Sometimes Dante would dream, and in those dreams he remembered, it was always the same. It was him, of that he was certain, him, but in almost every way, a stranger. That Dante, wearing medieval battle garb, sat astride a strange, horse-like creature. A large sword hung from his hip. In the dream, this Dante was confident in his skill with the weapon. Beside him, astride another oddly familiar, but strangely odd horse like creature, was a large, muscled, golden-haired man. Like a god, Dante thought. Ahead in his dreams, Dante sensed a fierce and relentless enemy just out of sight. Behind him followed a multitude of mounted, battle-ready warriors.
The sleeping Dante sensed a vast legion of approaching enemy was just ahead, but he couldn’t see them. The Dante in the dream could. He raised his arm and the ranks behind him reigned to a stop. The god-like giant; the one Dante thought of as the golden man turned to face him and smiled. The golden man pulled his sword from its scabbard at his waist and held it before his face in salute, blade pointing skyward, then turned his mount, riding back to join the array of warriors waiting behind.
There was something approaching through the mist ahead. Dante lowered his arm, and a roar came from those who followed. Dante whispered into the ear of his steed, and it galloped forward. As one, the massed army behind him surged with him. The feeling was indescribable. Just as his hand dropped to draw his sword, Dante would wake up.
Dante didn’t understand the dream, but he loved it. The confidence, the sense of power the dream provided him, would sometimes linger for a few delicious moments. After that, the real world reclaimed its place. He wasn’t Dante, swordsman, cool and bold, the commander of an enormous army. Instead, he was Dante; the kid exempted from physical education by his parents. He was the boy who could play no sports. When his friends had water gun fights, he was the wet one holding his parents’ one concession, a rubber duck that sprayed water through a hole in its bill. It was the only thing remotely gun-like his parents would permit.
In high school, Dante’s parents tried to continue his Phys. Ed. exemptions but were told the subject was integral to the program and so he participated. Uncertain and inexperienced, Dante felt awkward and uncomfortable in the program activities. While he saw himself as clumsy, many a coach, looking on would say to themselves or to anyone around, “That boy, looks awkward out there, but he has something. I could teach him to be a competent member of my team,” whatever sport it might be.
They would send Dante home with papers seeking parental permission for him to sign up for the varsity basketball squad, or baseball team, or track team, or volleyball or rugby. Every time his parents would tell him no, because this sport, or that sport, was too dangerous.
As he grew older, it became more difficult for his parents to prevent him from joining some of his friends beyond reach of the home, but by that time, Dante had little confidence in his ability to perform any remotely strenuous physical activity. By the time he graduated from college, he was considered by anyone who knew him as a nice guy with a good sense of humour, but a little soft.
Academically, he did well and when it came to his studies and the skills for success; he was well above average. Unfortunately, only a scattering of this filtered into his self-perception. Still, his friends were intensely loyal and were happy to spend time with him. He was a calming influence on the impulsivity of his two closest companions, Adam and Earl.
The dreams of the other Dante, brave fighter, commander of warriors, fellowship with a god persisted as Dante grew older. He would love to be that Dante, but he recognized it was not who he was, nor was it likely that he would ever even come close. To him, that Dante was extraordinary; the real Dante was just ordinary. Aware he would never meet the Dante of his dream, let alone be him, he made a conscious decision to block the very idea from his thoughts. On waking he would turn his mind to what he could do. He would focus on school then look to find a satisfactory job and when he had it, do it well.
Somehow, his effort to forget the dream was effective. By the time he was donning his cap and gown and standing before the university chancellor to receive his sheepskin, Magna cum Laude, no less, no trace of the dream remained in his memory or in his consciousness. He was focused on his daily life, which he saw as remarkable only in its being completely unremarkable.
If dreams are windows into the soul, what was it Dante had pulled the curtain down on?