I’ve started dreaming about my high school graduation, in a literal sense.

In this particular projection, I’m a friendless version of myself at a much larger school with a banquet hall and two full-size gymnasiums. Graduation starts in the banquet hall, where Survivor host Jeff Probst introduces a challenge that seems more Fear Factor than Survivor: If students let tarantulas crawl on their bodies for a minute the school will clear their attendance record. This seems redundant to me, given I am donned in a cap and gown, waiting for graduation ceremonies to begin. But everyone else is doing it, so I do, too. The tarantulas are used to a desert climate; the doors to the fancy room have been sealed off and the heat turned up. I’m sweating bullets, waiting on a never-ending line, contemplating whether I have a fear of spiders, when he starts talking to me.

It seems I haven’t any friends in this sleep-brain-world, but tonight, I’ve made friends with a magical new boy. He’s the innocent, reclusive white boy who is far simpler than he thinks he is—reminiscent of Clay Jensen, whom I’d spent the past day hate-watching. He asks me if I remember him from geometry sophomore year. It takes me a while, but I do. He’s exactly the kind of person you’d forget was sitting in the back of your remedial math class two years ago.

Because we are both quirky and thoughtful, we abandon the spider challenge to get a head-start on graduation seating. We walk to the grandiose gymnasium where ceremonies will be held, spontaneously harmonizing to some Nirvana B-side stuck in my head, and I think, Wow, I should’ve slept with this boy in high school.

Suddenly, he’s gone. Probably because, for the sake of realism, my brain has written out the storyline in which I am someone’s manic pixie dream girl, but more importantly, so that I can devote undivided attention to my eighth grade history teacher, sitting on the stairs outside the gym. He recognizes me and approaches for a hug, which I of course, reciprocate, because this was the man who taught me to distrust and organize, and for that, I am forever grateful. He looks at me with kind eyes and a laugh, and begins:

“It’s time for you to get a nose job and move to Hollywood, or write, or sing, or I don’t know, fuckin’ dance. Because there’s no place for us in politics or academia anymore, you got me? If you want to change things, you have to start with the minds of people. You have to brainwash them. And you can do it, I really believe you can.”

I trust his judgment on all things besides the enforcement of dress codes, so I nod and smile back, walking into the gymnasium.

I wake up. ♦