So there I was sitting on a wrap around Victorian style porch in what had to be the Deep South. The porch was attached to a beautiful older house with a balcony and spires and shudders and the whole nine yards. There was a magnificent magnolia tree that shaded the house. The weather was hot and muggy…really hot and muggy. It was one of those days where you can see the humidity, you could taste it. I felt myself sweating through my shirt and my eyes stinging from the drops perspiration that came down my forehead. I was sitting on an overturned bucket in front of a chessboard with pieces in play. I was losing…badly. I looked up at my opponent and was surprised to see that it was Gregory Peck. He was wearing a white oxford shirt, a grey vest with a gold watch chain and grey slacks. He also wore a pair of tortoiseshell-style glasses. He was leaning back in a rocking chair with one hand on the knight and the other on his chin as he stared intently at the board. I looked at him as he looked at the game in progress. “Holy shit.” I said to myself. “I’m getting my ass kicked in chess by Atticus Finch.”
“Benjamin, don’t swear. It’s unbefitting of a gentleman.” Gregory Peck said without looking up from the game.
“Yes sir. Sorry sir.” I replied.
Then I heard someone say in a high-pitched effeminate voice, “Looks like Atticus has you in his crosshairs.”
I looked to where the voice was coming from and there leaning against the railing was Phillip Seymour Hoffman with Collins glass in one hand dangling at his side and bringing a cigarette to his mouth with the other. He was wearing sunglasses, a fedora and a linen suit.
“Hush, Dill.” Gregory Peck said sternly as he placed the knight within striking distance of my king and said calmly, “Check.”
Then I woke up wrapped up in blankets and without the fan on drenched in sweat. I guess that explains the humidity.
Dreams. We all have them…well I don’t know that. I have not done the appropriate amount legwork in research or polling to make such a blanket statement. But hey, FOX News does it all the time so why can’t I? All I know is that most people I know have dreams. It’s unifying in a way. Even animals have been known to dream. Ask any dog owner. I’ve seen several pooches go from a dead sleep to running and barking after the squirrel they’ll never get. I saw one wake himself up, much to my delight. I can’t judge though, I tend to have very vivid dreams myself. You know, the kind of dream where all five senses seem to come into play. I have been known to get out of bed at night in a panic, turn on the light, rifle through my closet and come back to reality while trying to stuff myself under my bed to hide from a band of marauding clowns. As you might imagine, I felt quite silly. Emily was too tired to be amused. She just wanted to go back to bed. Looking back I wish I was man enough to stand up and fight them but in reality I know one hard and fast rule, don’t fuck with clowns, especially the marauding type. On the bright side I found a pair of headphones that I had given up for lost while I was scrambling for my life.
I don’t mind most dreams, even the clown one. At the time it was disconcerting but looking back on it but now it’s pretty humorous. It’s the bad dreams that stay with you. The ones that are triggered by actual events in our real lives. According to some website I read while halfheartedly researching this diatribe, dreams are often symptomatic of highly stressful times in ones life. Not surprising.
For months after Emily died I had the same recurring dream. One where I was walking through the smoking ruins of a city that had just been carpet-bombed. I hear someone screaming for me. Someone in distress. I start to run toward the voice. Climbing over wreckage and debris. I don’t know why I’m running. The voice is unfamiliar. I just have to get to it. Finally I come to a solitary stand-alone door in the middle of the hellscape. I can hear the voice through it. I turn the doorknob and try to open it. I push hard with my shoulder. I can feel my feet losing traction as it slowly begins to open. Sunlight comes through the crack as the door finally gives way. I step inside and find myself in my mother-in-law’s house, the house where Emily passed. Not only am I in the house but I am in the same room and there is Emily. She’s dead. I just know it by looking at her. A nameless, faceless doctor stands besides her with the stethoscope on Emily’s chest. He looks up at me and says, “You’re too late.”
“What do you mean I’m too late?!” I hear myself shout, “DO SOMETHING GOD DAMN IT!!”
The doctor puts his stethoscope, around his neck and proceeds to walk out as I try to stop him. I place my hands on his lab coat and I suddenly feel weak and helpless. My arms just stopped working. He pushes me to the side and walks to the door as I plead with him to do something, anything to save her. He shakes his head at me as he closes the door behind him. I look at Emily. I begin to sob. Then I woke up…still sobbing. Sleep was out of the question for the rest of the night.
No one needs dreams like that but they are part of our reality, our human conscious or I guess in this case subconscious.
I’m not one to look for meaning in dreams. I don’t think there is any outside force trying to communicate with me. I feel like dream dictionaries and interpreters are for people desperately seeking deeper answers than can be reasonably supplied. Dreaming is just an activity the body does to deal with stressors. I had and sometimes still have bad dreams about Emily for obvious reasons. I loved her with every piece of me, spiritually, mentally, physically or otherwise. There was no way in hell that the pain and anguish of her death was not going to seep into my subconscious. I have just come to accept it. When I have bad dreams I try to put them in perspective and look at my life of late to see what triggered the episode. Sometimes I figure it out, most times I don’t. Either way I take a deep breath and start thinking about all the good times with her. I try to remember holding her hand, or her beautiful green eyes. I try to remember the warm tone and lilt of her voice the first time she told me she loved me. Then I do my best to go back to sleep.
Bad dreams featuring Emily are fewer and farther between these days. I felt like I had a breakthrough a few weeks ago when Emily made an appearance and she had all her hair. She looked like she did before chemo and surgery. It was wonderful. I don’t remember what it was about, I just remember she was there and she smiled. I always liked it when she did that.
I take that as a good sign. Not a sign that I’m over it. I am quite positive that I will never completely get over her death. I don’t think anyone who loses a loved one does get over it. I will rebuild though. I think the dreams of her are going to be a key part of my new foundation.