lim-i-nal; adjective, technical:
1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.
The Bay Area is full of bridges, all of which I’ve been apprehensive about crossing at some point in my life. Growing up in Michigan until I was 13, I didn’t see or cross bridges until we moved here, and I didn’t like them very much. I’m not fan of heights, especially man-made heights, especially suspended over water, especially in an area where there are earthquakes, especially when there is traffic.
It’s not surprising, then, that I started to have nightmares about bridges at least once a year. I would get them every once and a while, calm myself down, and say a prayer every time I had to cross the Richmond-San Rafael to get back up to school. Back then, the dreams would come every once and a while. Now they come every couple months.
The dreams have always varied slightly, but they always end up the same way: with me in the water or narrowly escaping a fall. I never get to the other side.
Last night, I had a long conversation with a friend about the one year anniversary of the Bay Bridge shut down, held on Martin Luther King day. As we reflected on our own activism and lessons learned, the image of the bridge was imprinted in my mind. And in the early hours of this morning, the bridge dream (nightmare) came: I was driving (maybe racing) along, eager to get off the bridge, when another car read-ended me and purposefully pushed my car over the guard rail. I climbed out of the car just in time to jump and reach the bars, pull myself up, and watch my red jeep plummet and submerge into the bay. I tried to walk my way across, but the bridge started to collapse.
I never got to the other side.
And there have been dozens of these narrow escape dreams over the past year, increasing in frequency. There was another where I was driving along, police officers on either side of my car, and I was forced to drive off of a gap in the middle of the bridge. In another, I was cruising and was warned that the bridge would collapse. I had to climb down to the bottom, where whales were waiting to carry me to safety (yes, really - it’s a dream!) In each and every dream, there’s some diversion or catastrophic event that keeps me from completing my journey or reaching the end destination.
I never get to the other side.
I think these dreams are about many things to me and I learn something new from them each time. Sometimes, I view the dreams as signals to stay on my path (or to get clear about what my final destination is), but after this morning, I think more about my gender journey and how I have always felt between two places that society has defined. The start of the bridge is from birth - a “beautiful baby girl,” and the other side would represent a full transition of body and mind, or becoming male. (I never get to the other side).
In the dreams, beside the initial panic of narrowly escaping death, I am never upset that I didn’t get to where I’d been headed. I’m just happy to be alive. Maybe the dream is about accepting this stage of liminality where I reside, and re-defining the process and “end goal” for myself. It is about being able to distinguish external pressures that want to box me in or push me along, versus my own inner voice. And it is about survival under forces that never wanted me alive to begin with. It is about breathing into the threshold and fully living, not just focusing on the destination.
I never get to the “other side” because the “other side” has always been decided for me.
But I get to decide.
musings of a Black, queer and genderqueer activist, educator, musician.