Tuesday, February 07, 2006
February 7, 2006 - Dreamscape of Doom
One thing I've noticed in recent weeks is that I seem to be having more vivid dreams – or, perhaps I've just been able to remember my dreams better. Claire has told me on numerous occasions that she thinks it odd that I rarely remember my dreams. Unlike me, she has a very vivid dream life, and likes to tell me and others about what she's been experiencing in that liminal, meaning-laden place that is the zone of overlap between sleeping and waking.
This morning I awake with a start at about 6:00 a.m. I've been having an especially vivid nightmare. Somehow it's happened, in my dream, that I've witnessed some kind of crime, and the law-enforcement authorities are calling on me to come testify in court. I become aware that some gangsters know I'm going to testify, and are trying to murder me. I'm taking elaborate precautions to make sure the gangsters won't find me. I have several close calls, escaping them in the nick of time.
Because they know what my car looks like, the police have advised me to rent a car, so the gangsters can't follow me as I drive to the courthouse. I find myself at an odd sort of car-rental place that's actually more like a run-down farm. The car-rental people recommend that I rent an old classic car, a 1930s-era roadster that looks as much like an old-fashioned racing car as anything else. It's parked way out back behind the rental office, in a place overgrown with tall grass.
They send me out back with the keys, and I climb into the driver's seat. I realize, then, that the car hasn't been driven in some time, and there's a closed wooden gate immediately in front of it. I get out and fumble with the numerous, rusty latches that secure this weatherbeaten old gate. I still don't have them all open when I look back over my shoulder and realize there's another old 1930s-era car behind me and to the left, a black sedan.
It's the gangsters – they've evidently been waiting for me. A man and a woman who look sort of like Bonnie and Clyde are sitting in the front seat, and there several others in the back. Their car is slowly, silently inching toward me, through the tall grass. In a moment they'll be alongside me. I'm too far from the rental office to call out for help, and my fingers are still fumbling, in slow motion, with the gate's latches. There's no time now to finish opening the gate, let alone leap back into my car and start it up. It's such an old car, I'm not even sure it would start up. They're going to shoot me, I think to myself, and there's nothing I can do about it!
It's just at that moment that I wake up. Looking around and realizing I'm in my own bedroom, I reassure myself it was only a dream, and feel an immense sense of relief. As I start to drift back to sleep, I'm aware that the dream is still lurking there, unfinished, somewhere in my mind. I feel quite certain that if I allow myself fall back into sleep, the gangsters will get me. Somehow I will myself to stay awake for a few minutes longer, until I feel confident that the last remnants of the dream have dispersed like morning mist.
It's a classic anxiety dream. Tomorrow morning I go for my second of six chemotherapy treatments. I suppose I've been dreading it more than I thought – the exhaustion, the low-level queasiness the anti-nausea drugs can contain but not eliminate, the sense of being on a downward spiral for days, before I slowly start to emerge again. Underneath it all, I suppose, is a fear of death, a fear that the treatments will not shrink the tumors and put me into remission after all.
Somehow the dream has functioned to tell me how I'm really feeling about this, on a subconscious level. It's better, I suppose, to be aware of these feelings than to suppress them. Having this dream is, in some strange way, part of the emotional work of dealing with my disease. Having had it, I can acknowledge to myself that these irrational feelings of dread are there. I can bracket them in my awareness, and place them where they belong. As unpleasant as it was, I feel that the nightmare has taught me something I need to know, something that's hard to put into words.