When you have children, two things will drastically change forever. The first is, obviously and, in a broad sweeping movement, your life. You will forever feel as though part of your heart has been trapped outside of your body and is meandering around the world alone and you’re just trying to do everything in your meager power to protect it from all of the dark and nasty stuff that’s out there.
The second thing that will forever change is your dreams. And I don’t mean this in that goal oriented I want to own a house and be mayor of a small rural town sort of way. I mean it in the Nightly Subconscious Sleepy Time way.
Goodbye Dreams About Being Buried Alive And Falling From The Sky And Being Chased By Beasts Who’s Description Escapes You In The Waking Hours Except For The Words, “It was so real… It was just… horrible… and so real.” Hello Dreams About Your Children Teetering On The Brink Of Death Just Out Of Your Reach And Ability.
It is a regular occurrence for me – a regular occurrence – that I dream of my children playing on railroad tracks that I can’t reach, a train barreling towards them, or the two of them crossing a bridge far above a violent river that begs to swallow them up, me knowing that they’re there but having no idea where the actual location is.
Last night I dreamt that I had enlisted in the military (the first red flag that should have alerted me that this was nothing more than a nocturnal movie) and was stationed on a base that was built right on the ocean. A large interconnected system of excessively swervy roads allowed you to navigate the premises but the edges weren’t guarded and you were constantly in danger of sliding off the side. Perhaps you’ve driven on tall mountain roads that presented a similar danger. The concrete was always wet from the constant onslaught of waves and spray and the roads curved in nonsensical U-Turns as though Dr. Seuss had designed the base’s layout plan.
In my dream I was an even worse driver than in real life and my brakes never seemed to work. The U-Turn would approach fast and I could never slow down enough to make the hard cut and… over the edge I would plummet, into the cold waters below, screaming and bracing myself for impact, over and over again. It never got easier.
I swim to the shore, make my way to my barracks and deal with this very strange human drama that is going on. I believe somebody had stolen something and then there was a kind of murder and it was being blamed on me even though I hadn’t had anything to do with it… or maybe I did… it was that fuzzy dream logic that didn’t matter. As of this point in the dream, I’m sure most of these details are stemming from my dad currently being stationed in Afghanistan (military base) and me worrying about someone breaking into our house and then writing – yesterday – about having to attack them with a knife (the murder). Where the water motif is coming from, I have no idea, although I do have a fear of open water that I don’t often talk about.
I leave my barracks and begin walking down one of the long pedestrian bridges when I hear a familiar scream. My daughter is crying and I can hear water splashing and my stomach drops and I start running, my feet sloshing through small puddles. For whatever reason, someone has placed various cargo boxes along the path that I’m forced to climb over – there’s always something blocking my way!! – and when I finally reach the edge of the bridge, I hear Rory crying far to my left and I see Quinn floating face down and not making a sound.
Which one do I choose? My dream has forced me into a horrible corner and makes me decide.
The moon is casting a blue glow over the scene and I’m having difficulty making out anything further than a few feet away. I know I can physically see Quinn and I can physically see that she isn’t moving. I can still hear Rory, although I have no idea how close (or far away) he is. I leap into the cold, rippling water, submerging myself into darkness, grab Quinn, flip her onto her back and paddle relentlessly back towards the bridge which, of course, has no kind of ladder or steps to clamber back up, but rather a slippery and mossy side that I can’t seem to find footing on.
I hold my breath and kick my feet as hard as I can, lifting my duaghter into the air and lay her on the surface before turning my attention to Rory and scrambling after him. I see his head bobbing above the water and then dropping back down. I dive under, find him, embrace him and begin to pull him towards the side but he fights me, not wanting to be held or constrained or helped. He’s scared and he’s screaming and pushing against me, shoving his hands into my face and his feet into my stomach and I keep thinking I’m going to lose my grip on him (forever) and he’s going to slowly just sink to the bottom of the ocean. MY SON! His face goes underwater and I try to lift him up higher.
Finally at the side I somehow (somehow?? More dream logic) manage to pull him onto the bridge along with myself where I find Quinn lying, totally still but awake. Awake and alive. I put them both in the car (where’d that come from?) and begin to drive the three of us back to the barracks, doing my best to keep them safe but… the road is too slippery and my breaks aren’t working properly and the turns are too sharp and I’m going over the side again, both of my children strapped into car seats. GOD HELP ME!!!
And I wake up.