I am out exploring the rural dirt roads northeast of the small hometown of my youth, where I logged thousands of miles as a distance runner then. I have returned to be here for a morning, perhaps a day, just to wander around and soak up the countryside on foot. Things have changed in the decades since, but I still recognize the roads and surrounding land.
This place of pastures and farmland and barbed-wire fences, and the back roads running between criss-crossing it all was the center of my universe. Halcyon days. It feels good to be here again, refamiliarizing myself with the terrain, getting to know the land as it now exists years later, at least in this dream.
Every now and then, as the morning passes, I can see a lean, sinewy runner striding along from a distance. They appear to be in their element, their form honed as if they have been at this for years, as if they know their way around this locale.
I continue meandering along, following my nose, enjoying the luxurious hours. Halfway through the day, I decide to begin the return home and get a workout in at the same time. Home is an indeterminate west or west-southwest somewhere, so I head generally that direction along the perpendicular grid of dirt roads and begin running.
Not far into the run, about a quarter of a mile after taking a turn from one road onto another, I happen to look back and see the lean runner heading the same way I am, toward me. It is rare to see a serious runner in the area, and I would like to meet this individual. Maybe talk to them a little bit, and get to know more about them if they are willing.
I turn and run back to join him on his way. He is friendly, as just about all seasoned distance runners are when they see another, but he is also absorbed in his run, and does not volunteer much at first.
Further details become visible as we are running together that I did not see earlier from a distance. His skin is deeply tanned and his nearly shoulder-length brown hair bleached from what must be many hours spent outside on the roads. His looks remind me of another runner who was on the university cross-country team my freshman year decades ago, and I begin to wonder if it might be him here, many years later. Only in this dream I cannot remember the teammate’s name. Or perhaps he could even be another similar runner from a competing team I am forgetting. I want to remember, but cannot.
I tell the lean, accomplished runner that he looks like someone from the university cross-country team I was on years ago, a teammate whose name I cannot remember, and ask if he might be him. In the dream, it’s a silly thing: I do not think to just tell him the name of the university to identify which team, and he does not ask. Instead, I begin naming other runners on the team to attempt to jog his memory. But he does not know and cannot tell me if he is that runner.
We take a turn and begin heading into the small town here where I used to live. Unlike the rural roads we have been running on, it is no longer recognizable from my youth. In the dream it has become something like an out-of-the-way little resort town, an intriguing place I do not know.
We slow to a walk and stop at an outdoor cafe to eat, and sit down at a small round table for two. Now something else comes to light: this runner is actually not a man, but a woman! True, her appearance is androgynous, and along with her lean muscularity and more linear body contours, somehow I did not notice earlier she was female. How strange yet fascinating this discovery is — only heightening my interest about who this individual might be.
At the table, she and I talk more than when we were running. There is a magnetic quality about her that evokes a strong, indefinable yearning. Like the yearning for something or someone you did not recognize you had always longed for until whatever that is makes itself known to you. It isn’t a romantic longing, but rather as if this person could be a soulmate or long-lost friend I never knew.
It feels as though this androgynous woman with the unnamed secret she carries is someone who would do my spirit much good to connect with. Who might help me discover or fulfill some latent wholeness yet to be realized, some piece of something still missing from my existence… What that might be, I am not sure. But the pull is there, tugging on me strongly, beckoning…
I do not find out much more about this androgynous runner, however — not even her name.
I feel that I should move on and continue my run home, westward. Home to where I live today. So I get up from the table and walk around to give the woman a hug before leaving. I almost start to kiss her, but then realize it would be inappropriate under the circumstances, and instead simply offer a friendly hug and warm goodbye.
The cafe is sitting on the lower level of a bi-level retail center built into the side of a small rise in the land, and in order to continue westward on my run, if I am to remain outside I must detour either around to the south or north of it. Instead, I decide to take a more direct route and cut through the strip of connected retail buildings by taking a flight of stairs up to the second level, where I should then be able to exit and continue straight on my way.
Except that when I reach the top of the stairway, I find it opens onto a short hallway with several different doorways I could take. The first door or two opening out to the west are locked, however, so I continue down the hallway to try the others.
Then, as I am walking down the hall, I notice on the floor a pair of glasses with lenses that have a mauve-purplish tint on the top half of the lens fading to transparent at the bottom. I recognize the glasses as belonging to the androgynous runner and that I should get them back to her. How the glasses somehow got where they are now is not something that occurs to me to wonder about.
I turn around to go back downstairs to the cafe, but then bump into a woman who is a local resident and perhaps the proprietor of the cafe or one of the other adjacent retail stores. I show her the glasses I have found that belong to the woman I was talking with at the cafe. The woman in the hallway says she will be happy to take them to her.
As I thank her, I say, you know, I never got the name of the woman at the cafe. Do you know who she is?
She smiles and says, sure, and that the reason the woman never told me her name was that they both thought when I was at the cafe I might be someone with the local newspaper posing anonymously as a customer to get a story. Now, though, this woman realizes that’s not who I am, and tells me the other woman’s name. I hear the first name clearly — Amanda — but have to listen more closely to discern the last name, which turns out to be Pelko. Her name is Amanda Pelko.
I repeat the words to make sure I will remember the name. Then the dream lifts, and I open my eyes.
As the dream begins melting awaY, before the name can be spirited from memory by the sandman who is now making his exit, just for the fun and intrigue of it I get up and turn on the computer to search the internet. It would be unusual if there were not someone with that name somewhere in the world, just by chance if for no other reason.
But there is no Amanda Pelko to be found, at least not easily. As in the dream, who she might be is unknown.
According to the lore of dream interpretation, perhaps I myself am Amanda Pelko.
And perhaps who I really am, too, is just as much an unknown.