There are those who will tell you that the dream state means nothing, that it’s a free association of jumbled thoughts assembling into random pictures, that to analyze dream stories is pointless at best, and, at worst, is to court the impossible madness of trying to ascribe meaning and import to something inherently meaningless.

But I am not one of those people. I am one of the others. I am one of the people who tries to learn from her dreams, tries to maintain the momentum of the dream state on waking, to dwell a few moments more in that space between, tries to glean glimmers of meaning from the corners of that night’s field of dreams.

This dream featured a man: he was no anonymous abstract; I saw his face, recognized him from real, waking life. We had connected on some level, and left the depth, then hazy, to be determined at some time beyond that moment. But the moment was its own totality; I perceived mutuality, but he withdrew. That was the reality of our reality.

But in the dream, we shared a symbiotic wave of energy , a constant exchange explored over endless hours wandering one of the largest cities in the world. From bars to restaurants to conversations in foreign languages with locals, we traversed the geography and offerings of New York City, lost in time and space, humming along with the pulse of the metropolis. We spoke in conspiratorial tones, our eyes made intimate contact, and our easy conversation was peppered with smiles and laughter. We wandered through the night, past midnight’s magic, past the point of reasonable bedtimes, moving on the momentum of chemistry and toward the expectation of sunrise.

The lull came way before dawn. It was a vast and awkward quiet, a pause palpable even in REM sleep. The inertia of momentum ceased, to be taken over by the inertia of something still and stopped. We seemed to have reached the end of a road. There was nowhere left to go. It wasn’t just symbolism; it was an end parenthesis.

We said a perfunctory, not entirely comfortable good night and promised to meet again when circumstance allowed. He was as sincere-sounding in parting as he had been when first we met, and that smile in his eyes massaged me into belief even as my mind knew better. He went on his way, vanishing foggily into a clear night, and I was left standing, knowing it was over. Marooned in early morning several hours before sunup, I wondered where I would go, where I would take refuge or find a bed, that late at night in a city where I no longer lived.

Perhaps, in my dream state, the New York I’ve left represents unlimited possibilities and endless night; my subconscious seems to believe that Los Angeles, where I dwell in daylight, while bright and sunny, is romantically limited.

Or perhaps the geography doesn’t symbolize a thing. Perhaps we’re all just smarter in our dreams than we are in real life. Perhaps only in sleep, our filters are shelved long enough to foster epiphanies that elude us in waking. Perhaps dreaming is passive decision-making, with just enough control relinquished to choose a less magical, more realistic path than our romantic little hearts might prefer.