dreams representing a life of ours in an alternate universe,” the man continued, “it seems impossible that we can consciously live someone else’s lives through our dreams, doesn’t it?” He nodded at him again, thinking. “And nightmares, why do we have nightmares? Again, what part of evolution decided that nightmares should exist? If it really does the body no good, then maybe that means that all dreams are simply products of things external to our anatomy, meaning that our dreams don’t come from us at all. Do you see what I mean?”
“No, what do you mean?”
“Ok so…” he took a second to think as he stared blankly down at his food with his hands frozen in mid-gesture, “the body cannot physically harm itself, right? You can’t just ‘get sick,’ you know, sickness will come from a virus, or from bacteria. The body, hypothetically, should be a well oiled machine if left all by itself with nothing to harm it. So why does the body give itself nightmares if they don’t do any good to our health?”
“Maybe they do actually do some good… Maybe we just don’t recognize that they do.”
“That’s probably it, to be completely honest, but just for the sake of a different perspective, if nightmares don’t serve any actual purpose, that would mean that they either come from things external to the body or human beings simply aren’t as well put together as we’d like to think…”
He stared at the man across from him, thinking. “It’s an interesting thought…” he said.
“Well, dreams are interesting things, you know. You can speculate about the depth of the ocean, or about the width of the universe, but the truth is that we know what we’d find if we explored in those places…”
“What would we find in the ocean?” he asked jokingly.
“Fish and water,” he chuckled.
“Oh yeah? How about space?” He had a smile on, he was having a good time talking to this man, but he knew he had to get going soon.
“Probably just aliens,” he said, laughing. “But back to my point, you know we might find aliens and, don’t get me wrong, it would be extraordinary, but we knew all along that’s what we would find. But what would we find if we dug just a little deeper into our own heads? Nobody knows, and that’s what’s fascinating.”
They sat there for a few moments enjoying the silence with open thought, but then he smiled and said, “I think I really have to be going. I like talking to you but I really have some place that I need to be. Hopefully I’ll see you again sometime.”
“I’ll look forward to it,” the man across from him said.
He got up from the booth and walked to the door. On the wall was a light switch. He met the man’s eyes from across the restaurant. The man gave him an encouraging little smile. So he flipped the switch, but the lights did not flutter, and he floated away.