Saturday, July 25, 2009

It’s always when you roll over for one more little piece of sleep that the deepest, darkest, sharpest dreams hit you, and why exactly those dreams choose that time, when a little sliver of sun slips through the blinds and lands on you, I have no idea. After all, you’re half awake; you woke up once already; you know it’s almost over. So what’s the big idea, going so deep, way into the jungle, the deepest recesses of your mind and your fears?

On this particular morning I was dreaming about losing something- at first it was one of my children, but then, it seemed like I’d lost my entire identity; my wallet for sure, maybe my car, my clothes, any clue of who I was or where I was from. I was in a crowded city, and people were impassive as I begged them over and over to help me find what I was looking for. But, I kept forgetting even that- what was I looking for? My words fell on deaf ears. Cars sped up on the street and made it impossible for me to cross; young beggars came around me with wide-eyed stares offering to shine my shoes for a few pennies. But I’d lost my shoes, and my pennies; also, though the street sign seemed to flash regularly on the “walk” sign, the cars would only ease up on the “don’t walk,” and nobody else seemed to want to brave the crosswalk at all.

Now at this point I should warn my readers: this is about my deepest fears, those which have been with me for years, that stuck in my mind, and they may do that to you, also, at least if you are the slightest bit like me. I am not as much afraid of the usual stuff- being beaten up in an alley, having my credit cards stolen, having a piano dropped on my head from fifteen stories up. As a teenager, I stood at the railing right at the top of Niagara Falls, watched thousands of gallons of water roaring over the cliff edge to the huge jagged rocks below, and imagined jumping the twenty yards or so to join it in a spectacular death- but, I don’t dream about that; in fact, I’m ok with that, it rests somewhere in my subconscious, along with the gratitude that I never did it, of course. Life has been good to me, and now, Saturday morning, able to sleep in, a sleeping family all around me, even the puppies and the cat, I have no reason to be dredging up these horrible memories in my sleep.

But, to start with the lost identity, there it is; you read it on the news, the guy who falls from the back of a pickup truck or something, and forgets absolutely and completely who he is, where he came from, what he’d done, where he lived or anything. Some helpful soul takes him to the nearest city, which is usually in Texas, but, he has no papers, no id, no nothing that gives anyone a clue. And he’s not angry, or happy, or anything that you can tell from the story, just lost. So I glean what I can from the story and imagine…there he is at a street corner, watching the traffic go by, and thinking, what am I doing here? I have thought the same thing myself, in New York, in London, in Seoul. In fact I was cleaning an old picture of Seoul just last night, maybe that’s where this memory came up. On a street corner in Seoul, where of course I even have trouble with “walk” and “don’t walk,” let alone any warning someone might say quickly under their breath, and in fact, I should point out, in real life there were no beggars; perhaps I picked up that memory somewhere else, but my dream has no problem altering that. On the “walk” sign two young boys dash out into the street, and of course the cars closest to us have stopped. But, alas, it’s an eight-lane road and, further out into it, the boys aren’t so lucky; I hardly even see it, but the feeling of sudden, enormous tragedy is all over the air and everyone freezes up imagining the horror that has descended on the lives of all involved. I, of course, being a total stranger, foreigner in a foreign land, can go on living my life, if only I could forget.

Closer to home, a small town provides lots of wildlife sounds, birds chirping out the window as the sun comes up, the sounds of animals in the house who know it’s daybreak and are ready to get on with it. I lived in a town once that was one tenth the size of this, if you can imagine, a hill of a town for those who know me well, and there, two boys, one of them the son of a teacher of mine, waited for a long train, a very long train, had to be ten times as long to young boys as it would have been to me. When it was done they ran across. But another train was coming the other way; they couldn’t have seen. I didn’t see this, fortunately; I can’t get it out of my mind, anyway. Obviously, it’s something I carry not too deeply in me, as my children occasionally make wayward dashes toward the street and it’s up to me to play defense.

Niagara Falls was gray, gloomy, with polluted air and a mist all over it, all of the time, but especially in the winter, when it would freeze and make an icy glaze all over. These small towns on the other hand, often have fresh air, clear blue sky, and summers are hot, so that early mornings are about the best time. Evenings are pleasant but I’m often exhausted from long and busy days. You often see the same landmarks over and over. Life has been good to me; I have no problem waking up, when it comes down to it. But if tragedy were to befall, I would certainly move to the city, someplace where it would be easier to forget the past.

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