Last night I dreamt that I was sitting at a dressing table getting ready for a party. I wore a period costume, Marie Antoinette era, a pink and bronze gown with a full skirt, tightly-laced corset under a silk and rose brocaded bodice. A light-colored, feathered wig toppled on my head like a crown and spilled ringlets around my décolleté. I was applying the most unusual make-up from small jars, rouge and oily mica at the creases of my eyes. Most unusual of all—I put on red lipstick, a bright cranberry shade, which I never wear in real, waking life. As I painted my pale lips red, I noticed that the lips were not my own; my face was not mine but someone else’s: a woman also in her thirties, but with angled features and a pocked complexion under the layers of powder. I stared into the mirror. Some gold and beaded jewelry that I had never seen before sat coiled on top of a satin pouch and I picked it up and began putting on sparkling rings, a necklace with gemstones—some ornate design, bedazzling bracelets. Women buzzed about behind me; I watched them in the mirror. They wore the same style dress and elaborately decorated wigs. The rest of the room was a swirl of gold and emerald green velvets, mahogany furniture, most of it painted white like the vanity. Portraits hung on the walls. I didn’t know the faces but they looked freakishly young with white wigs. It was not my bedroom but some kind of suite, or parlor.

In real life, I had known rooms like this. I grew up in historic mansions in Wiscasset, Maine, a village known for houses built in the 18th and 19th century, a haven for antiques enthusiasts. But there in the dream parlor I was surrounded by contemporary pieces and dressed for a banquet. Someone announced a name into the parlor and I stood, stepped away from the vanity. I walked toward the center of the room and kept my gaze on the doorway. A man appeared, also in his thirties, I guessed, and he looked sheepishly happy, his lips curled upward on one side when he saw me. I didn’t recognize him but he knew me. He asked if I were ready and I nodded, took his outreached arm and we left the suite.

Marie Antoinette style vanity