“I had a weird dream last night. Like I wasn’t alive, but I wasn’t dead either. Just spinning and falling and numbers fading in and out everywhere.” That’s how I started off the conversation. The day was sunny, and ribbons of light danced lazily through our kitchen window. “In the dream, there was a clock too, an old grandfather clock. Strangely, the hands were racing backward.”
“Sounds scary. Are you OK?” Monica felt my forehead.
“It got me thinking. Sounds scary, but I keep asking myself, what if we’re not real?”
“Sam, what are you talking about? We’ve been married ten years and honestly, sometimes I wonder how we made it this long.” Monica smiled and pinched my cheek.
The coffeemaker beeped and I poured a cup, offering it to Monica, “Want some?”
“Is it real coffee?” She put it to her nose, “Smells like real coffee.” She sipped, “Tastes like real coffee. Well, at least we know the coffee is real.”
“Seriously, I’ve been thinking about this. What if we’re just an idea or a dream, somebody else’s dream? Or maybe we’re just characters in somebody else’s story? How would we know?”
“OK. I’ll play along, but it sounds like you’ve been channeling Borges again. I just did a taste and smell test with the coffee. The fact that I can experience those things keeps me from being a character in a novel… doesn’t it?”
“Maybe, but then again, maybe not. In a novel, characters smell and taste things all the time. They feel pain. They love. They die. That doesn’t make them real.”
“What about our eight-year-old son sleeping in the other room. Are you telling me he’s not real? As a mother, I can tell you that giving birth to him was really real.”
“Maybe you thought it was real, like telling a story. The story has a certain life of its own. If it’s told well, full of tastes and smells, sounds and sights, it can certainly feel real, but it doesn’t have to be. Take what’s going on in the world today. We’re inundated with lies that we are told are real. You may know they’re lies, but many people believe them. For them, reality is different, it’s changed.”
“I see what you mean. Reality can be a slippery thing sometimes.” She snickered, “Reality isn’t real, huh?”
“Exactly. It’s a conundrum, a paradox,” I said as I spooned some more sugar into my coffee.
Monica, who is a psychologist, brought up Google on her phone, “Did you ever hear of Cotard’s Delusion? It’s a mental illness listed in the DSM, where the subject believes that all or part of them doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s what you’ve got.”
“It was just a question, granted a big question. I’m not crazy. I don’t feel depressed or anything like that. Just out of curiosity, how do doctors treat this Cotards?”
Monica tapped a few more keys, “Drugs or electroconvulsive therapy. Maybe you should see someone.”
“So, I guess that means Descartes, Plato, and Aristotle were all mentally ill.” I snort, “Don’t call in the white coats just yet. Let’s get back to the question. Is there a test or some way you can prove you are real and not a character in the mind or dreams of an author? I’m a science guy. I’d like proof.”
Monica put down her coffee, wrapped her arms around me and gave me a long hot kiss. “How’s that for proof?”
“I have to say Dr. Sunborn, that I approve of your methods. I’m just not sure your proof is conclusive.”
“Evan is still asleep. If you care to step into the bedroom, I’ll show you some conclusive proof.”
“I accept the challenge.” We climbed the stairs to the bedroom where reality disappeared for at least an hour.
Monica was lying close to me, her head on my chest. I felt a warm glow from the touch of her skin. “That certainly felt real to me…” I stared up at the ceiling, “…But it isn’t proof. It could have all just been made up, a very sexy love scene in a story.”
Monica pushed me away, “If that wasn’t real, you do need help.”
“No, no, it was great. Come back.” I pulled her back in close again.
She didn’t resist, “I’m not sure what to do with you.”
“You seemed pretty sure a few minutes ago.”
She punched me in the arm, “You know what I mean.”
I stifled a laugh, “You know how Descartes’ proof was his statement, I think therefore I am?”
“Yeah, I know it. But putting on my psychologist’s hat again, I always thought Descartes’ argument was pretty weak. I mean how do we know he was thinking anything. Too subjective to be proof.”
“For once, we agree.” I turned and looked Monica in the eyes, “I think I have it. Are you ready?”
“Ok Einstein, what is it?”
“I wrote this; therefore I am.”
– END –