Right off the dreamscape

I changed out sleep medications last night, opting for the old and formerly reliable instead of the new and possibly habit-forming. I was paid back for this decision by the most bizarre dream I think I’ve ever had.

I’ve driven somewhere to visit family, and I’ve timed my arrival poorly: no one’s home, and what’s more, it’s been raining. There’s something wrapped in plastic on the walk, which turns out to be a Sunday New York Times, already beginning to disintegrate from all the water. I toss it aside, and suddenly I’m somewhere else: the yard looks the same, but the street is totally different. The most salient difference to me, though, is that my car is gone.

I pull out the cell phone: no bars. Figures, I grumble, and start walking. Nothing looks familiar. In about half an hour, I arrive at Shea Stadium, which at least tells me where I am: in the city of New York, borough of Queens. Which explains why nothing looks familiar, since the only time I’ve ever been to Queens was to change planes at JFK, there being no direct flights from Istanbul to Oklahoma City in 1975. Or today.

There’s no reason for me to hang around Shea, so I veer off at an angle, and eventually encounter an expressway of some sort. Traffic is not so heavy, but not moving so quickly either. Across the road, I find what appears to be a bizarre psychological experiment: people are throwing coins onto the shoulder to see if anyone will bother to stop. On foot, I manage to scoop up around $4.

The second storefront on the cross street appears to be a travel agency. I wander in and ask if anyone’s seen my car — they haven’t, of course — and how I can get back to the address I was supposed to be visiting in the first place. After some heated discussion, and a mistake in the production room (“You made how many copies of the itinerary?”), a woman from the agency walks me the first couple of blocks, and says, “From this point, you’re on your own, but it gets easier.” It doesn’t seem to be getting any easier to me: for one thing, I seem to have lost my shoes.

I walk about another quarter-mile, or so it seems, and end up in what looks like an airport gate. For a moment, I sit down, and someone yells something untranslatable yet easily interpreted: “There he is! SEIZE HIM!Seize this, pal, I say, but no words come out, and so I flee.

Beep! I pull the cell phone from my pocket: incoming text message. I’m in no mood to read a text message, what with goons, or whatever, on my trail, but it occurs to me that if a text message can come in, I must have connectivity of some sort. So I duck into a storefront and push buttons. When finally I get an answer, it’s my ex, and in fact I can see her answering: she’s right across the room.

“What are you doing in New York?” I ask. She looks puzzled. “This isn’t New York.” “About time you two showed up,” says a third voice, and we are confronted by someone who looks like Ralph Edwards, circa This Is Your Life. Worse yet, he has books, and opening one of them, he demands an explanation of an incident.

She speaks first. “That never happened.” I look over the materials, and realize that they pertain to a relative, but not to me. I attempt to say so, but again, no words come out. Ralph continues to press, and I manage to come up with “Enough. We’re leaving.” Which we do; and we get about 50 yards before I am set upon by goons.

I am taken to a warehouse of some sort, and there’s this contraption suspended from the ceiling, a scary blend of M. C. Escher and Rube Goldberg which turns out to be an animated timeline, a simulation of just about everything dumb I’d ever done, in chronological order, complete with badgering voices and the occasional wooden stick to push me back into position. At about age 16, I see an opportunity, and I jump; they of course give chase, but I’m already out of the building.

But not out of the woods. I’m near the bottom of a bowl, an ancient sinkhole that eventually quit sinking. Grass has already grown along the slopes. I can’t possibly make it up those angles. There is, however, a tree; if I can make it halfway up the tree and then along one horizontal branch, I will eventually end up at the original ground level. So I start climbing. The goons aren’t pursuing; they’re watching, waiting for me to fail. Once I reach that horizontal branch, though, the possibility occurs to them that I might not fail at all. But they have further tricks up their sleeve. First, the bark begins to peel off; I have difficulty getting a grip. There is no wind to speak of, but the tree starts to sway just the same. Finally, the very rim of the bowl starts to dissolve into nothingness, random chunks of green just falling away, a cartoon effect that, were you to see it in real life, would not even remind you of cartoons.

It is at this point that the brain commands “That’s it, we’re done,” and I wake up. You wouldn’t think 50 mg of diphenhydramine hydrochloride would cause this much delirium.



  1. MikeH »

    4 July 2008 · 11:12 am

    I think I have you completely figured out now.

  2. CGHill »

    4 July 2008 · 11:29 am

    That makes one of us.

