Most of my thoughts prefer to lounge about the attic of my mind. It is finely built in the old style. There are fine wood cabinets, mahogany walls and doors trimmed in raw sienna. The room is well lit but never too bright. The long hardwood floor is covered with a remarkable silk rug in which are sewn depictions of critical moments of my life. Each scene is stitched in exacting detail and the gold thread used to portray these events seems to glow with a radiance of its own. I study that rug from time to time to remind myself of who I am.
There is a large bay window that overlooks both mountain and sea. My thoughts often look out past miles of cloudy blue, far past the horizon, and gaze upon an ocean or two, sometimes three. They will often observe with great interest stately frigates or sleek schooners of the type that were prevalent so many years ago but now no longer exist. My thoughts, unbound by time and space, will follow the paths of these boats until they reach the shore of some distant continent. It is not uncommon for me to overhear one of my thoughts expound upon the nature of some intricate rigging or beautiful figurehead he or she happens to notice on a particular ship, far out at sea.
In the cold of winter, I’ll light a fire and, in the spring, a warm breeze flows through the room. Lace curtains rise and fall in languid rhythm as if the room itself were breathing. It is quite comfortable in that attic regardless of season and it doesn’t matter if the room is crowded or sparse with my thoughts: the air in there is always fresh and the temperature is always right.
My ideas and thoughts, whether happy or sad, are typically dressed in the grand style of an age gone by. Men leave their top hats by the door and, on occasion, my attention will be drawn to someone in tailcoat crossing the floor. Women often wear gowns in the old style; I’ll even see a bustle or two from time to time.
My thoughts discuss all manner of things but most of their talk pertains to me. Though discussion can become quite animated, courtesy is the overriding rule although every so often an idea or two will be so bold as to take hold of my voice in the form of words that fly out of my mouth. Suddenly I’ll be engaged in some unintended argument with strangers, friends or family.
From time to time, I bring them to order as if I were running some study group or salon. Refreshments are served: orangeade or tea, depending upon the season. The discussion is always quite interesting though, if truth be told, some of those ideas are obsolete and old. Yes, I’ve heard a great many platitudes and there is no shortage of outdated opinions. They do disagree from time to time but all my thoughts seem to get along well which makes me feel good: they have known each other a long time and are, apparently, quite fond of each other. All are patient, secure in the knowledge that their presence is appreciated. Occasionally, a new thought will appear and articulate some innovative theory which will inject excitement into our discussion and will be argued about for weeks at a time.
At the end of the day, when all are worn out from intellectual exercise, my thoughts congratulate each other for having broadened my mind: ideas about the world or more practical thoughts about my issues and concerns. They are focused upon the path of my future, the state of my health and various aspects of my personal welfare. Some are a bit more worried than others about my plans and proclivities. In any event, it is usually the case, when the evening grows late, that they take their leave, one or two at a time as their coaches pull up, drawn by horses, two or four, as the case may be. A coachman will stride atop the cab and off they go as quickly as they came. I bid them all a warm farewell and, when the last takes his leave, I quickly fall into a deep sleep.
Then there are the others: thoughts that comprise the lower class. They lie low and hide in the dark corners of the basement of my mind. It is an uncomfortable asylum – damp in spring and freezing cold in winter – but the choices are few for these poor souls. This is where my most disturbing insights, anxieties and ideas seek refuge. They meet only at night, ashamed to be seen, and it is here that you will find a grim collection of repressed impulses, bad dreams, worries, regrets and fears that seek the shadows. This place is also a sanctuary for ghosts – parents and friends, long ago deceased – who don’t understand that they aren’t alive.
They are a motley crew, loud with anger and unrestrained weeping and, needless to say, it is quite noisy down there. They are unkempt as a group and terribly dressed: old suits, tattered blouses, ill-fitting pants, worn shoes and threadbare coats, all of which are dulled by the fine dust of guilt and remorse that seems to circulate throughout the cellar and settle upon their clothes. The men are unshaven and no one, it seems, cares to lift a comb to their heads. They drink from a fountain that pours over with a strange concoction of self-doubt and hopelessness. They pace nervously across the cold cellar floor, propelled by nervous energy and existential anxiety. In this way, they wear themselves out and, before long, three or four will have collapsed in a heap upon the dilapidated sofa and will have dozed off. Those who remain awake are clearly disinterested though they linger out of some warped sense of obligation.
Their candles burn low, the light is dim, they linger in ill-lit hallways and small anterooms to escape the company of others. As a rule, they leave as soon as the sun comes up and, in the case of dreams, they depart in the most silent way: they cover their faces and creep quickly away to avoid the embrace of memory who lingers by the door. Repressed emotions and disturbing epiphanies cower in corners, ashamed of who they are. They bow deeply should they cross paths with the thoughts and ideas of that higher class just then arriving. Their worn tailcoats, creased at the waist, are a testament to long years of such servility.
These sorry aspects of my consciousness harass me constantly: they interrupt my conversations, undermine my enjoyment of art and music and disturb the peace that might otherwise prevail. They follow me through hallways and pursue me up the stairs, usually to voice some complaint about the state of the facilities or living conditions in general. I tend to ignore them and, invariably, the three or four who pursue me will be easily rebuffed and will crawl to the outer recesses of my mind. However, every now and then, a cellar dweller, irate and upset, will climb those steps and push me aside. He will enter the attic where his presence causes quite a stir. Boisterous and profane, he’ll rage against the age-old hierarchy, claim a rightful place in the attic and refuse to leave. It is at this point that I grab him by the shoulders, wrestle him to the floor and do my best to throw him out. Whether or not I am successful, these episodes are unsettling for the company at large and are especially upsetting to me.