This morning I had an adult-life stress-nightmare. Come: relive it with me…
…the sky was a threadbare blue, like faded jeans…
I’m in my high-rise apartment and the sun is already so high I can’t see it in my window. I need to drive to work! But I can’t remember how to get to work. I’ve been doing this for months, I think, but it’s still possible to simply forget. It’s being ‘different’ — it’s being non-neurotypical. The thought doesn’t even inspire panic or despair, anymore, but a simmering urgency possesses me. I’m an imposter: business-as-usual.
But let the con go on! What I lack in competence I can make-up in determination, on-the-fly improvising, dogged-stamina-manifest! I run to the cavernous parking-garage — the hallways and stairs like a maze I’ve run so many times it might as well be a straight-line to my car… I see no details, anymore, nor neighbors– just hallways and doors until I reach the dented 2007 Chevy Impala (dark blue). I don’t notice leaving the garage. I have to get to work before I’m late; I have to get to work even if I’m late. I have to.
Crap: I don’t know what city this is but that mystery will have to wait– I can’t remember what city it’s supposed to be, anyway. Whatever. I’m so absent-minded, I might as well have amnesia until my memory jogs. I drive like it, too: I’m scanning for landmarks but cruising in the general wrong direction (downhill) because I believe a carpet of asphalt will form into a ramp, wrap me around the impenetrable thicket of buildings, and bring me in the general right direction:
Uphill. Atop this jebel is my job (I guess)…
Things are hazy. The air is dusty. I don’t remember every turn, nor every stop or episode.
I take a right turn onto a street, diving under an overpass, but the pavement ends abruptly at a cliff. I’m not alarmed (annoyed? yes) — I make a three-point turn in my too-big Chevy and retrace my way into the parking garage to try a different way. Any moment, my memory will jog and I’ll remember how to get where I should be.
Things are hazy. The air is dusty.
The parking-structure is a blur and I get disoriented. I leave by going backward down a spiraling ramp at more than 40 miles per hour! There isn’t enough space between me, another car, and a concrete pillar so I decided to back down the ramp at great speed. I feel uneasy, yet marvel at my own skills: I know just the right angle to hold the steering wheel to go backward down this nearly endless exit ramp without hitting anything– how do my arms know? Have I done this many times?
I don’t remember every turn, nor every stop in that episode.
I stand on the side-walk next to the freeway. I can’t find the entrance ramp. I consider walking up the long, gradual hill that leads to the TOP. That’s where I belong and should be working. In the other direction is the valley– I don’t have time to wonder! My knee is bad so I can’t walk that distance. Not anymore. I’ll have to drive. I limp back to the Chevy.
Things are hazy.
I uncar when the streets narrow– where the heck is this? An old city area? Where are all the people? The street becomes an alley diving into and under buildings, a tunnel tattooed with graffiti, and I trot toward day-time darkness. Somebody is back there: I don’t see but I sense them. I decide to retreat. My mind jumps to conclusions about the people in the gloom behind me, prejudiced inklings reign. I don’t belong there… anymore? Why do I feel like I’ve been here before?
Back on the main street, plopping into the driver’s seat, I try to make sense of the mashup of urban scenery around me. It’s like movies and TV-shows spliced together, like only my eyes have been here and I cannot ‘map it’ outside of one camera angle. I have no map and, damnit, I shouldn’t need a map! I don’t wonder where my smart-phone is because no such thing exists: what was I thinking about? It doesn’t matter: I’ve got to get to work and I’ll know the way when I see it!
I don’t remember every stop in that episode, nor every turn. Now…
…of course I’m trapped in a sprawling, shopping-center parking-lot! I’ve probably seen this mall before! I’ve seen every mall! I’ve seen every parking-lot! I don’t know why I can’t escape the sea of parked cars, currents of cars carrying me to yet another inlet in a vast bay of pavement. I park under the same over-pass where a cliff had been, now also parking. I can’t believe these fucking developers, changing things in less than an hour! I leave my car in a spot between a wall and a nicer car. Now, I jog around the shopping-center parking-lot looking for an outlet– standing atop concrete dividers to try to see beyond the glistening horizon of windshields.
…am I inside the mall for a minute? I don’t have time to explore…
…okay, returning to my car so I can OH SHIT!
