Friday, April 16, 2010


The cats have been trying to escape. Every exposed surface--doors, walls, bare sections of bookshelf, even the floor--has been under attack, and my apartment is filled with the scritch-scritch-scritch of claws against hard flat surfaces. When I wake up every morning I'm unable to fall back asleep because the first thing I have to do is elevate my heart rate by chasing Rita around the apartment with a spray bottle for scratching at the carpeting by the front door. "Security deposit!" I mumble at her as I try to aim in the darkness of pre-dawn. It sounds funnier than it is, mostly because I don't understand what's happening, why the sudden interest in outside, if that's what this is. My cats meow plaintively, standing by the front door, paws upraised, and I have no idea why.

I don't dream often, or if I do I don't remember them--I remember approximately as many childhood dreams, all nightmares, as I do adult ones. There are a few stand-outs (once I dreamt I was Michelle Pfeiffer; I had died but somehow posthumously written a novel that won a Pulitzer Prize, and I gave my acceptance speech via satellite from some sort of afterlife), but frankly, most of my dreams are very monotonous. Especially now that I'm not as anxious in my everyday life, most of my dreams have turned into endless Sisyphean tasks, small repetitive actions with no end that leave me exhausted and mildly depressed when I finally do wake up. I have dreams where I endlessly tinker with flower arrangements that never appease my irritable customers (once, in my dream, a regular fell asleep on the shop floor because I was taking so long), where I try to cook rice over and over again, where every time I try to get on my bike the chain falls off and I have to put it back on.

This week, though, I've been remembering my dreams; this week my dreams have an edge. I've been waking up before dawn every morning, confused and alarmed, staring out my window at the lightening sky and wondering what is happening. It began fairly harmlessly; my first dream was simply narrated by Haruki Murakami. (Sort of like Stranger Than Fiction, except instead of portending my death he was mostly describing everybody's clothing.) I'm actually quite fond of Murakami, but his writing style is so detailed and methodical that in the past I've actually sunk so deeply into his words that they've taken on a hallucinatory quality that reminded me of my Sisyphean dreams. This dream was less alarming than bemusing, a more literary version of my normal wanderings, and a bit tiring.

The second dream was briefer and more disturbing. Again, I was helping a customer at the flower shop, and as he rejected every flower I picked up, one by one, I became increasingly irritated. Finally, as I faced him with an armful of flowers, he groped me, sliding a palm up my inner thigh and then laughing at my confusion. I surfaced briefly into consciousness at this point, and so this dream has two endings: in one, I merely stumble, frown and tell him to back the hell off and never do that again, and then I ring him up and send him on his way. In the second I begin screaming at him to get the fuck out of my flower shop right now, screaming and screaming until he leaves and I'm left alone with his flowers, gasping for breath.

Last night I was a fifteen-year-old transgender boy. I hadn't come out yet even to myself, but when my companion gently told me that I was a lovely young transman I felt a flush of warmth and knowledge and acceptance that was actually pretty beautiful. My companion was also trans; so was my older brother (I still called her brother) and her partner, who had recently died. This dream was long and confusing, good and bad; I learned how to kiss and fall in love and to claim who I was, but there were also gender misunderstandings and sorrow and death. At one point I delivered flowers to a hotel where a woman had been raped and murdered the week before, her severed head left on the steps where I stood; later, I was at a news conference where I first had to defend my brother's transgenderness ("My brother's trans and she's fucking awesome!" I screamed at the reporters) and then we watched news footage of her partner being blown up in a car accident. I woke again at 5:30, deeply disturbed.

I don't know what to think. I wouldn't call these nightmares--they're too complex for such a distinction--but nor are they "good", and they seem to be carrying themselves into my daily life in a way that I'm not accustomed to. They come back to me: the feelings of shame and rage at the obtrusive customer, the possibility of death, the confused feeling that perhaps everything boils down to a meticulous narrative and that nothing I'm doing matters. I dream, and then I wake up and the cats are at the door again, eyes wild, and I wonder if there's a dark side to spring, something coming out in my muddled dreams.


Rosiecat said...

Oh dear. Do you read before you go to bed? It sounds like your brain is bursting with ideas that it's trying to process ALL THE TIME.

a said...

First: so a lot of the more benign aspects of these dreams are pretty obviously from real life--I've been working a lot at the shop, I spend time every week discussing gender, and I recently had a brief conversation about Murakami. I'm mostly disturbed by the intensity, the ambiguous emotional content, and the fact that I'm remembering them at all.
Second: I got my period today. (And I don't care who knows it; hey internet!) That isn't an excuse, but I have known that my hormones were at high tide all week and that usually makes me a bit edgy. I don't usually have dreams, though.
Third: The cats really are going nuts with the scratching.
Fourth: I feel a lot better tonight than I did this morning, or in fact than I have for several days. So... Sorry if that was kind of angsty, or overwrought. I just hope I sleep tonight with no disturbing dreams.

Lauren said...

Wow. Those are some intense cinematic vivid dreams. I love the idea of you shouting that at the press conference!

I've found i go through phases where my dreams are not memorable, and then i'll have a week where they're ALL very vivid and sometimes kind of disturbing. I think hormones do have a lot to do with it. Weather and diet and what i'm reading or watching probably do too.

pulley-whipped said...

aside from the surfacy day-to-day stuff, you should definitely try to analyze the intense feelings of the dreams. i do think that our dreams can be key to understanding ourselves better, and potentially what's making us upset.

ps: i still laugh at the michelle pfieffer one

erica said...

i like the idea of delivering an acceptance speech from the afterlife. the subconscious is amazing...