Response to “Transmission Man”

by on November 29, 2011

Responses Takes
Illustration by Sally ScopaIllustration by Sally Scopa

I woke up the other morning with a girl’s face clouding my vision. Thoughts of her saturated my first waking moments. With every bite of cereal, her presence made itself known to my still hazy consciousness. She issomeone I see every day at work. Aside from fleeting weekly interactions, I have never given her much thought; indeed, I have not thought of her since that morning.

In my dream we were lovers. Not lovers in the flesh, or even platonic companions; yet we were utterly entwined with one another. There, in the dream, fragments of her face from a certain angle, the timbre of her laugh, the way she walked, all struck me as deeply significant, reflective of a deeper truth about the nature of my reality. Iwas hers entirely. When she spoke I heard the echo of my own voice, or some combination of hers and mine on some AM station only we knew how to find.

I don’t know what this means about my relationship with the girl; I am not tempted to read anything into it. And yet this dream has stuck with me. Every now and then, I reflect on the person that I was in that dream and what has become of him.

Reading “Transmission Man” left me breathless because it so vividly evokes this kind of experience: the deep mystery of those first waking moments, when the canvas of our life as we have understood it is impossible to discern, where we aren’t sure who we are or might be. The story asks the question, “If that momentwere extended indefinitely, what would become of us?”

The story, as I read it, confronts a particularly unsettling conclusion: that as much as we might want to hold on to the identities that slip away after waking, the only way to make them permanent would be a kind of death. We would have to go outside of the narrative timeline of human society and enter a void where identity is infinitely fluid, where becoming what we dream is always already occurring. As the narrator awaits his return to the comfortable oblivion of TV “persona,” he is also becoming dead, renouncing his claims upon life in this world.

Dreams present the tragedy of our ephemeral human experience in miniature: one moment they are AllThat Matters, the next moment they are gone forever. Just as the passing of all things is difficult to accept for even the wisest people, the abrupt disappearance of an entire nocturnal identity can be painful. Yet just as we ultimately realize that eternal life would be a drag, so we understand that the passing of these parallel identities are inseparable from a meaningful life on earth. The reading experience of “Transmission Man” reflects the dizzingly seductive power of dreams, even as it highlights their dangerous temptation, the strangeness and madness lurking on the other side of sleep.

Perhaps the man who loved that girl will return, but I’m not sure I’d be able to recognize him.