I was awakened early by my wife, whose early weekday schedule has her up similarly early on weekends, both through habit and because she has stuff to catch up on. I covered my head with a pillow to try to block the light and the oxygen enough to go back to sleep, and I drifted in and out as dogs stomped on me and text messages binged in on her phone with urgent weekend shift questions she was needed for. These are circumstances where I end up dreaming quite a bit.

One of the dreams I had began where my awareness faded into a city scene in some warm place. If I had to describe it, it’s how I imagine Cuba, but it could have been Florida or California, or even Queens in the summer, just people of all races out and lots of stores, kind of older looking. (Like in New York when you walk by a certain kind of diner and it seems to belong to a different age.) Bright colors, but they looked faded in the bright, warm sunlight and that created a feeling of nostalgia.

I don’t know who said it, but I heard the phrase “Change Begins at the Store.” I originally thought that it was going to end with some kind of new age cliche, like change begins in your heart or change begins, what, at home? But it seeped into my awareness, and I realized it was true, in the sense that the loose change I have in my pocket all originates at some store. So, like, literal.

I needed to go to a store in the dream. Although everything seemed really typical at first, when I finally picked a store out to go into, I realized there was a moat in front of every store. It was obvious when I saw it, but before that, it was just a busy street scene, like a pedestrian mall, with lots of people out. So to get to any store, I’d have to walk through some moat. It didn’t seem bad, but it made me pause for a moment. Everyone was doing it though, so I just marched ahead.

“Moat” makes it sound dingy or medieval, and it was hardly that, it was more like a pool or something, tiled with bright turquoise or sea foam tiles that you’d find in an Art Deco bathroom. And the sides of the moat thing were very slanted so you could walk easily into the water, get to the deepest part which reached about waist level, and walk easily back out. Nobody, myself included, seemed to be wet once they came out the other side.

I walked around the store aimlessly and bought something, I have the feeling it was like a drugstore and I was buying something simple like lip balm, but that part of the dream has faded at this point… I pocketed my purchase and my change and left. I remembered the phrase once again although it didn’t seem relevant. Change Begins at the Store.

When I left, I stood outside the door for a moment and surveyed the scene. Still lots of people out walking, still sunny, still a moat. I noticed that something was going on in the water, though, and it made me pause.

The water, which originally looked clean and still, seemed a lot more crowded than when I’d first crossed it. I realized that there were coins on the bottom of the water, and people were bending down to try to pick them up. The water, being waist deep, would not allow them to grab the coins without getting their heads under the water, and they were either slippery or attached or something because nobody just grabbed one and stood back up, they’d try to grab a coin and get so caught up in the struggle to grab one that they wouldn’t come back up again, and the water was crowded with floating, face-down bodies.

I cautiously entered the water, and there were several coins sparkling up at me. I was unavoidably attracted to them and couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. I took a deep breath and stuck my head under the water and started feeling around for one. I found one, but I could not grip it. I was not stuck, it was just a coin on a flat surface and I couldn’t get my finger under it, no trickery or sorcery involved. I was pretty quickly almost out of breath, and I popped out of the water gasping, but I went back down as quickly as I could. I woke up knowing that I was probably going to never leave the water except on the unlikely chance that manage to grasp a coin.

I woke slightly unsettled but not deeply disturbed. It had seemed a pretty natural thing to get caught up in the struggle for a few coins, and in the dream, it was not a panicky or desperate feeling, it was just the feeling that I was doing what everyone else was doing, I was probably not going to last long doing it, and it was just fine because what else was there?