The Chevy is flipped upside down, resting on its roof in the exact spot where I parked it. Well, shit. I’ll have to flip it over and…
…I am dreaming…
I must continue driving to work, right? I can’t do that if I don’t flip this car over…
…I’m dreaming. I’m dreaming, so I can FLIP THIS CAR LIKE A MATTRESS! My metal chariot is now a deformed futon cushion. I’m dreaming it!
Aw GEESH: flipping a car is awkward. They’re so floppy. My Chevy goes limp in my grip. It’s mattress-esque: semi-soft, manageably heavy– flipping a mattress is something I can do by myself (and who would help me). I give it a heave-ho, smushing my car against the other car. Both cars are undamaged as I slowly get my Impala turned over and facing the right direction so I don’t have to back-out (I’m a CHAMP in reverse, but it gets old). Yeah! I will my car to be car-like, again, so I can open the door and climb inside…
I live in Baltimore. This is not Baltimore.
I don’t live in a high-rise with a parking-garage: I live on the first floor of a two-story, red-brick apartment building surrounded by soggy lawns and streaks of trees. The mornings are noisy with birds. The air isn’t dusty: it’s soupy with rain, pollen, and the scent of cut-grass…
…it’s Sunday morning. I’m awake and… …going back to sleep because I don’t need to be at work.
Stress nightmares like these are refreshing by virtue of the contrasts they create: my life in Baltimore is sorta’ un-bad. My mother said on the telephone later that day (on Mothers’ Day) I sounded happy. I said “Oh, I’m happier than I was. For sure… but I’m not as happy as I could be, I think…”. I really do have an injured knee right now. I also have a job I have to be at, tomorrow. Sometime in the next 3 weeks I am slated to be working from home on Mondays and Fridays. Two less commutes
The city of my dream was an amalgam of images from films and feelings leftover from Amman, Jordan– I was marooned there at this time ten years ago, when I started this blog. I used to take long walks and get mostly lost but it wouldn’t matter, very much, because I couldn’t get back to my job anyway –my PURPOSE— which was still in the West Bank, in Bethlehem, at Wi’am Center (that’s a long story but parts of it are available in the archives, here, on “Reverse Exiled”).
I’m not writing about this dream because I thought it was special, at least not at first. I chalked it up as a comical, miniature oddyssey in reverse: unable to reach a figurative Troy where the ‘good action’ was purported to be.
After I ate my breakfast but before I brewed my coffee, I started making my bed. Pieces of my dream returned to me. “A classic stress dream,” I murmered, chuckling. “…then I turned my car into a mattress during the lucid part… that’s pretty funny, and it was somewhat satisfying, but… oh… dang…”
…I realized I could’ve done anything…
I didn’t need to get to the top of that hill. Even if I did, I could’ve imagined a cable-car took me to the summit. I could’ve whistled for a flying dragon to ride, strapped on a Mandalorian jet-pack, or become a hawk kiting on the wind, swooping over the rooftops. Any of that!
When the dream became lucid, I could’ve spoken with anyone whom I could imagine, living or dead. I could’ve changed time backward or forward. I could’ve changed cities– I don’t mean teleport myself! I mean I could’ve changed the landscape around me to suit my whim. Change my body or the dusty skies: nothing was beyond me.
Yet I hadn’t made the mental leap beyond the dream’s original premise: driving to work. I fought against the tide of my nightmare to make a Chevy Impala flippable. Woohoo?
A glass of water at 50% — is it half-full or half-empty?
As I finished making my bed, I found my ‘lesson’: even though I knew the goal wasn’t real anymore, I hadn’t let go of my desire to achieve it. Or perhaps I never had the desire to achieve it; I had the fear of not achieving it. I lived in that world and accepted its parameters. My paradigm could not shift drastically enough to just walk away –from a car I don’t want and a sense of purpose whose particulars I’ve forgotten– into the valley that I believed I wasn’t meant to visit yet. The curious part of me was suppressed. I never looked for too long in the direction of the valley. Moreover, I didn’t see past the buildings to the summit above. I don’t know what the place I was trying to reach looked like, either. Both places went unexplored, along with the dark passageway and the bustling mall. I missed everything! That’s why I started writing about it.
I can’t be too disappointed in myself, though. I did get enough mental traction to realize the car could be a mattress if I needed it to be and I could flip it by myself if I wanted to drive it away. The dream was very much about a journey: I found a way to continue.
Maybe next time I’ll boost the nicer car parked next to mine…
…in my dreams.