Tuesday, November 09, 2010


The vast majority of my dreams are nightmares. Usually, I don't remember them; I just wake up feeling miserable and I can't quite put my finger on why. Sometimes, though, something indescribably horrible that's passed through my brain wakes me up and I lie there, shivering, wheezing, afraid to move.*

Am thankful for the nights when the dreams aren't panic-inducing. In the sleep world, I walk around and observe the differences between what my brain's processing and the real world. Sometimes I find myself referencing other dreams and wondering how they influenced what I'm dreaming now.

I know I dream in color. What's also interesting is that I experience other sensations: taste and touch are the most intense, memorable. Have also heard music and when I was a better transcriber of sound, would sometimes try to catch the melodies on paper. Scent happens, but not that often.

Another interesting note is that, with maybe one exception, these not-nightmares are incredibly prosaic. The last one I had a few nights ago was just me walking around during a work break looking for a snack.


East Cambridge, like Somerville and lots of other urban neighborhoods in the West is "in transition." Since I quit the job at the Human Services agency, I don't get out there as often as I used to. Every time I do return, I'm surprised at how different things look.

In my dream, I was wandering up Cambridge street marveling at the spruced-up facades of the bistros and artsy boutiques replacing the dusty old guard bodegas and bakeries. When I got to the courthouse, I turned down a side street to look at new paint jobs on old triples, signs of sand-blasting on the row houses. That afternoon in my dream, it was as unseasonably warm and humid as it had been in Real Life a little while ago. Feeling a bit hungry (really thirst; I mistake the two a lot. Am getting better at recognizing the difference.), I figured I'd head back up to the main drag to find a little bit** of something to eat before heading home. Two blocks before Cambridge Street, I was surprised to find a former common but now all-but-extinct fixture: a corner store on the first floor of an apartment building in a residential neighborhood***.

Had to take a look. Heard the jingle of small bells above the door that announced new customers; noted the brightness of the interior (thanks to both a new paint job on the walls and the clean to sparkling white octagonal tiles on the floor). Further back, a man at the register, waved to me. I waved back. The small group surrounding him, silent for a few seconds, resumed their conversation.

Though the fellow and his friends didn't look like the usual Portuguese shopkeepers (I think they were Indian, actually. Maybe North African. Wasn't really paying attention.), they certainly kept the full complement of Portuguese items in stock. Found the jarred fava beans, the hardtack, the sardines in oil and the dried cod. Noted as well the several different varieties of sausage and the fresh cheeses. All this, plus a wonderful candy rack - which was exactly what I was looking for. Oh dear! What to choose? I wasn't in the mood for any of the normal European stuff - too sugary. Weighed a Necco bar (the one with the four fillings) against something English and plain block of Hershey's. Decided on the Necco one. Grabbed a banana to complement it nutritionally. Noting that I still had $2 left, decided to get a soda to round things out. (Diet Coke goes best with junk chocolate, by the way).

On my trip back to the register, found myself in a small ice cream parlor, all varnished wood and marble ****. "Tiens," I thought to myself, "how'd this get here? These fellows must have bought up the entire ground floor. How nice, too, to keep the original soda fountain. Karen and Aimee have just got to see this." Picked up a menu to look at, wished the waitress a good day, then continued on to the next area, even bigger and more surprising than the last. The only way that my mind could make sense of the fifties-styled lunch counter, all shiny chrome and oxblood naugahyde, was that I was dreaming. There was no way that this alone could fit within the floor plan of the building, much less attached to a soda fountain and grocery. My dreaming brain flipped back through its card catalog and found the reference: one night a few months back, was descending an endless stairway in a brick building in the old Double-Vey neighborhood (Main and Winspear, in fact - right by Parkside). Didn't see her, but knew that my Grandma was with me again. We were communicating about the apple-cinnamon doughnuts we smelled being made on the first floor.

Happy to have this figured out, I hurried back to the register, paid for my snack and found myself outside again.

I don't remember much beyond that; must have been about then that I woke. Strange: on waking up, my mouth had that feeling that one gets when one's eaten a sort of stale, cheap chocolate bar on a hot day.


* It's been this way since I was about 10-11 years old. Lots of moderately bad dreams that I don't remember and, until recently, a truly horrible dream 3-4 times a year. I used to write these down in an attempt to come to grips with them, but just don't bother any more.

** $3.50 worth - I knew that that was exactly what I had in my wallet. Like I said: Prosaic. But Detailed.

*** The actual building is on Cambridge and Trowbridge; cleaned up nicely, went condo. The first floor occupants, though, are actually a hat shop and a beauty salon.

**** I had to have been thinking about Parkside Candy back in Buffalo. Though it's seen better days, is one of the few old school soda fountains out there with the original fixtures.


Nick said...

I generally don't remember a lot of my dreams, and couldn't necessarily tell you if they're in color, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure they are.

What I have been prone to in the last couple of years is having something happen to me in a dream that is so bad, that I wake up screaming.

It's probably happened about 3 or 4 times since Ally and I have been together (approaching 3 years now). Although about a month, not only was my dream so bad that I yelled out, but I also put my hands up in defense, and hit my hands on the headboard. Luckily, I didn't swing and hit Ally next to me.

Be said...

That's precisely what's gone on with me for most of my life - in the really bad dreams. I know what it stems from and, since seeing a therapist about these, have had fewer incidences of the really awful ones. Best I can do now is attempt to calm myself down and move on to other thoughts. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. (Last night it didn't, and I just had to wait things out until a reasonable wake up time.)

I'm not going to ask any personal questions - just wondering if you're worried about the future a bit among other things.

BTW - never mentioned it in the post, but my yelling woke Hal up just before I swung my fist and punched his pillow.