I do not recommend reading a book on writing memoir right before you go to bed. I did it last night, and it was a mistake.
I didn’t even read that much; just a few pages, and then I was like, nah, dude, I’ll read this novel that I also downloaded when I finished Everything We Keep the other night. So I read that for a little while, and it was fine. I got sleepy, I put the Kindle down, I closed my eyes, and next thing I knew, it was five hours later and I had to pee and I had been having some pretty messed up dreams.
I’m pretty sure that every single bad decision I made in my late teens and early twenties came back to haunt me in my sleep last night. And I didn’t just dream what happened; oh no, my good ole brain had to go and make everything a thousand times worse.
Brain: you had an amicable breakup in the middle of dinner at a restaurant then finished eating together and went home separately? Not anymore! Now you’re screaming and naked and fighting for the entertainment of thirty thousand people!
Yeah. That kind of thing.
I woke up feeling the deepest darkest feelings of failure that I’ve ever felt when I’m not in the midst of a bout of depression. Miserable. Like everything I’d done was wrong.
I slept a little bit more and then I was okay for the most part, albeit still haunted by the sensations those dreams had left me.
And then it went away, as dreams and their effects so often do.
It’s funny now because I fell down an internet rabbit-hole this afternoon and ended up reading about James Frey and A Million Little Pieces. I’d somehow missed that story before.
Lester lay in his bed, flat on his back, staring blankly at the water-stained ceiling. His thoughts, however, were far from this small room. Just about thirty-four miles from there, in fact.
His hands gripped the sheet and began to pull, as his mind imagined that it wasn’t his sheet he grasped, but his next victim’s dress. Maybe she would be a dancer. He hated dancers. Lester smiled to himself. Perhaps the next one would put up a fight. He hadn’t had a good fighter in a long time.
He drifted off to sleep, the sheets tangled and twisted around sweaty fingers.
I took a nap today and had such vivid dreams. I woke up ready to cry because I was so upset. I can’t remember anything from my dreams today anymore besides being small and vulnerable and under attack.
I love remembering my dreams; I used to have a great one about flying when I was a kid. No wings or fighting to stay aloft, just swooping and soaring like Superman. I had a nightmare about my mother dying from a spider bite then, too.
Dreaming itself is a treat, though. I know I got fair enough sleep if it was deep enough to dream. I always feel more rested when I’ve had a few dreams.
I woke sweating, choking back a scream. It was that damned dream again, about the storm. It was never the same storm, could be summer, winter, spring, but I was always trapped, and I always woke in terror.
My first big move was halfway across the country, to the Midwest, where I found a great apartment in the middle of the city. Not the tallest building, but not nearly the shortest, either, and I was somewhat less than halfway up. But the windows and the view made up for a lot. I could stand on the windowsill and still not touch the ceiling.
I used to spend hours just standing there, gazing out of my windows onto the glory of the city. But a few weeks in, something changed. I’d seen one too many storms building in the distance, and I’d heard one too many anecdotes telling me to head for the hills if i should see colors in the clouds. I started having nightmares.
I had them off and on for years until the day reality smashed me right in the subconscious.
I was headed home, but when I looked off into the distant sky, I saw the telltale signs of bad weather. The clouds were low and dark, and streaked with an ugly shade of doom.
But they weren’t just any clouds; these were the exact clouds of my dreams. I’d seen them dozens of times, in every season. I knew them, knew their movements, knew what was to come.
I broke out in a cold sweat as I began to tremble, nearly losing the shopping bags that I gripped in either hand. I headed straight home. When my feet stopped in the old familiar spot in front of my living room windows, I froze. Yes. This was definitely my dream come to life.
I watched the scene unroll before me, the scene I had witnessed so many times in my sleep. First one landmark, then another obscured by the coming darkness. The panic began to claw at the inside of my chest like a small animal, trapped in a cage, taunted by unruly children.
It broke before me, hammering the windowpane with raindrops and hailstones. I could only stand there, unblinking, waiting for my end to reach me.
But soon enough, it was over, and I swayed where I stood with the emotions coursing through my body. It was over, and I had survived.
I later learned that everyone had survived, that there were no casualties at all from the freak storm.
What else did I have to be thankful for? The reality of the storm had reset my dream machine, and I moved on to other terrors in my sleep, never to witness the storm again.
“I had the weirdest dream last night,” she announced to her roommate over their morning cups of coffee, one with sugar, one without.
“So tell me about it,” her roommate prompted.
