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.