A subtle shift in perception

Driving to work this morning was an odd experience. For the first 1/3 or so of the drive, there were way fewer cars on the road than normal, even for 6:00 in the morning. Driving through the dark, seeing no more than the occasional headlights, I wondered if something had happened, if there had been some event or tragedy and I was the only one who didn’t know. Was there something I missed because I never check the news? Should I be driving in to work at all; will it even be there when I arrive? I didn’t pull out the phone to find out, though. If nothing else, being almost alone on the road was peaceful, contemplative. I didn’t want to give that up to the light of a phone screen.

Just before the halfway-mark of the drive, the number of cars on the road was closer to normal. But something still felt off. As I pulled up to a stop light, the same one I stop at every time I drive to work, I didn’t recognize the intersection. It was as if the world had been knocked out of alignment, as if it had been cut up into strips and then glued back together again by a child – everything mostly in the right place, but slightly askew. When the light turned green, I pushed the gas slowly, on faith; in the middle of the intersection I knew where I was again, but things still looked like they’d been tampered with somehow. The next turn I should have made I missed, going straight instead, not recognizing where I was, and had to re-route. Having to go a different way than usual, having to concentrate rather than contemplate, jerked everything into sharp focus, and after that the drive was much as it is every other day.

But the feeling that something is off hasn’t left me, like a dream I can’t shake. And I don’t really want to; I like the idea of the world being slightly different than what it’s always been, of having a landscape just different enough for there to be space to make moves I normally am too afraid or feel too constrained to make. I like the slightly-dreamy nature of having a subtle perception shift that makes everything seem somehow not-quite-there. Like lucid dreaming, when you’re dreaming but you know you’re dreaming, and it gives you the chance to actively participate in the dream, rather than just watching it – to control it. Like when you’re lucid-dreaming a monster and you tell it to go away, and it does, because you’re in control even though you’re dreaming.

Something tells me that this day in the office, interacting with normal people all day, is going to be tougher than usual.

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