The internet police were after me last night. I didn’t sleep very well, and every time I woke up and then fell back into drowsy semi-consciousness I was treated to another variation of some guy in dark glasses making vaguely threatening accusations and serving me with a warrant to seize my computer as evidence. That must have happened at least a million times. It was like watching every episode in a boxed set of DVDs of the most boring cop show ever produced. I’ve never been so relieved to hear the alarm clock.
I did not dream anything last night. The last thing I remember about last night is turning out the light, rolling onto my stomach and finding just the right angle for my head before I surrendered to unconsciousness. The next thing I remember is hearing the alarm going bleep bleep bleep. There was no in-between, only a void where dreams might have been. I guess I was a little tired yesterday evening.
It was a warm summer’s day, so I was sitting on the back stoop soaking up the sunshine with a book in one hand and a cool, refreshing drink in the other. Birds sang from the trees. Clouds danced across the skies. A really annoying bug flew into my ear, or that’s what it felt like, anyway. I dropped the book and stuck a finger in my ear to dig the bug out, but it turned out not to be a bug at all. A chunk of ear wax was rattling around in there. I hooked a fingernail over it and scooped out enough wax to make a votive candle. After flicking it into the bushes I scooped out another astoundingly huge plug of wax, then another and another. I’m pretty sure I could have gone on like that all day if the alarm clock hadn’t bleeped me awake.
I have this idea that dreams are a premonition of what it’s going to be like when you get old and start to disconnect from reality. A warning, really. You go walking around in public without any pants on, you do things that don’t make any sense but you pretend that it’s perfectly normal and you’ve done it that way all your life, you think you can fly. See what I mean?
I don’t remember much of the dream I was having just before I woke up this morning, just that, as I was having a conversation with My Darling B at the dinner table, I was pulling the teeth out of my head one by one with my fingers. I briefly examined the bloody roots of each one before dropping it on my plate, then reaching for the next one, and so on.
There’s no good reason to have a dream like that, except as a built-in inoculation to keep me from freaking out when I start to lose my mind. Deja vu will kick in and I’ll think, Oh, hey, I’ve been here before. It wasn’t so bad, and I’ll probably wake up soon. And by the time I realize I’m not going to wake up, my kids will have safely ensconced me in the old folks home, where I can sit by the window and quietly pull my teeth out.
I had a little trouble sleeping when, around three o’clock this morning, various thumps and bumps around the house woke me up and I couldn’t find my way back to The Land of Nod. It happens. I thought briefly about retreating to my basement lair to search the interwebs for some noteworthy drivel to read, but returned to bed after promising myself that, if I didn’t fall asleep in a half-hour, I would retreat as aforementioned and surf.
When I wake in the middle of the night I know precisely how long I lie there not sleeping because the house is filled with clocks that chime every half-hour, and at the top of each hour they tell me exactly what time it is. Well, all except for the one in the living room, which goes a little insane every couple of days and clangs out twelve bells every hour. I think it might need a spot of oil.
After curling up under the covers and waiting for that half-hour chime, my alarm clock took me completely by surprise by bleeping me awake. So going back to bed had been the correct choice. I make them every once in a while.
All this by way of explaining why I took a nap today, although now I see that it doesn’t really make as much sense as I thought it did when I started telling this story. I thought I needed a nap because I woke up in the middle of the night. And maybe I did. Or, maybe, it was because I was wrestling armor-plated filing cabinets in the basement all morning. Nahhh.
I nap like this: Lie down with a book and read until I get drowsy. Put the book aside and “rest my eyes.” Swallow my tongue. The nap is over at that point, but it’s apparently all I need because I feel pretty good when I get up. I could do without the dream about giant garden slugs climbing down my throat, though.
I spent all night last night in the dayroom of my Air Force dormitory watching cooking shows on the big-screen television. That’s all I could find on any of the channels: cooking shows. It wasn’t what I wanted to watch, but I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t have anything to read, so cooking shows was what I watched.
All night long, one guy after another came into the day room, paused in front of the television for a couple seconds before asking me if I knew the score of a particular football game, I answered No, then he left.
I dreamed all this, of course. I’m not in the Air Force and I don’t watch cooking shows, even when there’s no option, but last night I got to watch three full episodes of somebody chopping up celery and de-boning chicken. Even on the television set of my dreams, there’s nothing good on to watch.
I didn’t get much sleep last night, wedged in tightly between two cats who were successfully trying to steal every BTU my body managed to generate, so I remember just about every minute of the dream I was having this morning. And, as usual, it was a pretty stupid dream.
I was polishing my shoes. Boots, actually. They were a pair of old cowboy boots. I wasn’t supposed to be wearing them with my Class-A uniform but they were the only halfway-decent footware I could find in my room so I was trying to cover them up with black polish. No matter how much polish I rubbed on, though, the leather soaked it up and the brown scuffs emerged again.
It was so maddening that I gave up on them eventually and tried to polish a pair of old bedroom slippers. You can imagine how that went. I kept at it for so long that I knew I was going to be late for my language school graduation, so I went back to trying to polish the boots again. While I sat in the middle of the floor, everyone I ever knew came in to tell me how late I was. This seemed to go on forever. I was genuinely happy when the living room clock chimed five and woke me up.
I realized the Nazis were coming for us when their dogs emerged from the edge of the woods. There were three of them, bone-thin, long-haired frou-frou dogs, the kind that look like eels on stilts, and they snaked their way towards us with a practiced nonchalance, as if they weren’t the scariest things on earth and we didn’t have a thing to worry about, not that we had any options at that point.
