Saturday, September 18, 2004

Other People's Dreams

As a child I had recurring nightmares. There are only two that I remember well; one is that one that everyone has, where the anxiety of moving to the suburbs results in dreams where you're walking along a street without sidewalks with your family when a pickup truck drives past and snatches up your uncle and takes him to an auto garage where--when you arrive to rescue him--he has been encased in tires like a character in a cartoon, and in the course of struggling with the evil mechanics the rest of your family gets trapped in the same way until you're the only one left and you know you can't win because you're just a little kid and whatever happens next is something that you're too naive to even imagine. You know, that one.

I also used to have a dream that I was in an out-of-control car with no driver. I was in the back seat, sometimes with my siblings and sometimes not, trying to climb into the front and figure out how to stop the car. I've always believed this dream was about control; as I grew older, it became less stressful. I moved gradually from the back seat to the front passenger, and the last time I remember having this dream I was driving.

There was one other dream, one that I don't remember well, one that I may only have had once. It scared the holy crap out of me, though. I'm not sure how old I was, but I'd guess early adolescence, say twelve or thirteen. I woke up out of this dream with my heart pounding in terror. Once I realized it was a dream, I started to relax, and shut my eyes--only to find myself right back in the dream, with the same terrifying image (which I will not attempt to describe, partly because it's grown hazy over the years and partly because even now it upsets me) in front of me. Needless to say, I didn't get any more sleep that night.

Now bear with me, because here's where I may begin to sound a bit Freudian. Over the past three or four years I've been thinking about that dream. I feel as though something significant happened that night, as though there was something that I couldn't face, something which has marked me. Otherwise, why should it terrify me so much? Someone--I can never remember the source of these sorts of quotes--someone once said that you should write about what scares you, and this definitely qualifies. I've been gradually trying to revisit the dream, approaching it from the edges, both consciously and in some very intense dreams recently. It's likely that I'm just reconstructing something out of bits of misremembered information and discards from an indulgent subconscious. But one of these days I'm going to try to write about that dream, and what happened in it, and why it's so frightening to me even now. I doubt I'll discover anything earthshaking in doing so; the best I can hope for is that it might make me feel a little better. But it feels worth doing.


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