Started when I was about 13 and stopped before I left for college. I’m kneeling on the couch, with my elbows resting along the top of its back, looking out the picture window of Mom and Dad’s split-level house at 1427 48th Street NW in Rochester, MN. I can see the street, the small front yard, the driveway, and the sidewalk that parallels the front of the house and leads to the front door. It’s dark. Probably a Friday evening, because the scene involves groceries and that’s when Mom often brought them home. I watch her pull into the driveway, get out of the dark-blue 1983 Pontiac Phoenix LJ, wave and smile at me, open the hatchback, tuck a brown paper bag of groceries under her right arm, and leave the car open so my brother and I can unload the rest. She’s wearing a khaki trench coat and carrying a purse. This is when she often worked 60 or 70 hours a week in IBM administrative support. She’s about 33 years old. The sidewalk is just under the window, so as she walks toward the door and beams a smile up at me – Mom’s got quite a smile – the angle of her gaze should mean she sees the hunched humanoid-gargoyle-type creature leaning over the eave above the window. But she doesn’t. Maybe she can’t. Won’t? The sidewalk isn’t long – 15 of her short steps? – but it feels like she’s taking forever to reach the door. Even as I’m screaming, “Mom! Look! Mom! Mom!” and flailing toward the creature, which is leering and obviously preparing to hop from the roof onto her, she just keeps smiling at me and strolling. The creature looks something like a tall Green Goblin balled into a languid crouch. Its intention is to kill her. I wake up as it springs.
Same era and tableau as the gargoyle dream. In both, my vantage point is somewhere in the air above 48th street. I can see the whole driveway, yard, and house facade. I can see myself at the window, kneeling and leaning on the couch. I have both perspectives; I see the scene from inside the house and from outside the situation. I also have both consciences; I feel as Chris in the dream and as Chris dreaming. Dad’s standing in the middle of the yard and he’s not dressed for the intense wind and rain battering him. He’s not doing anything. He’s just standing, facing northwest, toward southwest corner of the house, which is the right, front corner if you’re standing on the stoop facing the street. He’s not looking at me. I see him but I don’t know if I’m looking at him (which might not make sense but so it goes). A man comes around the corner Dad’s facing. He walks straight to Dad and extends his right hand for a shake. Dad reciprocates. Then the guy tightens and twists his grip. Dad sinks to his knees. Torment wracks his face. The guy moves a step closer, till he’s standing directly over Dad and squeezing harder. Dad writhes. The guy laughs a movie-villain laugh. I wake up as Dad is dying.
Spanned high school and college. I’m fighting some guy, which is odd because I haven’t been in a fight since Mike Aikens blackened both my eyes in Allendale Park, across 18th Avenue from John Adams Jr. High, after a hard day of seventh grade. Usually I’m not sure who or why I’m fighting in the dream, but sometimes it’s a specific guy who hassled me when he was a Rochester John Marshall senior and I was a sophomore. His girlfriend (also a senior) flirted with me a lot. He was a super-fast sprinter and a good running back. A “stud” in the parlance of the time and place. He wore untied track flats to school every day, strutted with every possible muscle puffed, and more than a little bit resembled Kiefer Sutherland in The Lost Boys and Stand by Me. I was taller than he was, skinny, and whatever the furthest things from tough, brave, and good at confrontation are. Every time he saw me he’d tell me to shut up whether or not I’d been saying anything. I knew what he was. His buddies knew what he was. I was an easy mark. I’ve seldom wanted to kick anyone’s ass as much as I wanted to kick his. In the dream, whether I’m fighting that guy or some unknown dude, I’m on top of the guy and I pound his head long and hard enough to wind up sweaty and out of breath with a hammering heart. I stop. I hold my hands up to eye level, slowly turning them palm to back and examining how much blood is covering them. Then I wake up.
College for sure. Maybe in high school. My Grandma Eva Godsey, a tiny lifetime southern Hoosier with an accent that sounds more deep-south than most people might think an Indiana drawl can sound, is very slowly pursuing me through rooms in a maze-like building I don’t recognize. She’s holding large, expensive, polished-steel fabric scissors, smiling, and cooing, “Come here, Christopher.” She wants to stab me to death. In real life, one of Grandma’s legs was a couple-three inches shorter than the other. In a grocery store she’d walk alongside the cart and hang on to it to steady herself. She limps like that in the dream. The “chase” goes on and on through doorways, around tables and couches, past people who could help but don’t — who actually kind of laugh at me and encourage her without really looking up from cooking, drinking coffee, watching TV, or whatever mundane things they’re doing. Occasionally I try to reason with her and ask her why she wants to kill me. She just smiles and sweetly says something like, “Come over here and I’ll tell you.” I eventually wake up.
During and a few years after college. I’m out for a trail run in autumnal weather cool enough to wear long sleeves but warm enough to wear shorts. I’m the same size and general body composition I was back then – 6’2” and 205-225 fairly doughy pounds – but instead of heavy and oafish I feel substantive but airy. Springy and smooth. Fluid. Even my mind feels active and easy. I just go on and on and on and on. Nothing specific ends the dream. I just drift out of it. When I wake up I feel bereft because I want to know and have never known that sensation in real life.
Happens in various forms every few months since I quit the UMD football team in July 1991, a few weeks before what would have been my third season of being too much of a head case to make up for significant size, speed, strength, and toughness deficiencies. One form: Coach Jim Malosky yells at me to get in the game (which is a big deal because I’ve been busting my ass without much noticeable progress), and I can’t find my helmet. I run around the sideline looking for it. Can’t find it. Don’t get in the game. Opportunity squandered. Another form: Malosky puts me on the traveling roster for an away game, which is a big deal for the same reason the other thing was a big deal. In one version I get to the locker room a few minutes after the bus left. In another I’m there on time but as we’re all packing our uniforms and pads I can’t find my helmet. Malosky comes over and asks me what the hell is wrong with me. I don’t make the trip. Third form: I re-join the team in August 1993. It feels thrilling and nostalgic and weird. Less than a week into two-a-day practices I realize I’ve made a horrible mistake and I quit again, and the self-reproach upon self-reproach is almost impossible to bear.
From preschool till just past my 13th birthday I had fever dreams. If I ever can use words to accurately describe the sensation and content of those experiences I’lll consider myself a good writer. The last one was in February 1984. I thought I was a physician. Patients kept closing in on me like zombies. I wandered from the living room to Mom and Dad’s bedroom to the dining room to the kitchen. Mom was sleeping in my room, in the basement, and Dad was staying up with me so I didn’t hurt myself. I’d sit for a while, stand, shuffle around, sit, lay down, pace, and never feel comfortable with any of it. I’d constantly chatter gibberish about what we had to do and where we had to go and who we needed to tell and just a bunch of garbled stream of consciousness that must have been hilarious and terrifying. Every now and then I’d go lucid and apologize to Dad for scaring him and keeping him up. Then mid-sentence I’d tell him we had to get away from all the patients. He’d ask me what patients and I’d get pissed because they were right there and there were so many of them and what the hell was he talking about with “what patients”? I have no idea how long that lasted. It felt like all night. It might have been 15 minutes. It wasn’t the scariest or wildest one I ever had. It’s the easiest one to try to describe.
I also have some memories I think may have started as dreams instead of actual experiences. Those feel even tougher to put in words.
I’m not sure what 1-6 add up to. Maybe nothing. Maybe way more than that.
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