I dreamed that I bought a building.
My building was on the harbourfront in downtown Corner Brook, which is geographically impossible. A commercial building, worn clapboard, brown paint peeling to reveal more brown paint. A single floor, doors in the centre of each side, small windows, a wheelchair ramp, a handmade sign over the entrance. A parking area on the right, a guardrail by the water. A paved road winding past the front door, a hill across the street full of yellowing grass. A pile of melting snow where the parking spots had been recently plowed. Salt air.
I dreamed the whole process. A tiny ad in the newspaper, a grainy photo of the place. Thinking oh, that old spot, wouldn’t that be fun? All of my friends are buying houses, so why not. A lowball bid on a lark. Then the phone call, the unanticipated win. Putting down the phone and thinking, What am I going to do with a building?
In my dream I updated Facebook: I BOUGHT A BUILDING. Congratulatory comments from friends. Oh, you bought a house! No. Oh, are you starting a business? I don’t think so. Then why did you buy a building.
I drove over to meet the building. The proprietor was a tall man who seemed ready to retire. Oh yeah, he said. We used to wash dishes. But the IGA put me out of business. They can wash dishes faster than we can. We toured from room to room, pushed open tall dark wooden doors. A dimly-lit hallway, old wooden furniture with dust in the cracks, little rings of lace under the lamps. Through a doorway and suddenly we were in a small, well-lit diner with tables and red upholstered seats. A tired-looking waitress tidied up tables after some final small gathering. There were water glasses on the tables, almost empty. The waitress pushed through swinging doors into a kitchen, carrying dishes. A basket of homemade buns on the counter by the cash register, with a little handwritten note saying: Take these home. Thank you for buying our building.
We used to do breakfast, the proprietor said. Really good breakfast here, pancakes and waffles. In my dream I felt guilty about having never been there for breakfast. There isn’t anywhere to get a decent diner breakfast in Corner Brook.
I said to the proprietor, Let me ask you a question. Just off the record, not legal advice or anything. The truth is, I’m not much of a businessperson. I’ve never bought a building before. I guess my question is, what am I supposed to do? What is required. Do I have to sell all this stuff? Do I have to wash dishes? Does it come with anything? Do I employ anybody? Should I tear the building down? Can I live here?
I don’t remember any answers. I remember looking up at an ornate hanging lamp and thinking, I can start an artist-run centre. Then imagining someone swinging from the lamp and thinking No, that won’t work. The noise would bother the neighbours. Maybe a studio. I remember thinking, At least during the next election I can let the NDP use it as a headquarters. It would be a good location for that.