Had an interesting dream last night (rather, early this morning) in which the only thing I remember is being in the car with an ex and putting my head down on his shoulder.
"I hope you know that nothing can come of this," he said (this referring to my impulsive gesture of affection -- he was still an ex in the dream, by the way) .
"Yes, I do," I replied. "Thank you for being so straightforward."
I don't remember if I said it out loud, but I recall thinking something along the lines of "this is all I needed."
My dreams tend to be very tactile-- I can feel warm hugs, moist kisses, or cold stares. I can smell things in my dreams. I can see vivid colors and hear noises. I speak Spanish in my dreams. I compose music in my dreams. In this case, the sensation of my head on my ex's shoulder was incredibly comforting and quite satisfactory. But his response intrigued me, especially since the manner in which he said it seemed to say that he was not put off by the gesture. One theory of dream interpretation says that all characters in our dreams are really different manifestations of ourselves. (The same can be said in consciousness, too.) From what was I really forbidding myself -- a second chance? additional pleasure? success? was I being coy? was I lying to myself about something?
No longer in a dream state but not fully awake yet, rather than analyze the dream I treated it as two characters in a story. Where were they going? How had they wound up in a car together to begin with? Was he married? Was she? Would indeed nothing come from her head on his shoulder, or would they begin an affair? Given time (and consciousness) I probably could have drafted a short story -- by the time I had awakened, I had two characters, each wanting something, a time and place, and a conflict. No ending, but it was what was going on inside the car -- that very moment of her head on his shoulder -- that seemed to be the defining moment of it all.
My point, if there is one, is that when it comes to inspiration, everything is fair game. Stories hide in corners, buried under junk drawers, or in plain sight, in the smile of a collaeague. Stories happen as news breaks, or when commercials end. Dreams are stories, and stories are dreams.
We only need to be aware, be awake.