  3. fillyjonk »

    4 July 2008 · 11:36 am

    The possibility of dreams like that are why I’d frankly rather fight my way through my periodic insomnia than take something. (Even though, when I complain about insomnia, there’s at least one helpful soul telling me to go to the doctor and get a ‘script).

    Claritin, for God’s sake, CLARITIN jacks up my dreams and makes me wake up shivering and going “what the Hell was that about?” I can’t imagine what something even more psychotropic would do.

  4. McGehee »

    4 July 2008 · 11:38 am

    Have you been watching the “Burn Notice” marathon or something?

  5. CGHill »

    4 July 2008 · 11:57 am

    Never seen a single episode of Burn Notice.

    My own theory, which with $4.99 will get you selected combo meals at Mickey D’s at participating locations, is that my actual day job is so utterly devoid of creativity that the brain, desperately starved for amusement, is forced to concoct these tall tales on its own. I want to ask it, “Brain, if you’re so goddamn smart, why can’t you infuse my writing with this much verve?” And, with my luck, it will respond with a non sequitur: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky.”

  6. fillyjonk »

    4 July 2008 · 1:53 pm

    Conversely, for me, it’s when there’s eleventy-hundred things going on in my day to day life that I have the nutso scary dreams. When everything’s bobbing along fairly calmly, I sleep like a rock. And if I dream, they’re fairly simple and amusing ones like my having a pet llama I take to school with me.

    I think it’s because I’m the type who is sensorily/emotionally overwhelmed easily, and when I’m in situations like that, my brain goes into overdrive trying to process and repress and file all of the random crap I saw/experienced over the course of the day.

    Oh, and: Narf.

    It had to be said.

  7. Jeffro »

    4 July 2008 · 2:04 pm

    I’m impressed that you actually remembered the whole thing. I’ve had some very vivid dreams that had me shaking my head in disbelief upon awakening, but disappear like a noxious vapor almost immediately.

    It’s just as well, I’m sure.

  8. McGehee »

    4 July 2008 · 2:25 pm

    Weirdest recent dream I can remember was, I was in this little town where, apparently, only the most favored of the locals is allowed to walk unmolested on the street. I was so enraged by the shoddy official treatment I walked all the way to city hall — unmolested, of course — to register my unhappiness, only to find the town’s bigwigs were so afraid of the confrontation they hid the place from me.

  9. CGHill »

    4 July 2008 · 2:42 pm

    I didn’t actually get out of bed this morning until about a quarter to ten; I spent that first hour typing all that stuff in before the memory faded. This is, incidentally, not so much because I think the readership will get a kick out of it, but because I think this stuff ought to be documented in some way, in case I see any of these themes recur.

    The only item in this dream that’s fairly common is the disappearance of my car, which I trace to both a fear of loss of mobility, a fear increasing as I get older and my joints less flexible, and a late-1970s incident at the K in which the place that I parked and the place where I looked for the car afterwards proved to be about half a mile apart.

  10. Tatyana »

    5 July 2008 · 7:26 am

    Like Jeffro, I was impressed with how well you remember the whole thing, in sequence – I don’t think I would be able to relay it accurately and without later addition even if I start typing immediately when awoke.

    Based entirely of slight similarities with my own nightmares (induced by daytime stress, not drugs), I can only suggest you haven’t make peace with some issues, they still bother you. The thread seems to be, (like in the worst ones I had – at the time of emigration back in SU, etc) – helplessness in the face of outside forces, fear to lose control. I would even say – fear of persecution – but that is probably my own projecting, and not reliable.
    Two things are more sure about, though: to pick up other people’s money means to take to heart other people’s worries. (excrement, on the other hand, would mean sudden profit, but that’s not the case, unfortunately!)
    And the fact that you didn’t see yourself falling, at the end, didn’t experienced that terrifying airborne feeling means you’re not growing anymore..no, my friend.

  11. CGHill »

    5 July 2008 · 9:17 am

    I seldom have falling as a theme: the closest I come is a controlled jump that somehow doesn’t actually kill me. I do, however, have a recurring endless-staircase (geez, how many floors are there?) motif.

    As a control freak of some note, I can certainly cop to fear of helplessness.

  12. Tatyana »

    5 July 2008 · 11:26 am

    Endless staircase down or up? Down: are you frozen in time falling to the next landing, head first?

    That’s what i had until about 20 yo. A friend told me it was about my body still growing and was adjusting its expanding self in space.

  13. CGHill »

    5 July 2008 · 11:50 am

    It’s down, and I’m not falling, though I’m moving pretty quickly; I’m just wondering where it ends.

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