Here are some notes for an essay that I came up with when I was waiting for my plane to take off in San Francisco last month. I think if I were continue with it, I would need to do a lot of research about dreams — their purpose, the supposed symbolism behind them, archetypes in dreams, that sort of thing. But until I get around to that, here are some thoughts and notes to start things out. Just a warning, it’s about dreams — and not the good kind.
I once dreamt that a mouse skittered into my room while I was sleeping. I woke up, sat up. “Micah,” I said. Then — was that a . . . in my bed? I gasped, panicked, shuddered. Micah bolted upright, grabbed me, held me. “There’s nothing there,” he said. “It’s just a dream,” he said. I hadn’t even asked the question. I sat, tense, in his arms, waiting for him to let go so I could figure out what was real.
Another time I discovered the identity of a pair of teenaged murderers while rummaging around in the basement of one of their houses, snooping for the local press. I awoke suddenly as the dark eyes of the round-faced girl bore into me. She knew what I knew, and knew what she must do to me. Again, I woke Micah, told him that this was the most vivid dream I had ever had. I was sure I was seeing the future, the storyline was so clear and consistent — no jumps, no random plot twists. He told me to think of puppies as I tried to fall back to sleep. So I did. I ran and played with them in a field of flowers. Guster’s “Two at a Time” played in the background. Eventually the girl’s burning eyes faded and I slept peacefully until morning.
I dream of falling, of course, of being chased by cute little dogs that turn into ravenous bears. I’ve bitten into a chunk of fudge that took half my teeth out. There have been the common, “Where the heck are my clothes?!” dreams and, “Didn’t I study for this test?” dreams and, “Oh my goodness how could I have forgotten that thing that we need to do tomorrow!?” dreams. (Or maybe that last one isn’t so much a dream as it is a fact of motherhood.) And, of course, I still dream of planes flying into buildings. Sometimes the buildings collapse and disappear immediately. Sometimes they stand and smolder until I wake up.
Before I fall asleep, I sometimes dream as well. With my body finally relaxed, immobile, warm and safe, my mind wanders to places I haven’t allowed it to go during the day. Sometimes this means I watch my child trip and fall from the train platform, or climb up by an open window, or fall head over heels down the concrete steps. Sometimes my child is, inexplicably, lying in a hospital bed with tubes and bandages and monitors and beeps that mean nothing to me, but fill me with fear and dread. When this happens, I am jerked from the cusp of sleep and back, mercifully, to wakefulness. I try to relax and start again. And this time, I think about puppies.