“I’m warning you, super weird. Anyway, I was in this house, right, and it was like, just this straight shot through the house, but it was infinitely long. I mean, there wasn’t a regular hall or anything, you just had to keep going through one room after another to get to the end of the house. And every room was so different.But it was like a hotel, you know, every room was somebody’s. And I knew all their stories.
“The first room was pretty neat, actually. I knew it was a photographer’s room, dream knowledge, you know, but he wasn’t there. The walls were floor-to-ceiling puzzles of candy. There was a normal hotel bed in one corner, all made up and stuff, and it had one piece of that strawberry candy on each pillow.
“I opened the door, and I came into a room with those two little girls from The Shining. They were just standing there looking at me, and I think the wallpaper was the same as in that hotel from the movie, but I haven’t seen it in forever so I’m not really sure. The end table next to them had a cage with a monkey in it. I kept going.
“I came to a room that was an aquarium. Not full of aquariums, or fish in the walls or anything, but seriously, I was walking through a room full of water in like, this bubble that was just my size and shape. I liked that one. The sides looked like they went on for miles, so maybe I was in the ocean. I don’t know, it was a dream. But the fish acted like I wasn’t even there. Maybe I was in Aquaman’s room or something.
“Then a room with the nicest carpet ever. Like I seriously sank in the carpet up to my ankles. It was so soft, like a cat’s belly, but without the teeth. And without the shedding. There was an old woman in a rocking chair, just rocking and knitting and singing to herself. I didn’t recognize the song.
“In the next room, this guy was just sitting on a chair. Not a recliner or anything, just like a kitchen chair. The only other thing in there was some art on the wall by the far door. He had a framed portrait of Jesus giving a thumbs up, a framed poster of Ganesh some girl gave him a few years ago, and a painting his mother had done of his dog, on which, for some f-in’ reason, she’d placed a crown of flowers. Regardless, he liked to have all his bases covered. I got the weirdest vibe in there.
“Oh, and the frogs! There was a room full of frogs instead of carpet. I don’t even know what kind of floor was under the frogs. Super gross.
“There were just so many rooms. I don’t even remember all of them anymore. But it was like I was a ghost, because nobody noticed me or did or said anything to me. Weird, huh?” She looked expectantly at her roommate.
“Yeah. You wanna ditch work today and sit in those comfy chairs at the bookstore?” her roommate asked.
“Sure, whatever. It’s not like the office will burn down without me there for one day. And I haven’t skipped with you in forever. Let me get dressed, and we can go,” she agreed.
I finally had my sleep study Tuesday night. It was fun explaining to Abby where I was going; I settled on ‘the doctor wants to make sure I sleep okay, so I have to spend the night at his office.’ She threw some toys in my bag to keep an eye on me that night, and I sent Ian a picture after I set them up in my room.
I tried to explain to Ian how frustrating the whole thing was before I went. It was one of those times when I couldn’t help but feel like my sleep would be different afterwards, even while knowing that was silly, that I’d have one night of either better or worse sleep and then back to life as usual. Like one day of a substitute teacher, or having one massage. It’s a bit of difference, but it doesn’t change the natural order of things.
So I went. I waited while the sleep tech set up another patient, texting Ian and watching Shark Week. She came in to set me up, and we chatted during the hour it took. Of course she’d read my info, and we spent about half that time talking about PCOS, which she also has. It’s good to know that pretty much none of the area doctors care about it; she’s seen a few different ones than I have, and the best advice she’d gotten was to ‘try to lose weight, but it probably won’t happen.’
It was interesting to meet someone who was treating her PCOS for her health, without treating the infertility aspect, as she as her husband hadn’t ever tried to conceive. She wrote down some vitamins she’d found online that had regulated her periods for the past two years, so I may look into that.
She got me all hooked up, and I called to tell Ian and Abby goodnight and went to bed.
The worst part was that I had to spend a certain amount of time on my back. I’m not a back sleeper, and the sleep tech had to come in and ask me to roll onto my back once. So I spent about half the night awake on my back, nothing to look at but a tiny red light ad a tiny green light.
When she came to get me up in the morning, she affirmed that I’d only just begun to fall into deep sleep shortly before. Fortunately, she also let me know that I’d only had occasional airway obstruction, not that I was worried about sleep apnea. It’s my brain screwing up my sleep, not my body. I did get a little better sleep than usual that day after I got home. And Wednesday’s three hours sufficed. But I’m still tired from last night.