The dogs went past us to the platform where the women were sitting in rattan chairs, waiting for the train to arrive. Two of the dogs jumped up into the women’s laps, effectively trapping them there, while the third one stood between us and the platform. My friend and I stood waiting between the platform and the woods for the Nazis to arrive. We didn’t have to wait long. I suspect they were just beyond the trees, out of sight, all along, watching to see if we would try to make a break for it. When we didn’t do that, they came strolling out as casually as their dogs, chatting and passing a cigarette between them.
When they reached us, the usual: One of them asked to see our passports, our visas, our identity cards, while the other two climbed up to the platform and pretended to talk to their dogs, which had not climbed down out of the laps of the ladies. When one of the ladies voiced her obvious discomfort about this, the two Nazis on the platform mocked her while the Nazi who was checking our papers warned me that my lady friend had better watch herself. Then, to see if we understood who was in charge, one of the Nazis on the platform reached out to scratch one of the ladies behind the ear, as if she was his very own puppy.
I pinched my thumb and fingers in the air in front of the ranking Nazi’s face. He didn’t flinch or pull away. I wasn’t trying to hit or punch him. It wasn’t a menacing gesture in any way, but when I blew across the ends of my fingers, all the skin on his face was drawn back as if he’d been hit by a blast of high-pressure air, and he jerked back, staggering, and landed in a convulsing heap on the ground. One of the other Nazis shouted his name and they both jumped down off the platform, running toward me, but I turned, still blowing across the ends of my fingers, and they reeled back, arms flailing, before falling over backwards.
“How did you do that?” my friend asked me, while we stuffed their unconscious, twitching bodies into a couple of wicker baskets left on the platform.
“I have no idea,” I told him, laughing.
My high school marching band had been waiting in the lobby of the airport terminal for hours to get the call to board the flight. We were in the lobby because it was the only place big enough to hold a hundred fifty high school kids. Mister E, our band director, was getting nervous about the delay, so asked me to check the time. Why he didn’t just look at his wristwatch, I don’t know.
I was sitting at the top of a ladder that must’ve been about twenty feet tall, reading a book, so it was a long climb down, so long, in fact, that almost everybody was gone by the time I got to the bottom. I had no idea where they’d gone, but that didn’t bother me because I had a mission. I shucked off my black patent leather shoes and stepped into a pair of mukluks, then shrugged into a heavy-duty parka, because if I was being entrusted to get the correct time I was going to do it right, and the only way to do that was to run to the bank across the parking lot, but there was about six feet of new-fallen snow on the ground and it was the dead of winter. I was not going unprepared.
The bank was closed when I got there, probably because of all the snow, but there was another very official-looking office building at the other end of the parking lot. After climbing to the top of a twenty-foot-tall snowbank, however, I could see there were several more just like it between me and my destination, so I decided to go back to the airport terminal and tell Mister E to check his damn watch if he wanted to know the time.
When I got to the bottom of the snowbank, I found myself in a narrow alleyway between a long row of dilapidated buildings. I opened the door of the van parked beside the snowbank and found my black patent leather shoes. What are they doing here? I wondered and, knowing I’d need them later, I stuffed one in each of the big pockets in my parka. There were also several pairs of bedroom slippers that looked so much like mine that I picked through them, one pair at a time, thinking mine must be in there somewhere. I never did find them, gave up and trudged through the snow to the end of the alley, looking for the road back to the terminal.
I don’t remember how I got back but when I did nobody from the band was in the lobby. I asked several uniformed airline people and was finally told that they’d gotten their boarding call and were at the gate, which was, of course, way on the other side of the terminal. To get on the flight I had to grab my forty-two suitcases and race through the halls as fast as I could in my parka and mukluks.
I started off running as fast as I could, but the hallways of the airport terminal were so beautiful I ended up wandering through them, awestruck. The indirect lighting perfectly highlighted the richly stained cherry wood paneling, and the hardwood floors were exquisitely well-polished, despite the heavy foot traffic. I wandered for what seemed like hours and didn’t even care when I came to the end of the terminal and found that my flight was long gone and I had no way to contact anyone to let them know where I was.
And then I woke up and made coffee.
In last night’s dream I was driving home from somewhere downtown, not the easy way along Johnson Street but through cap square, where you have to go around the capitol building. There are two lanes around the square and it’s one-way traffic, and you have to be careful to make sure you’re in the right lane if your turn’s coming up or you’ll have to go around the square again. Meanwhile, all the other drivers are jockeying for position, too. The drivers who are in a terrifically huge hurry to get to their very important meetings are zooming around the square on the inside lanes, then darting down the side roads by cutting off everyone else. The drivers who are not as colossally important as the zoomers are checking their mirrors before they change lanes and some of them are even using their turn indicators. And the out-of-towners looking for Ella’s Deli just keep circling the square.
In my dream, traffic was going clockwise around the square instead of counter-clockwise, as it does in real life. Really, I shouldn’t have been surprised by that. Dreams have to be as screwy as possible, so of course traffic went the wrong way. And to make it even screwier, the hill at the corner of Mifflin Street was no longer a gentle climb, followed by a long, slow drop – it was a climb so abrupt that I couldn’t see over the hood of the car, followed by a precipitous drop that made me want to jump out of the car and parachute to the ground. And it wasn’t Mifflin Street, it was Highway 12. And it dead-ended into the wall beside my desk at work. I parked with the bumper pressed against the wall and got out to see where the phone line came out of the other side of the wall. It was an easy drive through the parking garage, so I got back in the car and drove down the ramp to the gravel lot by the park bench where I could sit and eat a picnic lunch by the lake. At that point my brain apparently couldn’t handle the weird any longer and I woke up, just minutes before my alarm clock was set to bleep.