I am a very vivid dreamer. So much so that I remember dreams I had when I was 6 and 7 years old. I remember the shirt I was wearing, the shade of green emanating from the horse I was riding, the music streaming in the background (Michael Jackson’s Thriller, if anyone is curious,) the circular door of the club house… My dreams are detail oriented, and all of the details have to line up in some way or another, or I won’t be able to convince myself to stay asleep. For instance, if my dream is taking place in 1889 in a town resembling the set of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman then there would be no paved roads, the air would smell of boiling laundry, cholera, and raw sewage (the Old West according to Emily’s psyche,) the players would all be dressed in period clothing, unless of course the point of the dream is to focus on someone’s individuality, then it would not be out of place for said person to don a Grateful Dead T-shirt and bell bottoms.
Most of the time, my dream life is a whimsical extension of my conscious self and the connection is seamless. Sometimes, my dreams are beneficial. I have come up with my most creative birthday party decorations in my slumber. I write in my sleep, so that when I wake up all I have to do is transpose the words onto paper. In fact, that is how I came up with my Jena poem.
Occasionally, (and occasionally is too often,) I have bad dreams. My unconscious mind attempts to deal with the incubuses that my conscious mind works at ignoring all day long. Usually, the horror of the dream is so terrible that I don’t want to look at it in the day light. I just want it to evaporate. This happened the other night.
My husband was out of town and I have to bring myself to the brink of exhaustion in order to sleep when he is away. I had been watching too much CNN on September 11, too many stories about the terrorists, their disregard for human life, the American families left reeling in the wake of the violence, and all of this through the looking glass for families in Iraq as they traverse their separate hell. When my eyes were heavy and stung with sleep, I turned the tv off and went to bed.
Note: I have wrestled with whether or not to write this down. I hate the idea of giving voice to my terror. But I have come to the conclusion that it may be cathartic for me to cleanse these images from the bowels of mind. If your dreams are as impressionable as mine, please stop reading. Go watch something completely benign, like You’ve Got Mail. Catch me on the next post.
Somewhere in the middle of the night, I found myself running barefoot through the streets of Baghdad, and to my horror, I was shuffling my beautiful daughters along with me. We were hidden underneath veils, looking for an apartment building where the ambassador was said to be smuggling US citizens out of the country to safety. The shards of sheet metal and glass on the streets cut my daughters’ feet and the blood stained dirt, I knew was like bread crumbs, leading “them,” (our nameless, faceless pursuers) to us.
We reached the building and found it empty, except for a few Iraqi children, seeking shelter. I scolded my daughter when she said, she’d be taking one of the little boys with us, and we left him there on the floor of the bombed out building. We finally found a gathering of people in an alley divided by a chain link fence. There was a truck and a hot air balloon siphoning people from the area. I begged them to let us go, to take my children. The woman assured me there would be another truck, but this one was full. After only a few moments, a man began writing names, graffiti style, on the wall; people who would be allowed on the next truck. He misspelled my middle daughter’s name, and then he wrote my oldest daughter’s name. I shouted and jumped in the air. They were getting out. And then I wondered why he hadn’t written my baby’s name and why she wasn’t in my arms. (My husband was out of town, remember.) In the next moment, the man writing on the wall, somersaulted down the alley and out of sight. Women grabbed their children and disappeared, quickly into doorways or fell on top of them in the street. A bomb had exploded. The trucks and hot air balloons sped away or were in fiery pieces on the ground. The soundtrack of diesel engines and gunfire and terrified people fell silent. Across the street, lay a familiar sight, earth shatteringly still: blonde curls, dimpled elbow, marshamallowy thighs. It was my baby.
I sat up, tears streaming down my face. Angry. Unable to breathe. Scared shitless.
Unable to shake it, this dream has set heavy on my chest since. I keep reminding myself that it was only a dream and doesn’t have any corporeal consequences.
And then, this morning in the kitchen, it occurred to me it is a very real nightmare for some. Mothers whose children wear US military uniforms. Iraqi mothers who put their children to bed in a war zone. Families who have received that most dreaded phone call with news from the front lines.
I don’t have an ending for this post. Mostly, I still sit here, tears streaming down my face. Angry. Unable to breathe…