For some reason, I awake in the night with sweat pouring down my face, and the question of reality pounding through my ears, the nightmare isn’t one we all know and experience. It’s not getting shot or poisoned or any other brutally violent act I so anxiously day dream about. My nightmares always start the same way, in a car somewhere along a busy, busy road. I’m looking around, searching for the source of my movement along the highways and expressways that are nameless and faceless, only veins of transport for the truckers of America, searching for the hands driving me along.
As my dream continues, I discover that it is me driving the car, this huge SUV. My tiny feet barely touch the floor, and my hands are shaking. Even within the grasps of my inner dreaming mind, deep within those membranes where in my sleep the cells are being divided; where my nails thicken; where my curls grow, millimeter by millimeter; and my feet widen, I can tell that my hands are shaking as I grip this imaginary wheel. I have never driven a car before, unless you count the small circles I made in a rural Iowan parking lot, perched on the knee of my father, who shouted, “Left! Right! You’re going to kill us little goofball...”, as if it were a game. Now he just shouts.
There are flickers of light that dance across my dilated pupils, because of the terror. There are horns honking angrily, holding up fists at me, and it’s as if I’m driving the wrong way down the line of incoming traffic. I wonder what I’m doing. I wonder where I am. My death will be a joke, “Girl Goes Wrong Way and Drowns In Sea of Vehicles”. What is taking so long, a part of my brain not fully turned to the power of movies in our sleep, says. Because after nightmares like these, you feel as though you never slept at all, and a certain exhaustion overpowers you, pushes on your head and cramps your thoughts. This is the brain, because it bursts with anxiety and fear, irrational fear. It’s funny, though, over the course of the day, the dream fades, and all you’re left with is a flicker of terror, but no real memory of the cause.
Another vivid dream I have constantly, is running into a figure from my past. Are you coming back? Are you coming back? I’m waiting. I’m on the train, alone, in the rain, and my hair drips. I’m shivering, because I’m always cold. The train lurches, then stops, and we are across from another train. It’s always the green line, that is parallel. She is sitting there, with her journal out, and my melancholic playlist is ringing through my eardrums. Alice Boman is playing “Waiting”, and I see her first. Are you coming back? Are you coming back? I’m waiting. She turns the page, pen in hand, and that’s when she looks up, and our eyes lock, like in the movies. Wait, this is a movie.
Waves of whatever she did to me flood through the glass of the train window, and I press my fingers up, up, up, towards her. Every time, her mouth forms this O, as if the sight of my being, alive and not entirely well, is a shock. She is reaching towards me, this ghost of a person. Somebody that I used to know. Slowly, though, pieces of her are breaking off like pixels on a computer. The further she reaches towards me, through those two stopped trains, the more of her breaks. I am screaming I realize, and trying to run away. A homeless man shakes his cup of dimes and laughs at me with an empty gummed smile. It’s raining, hard. This is the heart of my dreamland. I look back at her one last time, as she breaks into a million pieces and again mouths at me to help her. I have already helped her one too many times. The homeless man freezes mid-laugh. I blink, and she is gone.
By Ruthie Zolla
image courtesy of Pinterest