I saw another program about dreams on PBS last week. A scientist was interviewed about his newish hypothesis supposing that our dreams don’t particularly have psychological meaning, and that they serve some other purpose, as exercise for the brain perhaps, more than to illuminate the specific things in our lives that we need to address consciously. He posits that the specifics of our dreams don’t need to be studied any more than a rabbit needs to study its dreams. Mammals dream, and the process may simply be there to reinforce the rudimentary skills needed in the attempt to keep ourselves out of danger. I am not a scientist, but I would posit that our dreams are a synthesis of that and our need to keep in touch with our true feelings about the situations we encounter. It’s not our fault that our dream states cloak these feelings in combinations of everything we know or have the power to imagine. I know that my own fight or flight response seems to supersede my thought process in many situations, and I don’t get to listen to what I really want or need until later on, if I even make time for that reflection at all.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking lot about dreams, and have had some very interesting ones lately. I’m always thrilled to hear of people who have vivid ones, from Gary Oldman’s dream last week to two new friends who have mentioned theirs on their blogs: one of Satsumabug’s surreal adventures here, and Girl in the Hat’s hauntingly vivid piece that echoes with you long after you’ve read it, here.
What follows is a dream I awoke from this morning. I’ve told it in story form to illustrate the details I knew intuitively as I dreamed it, and I left out the chapters preceding it that were so surreal and personal that they probably wouldn’t be understood or interesting to anyone but me.
The Story I Dreamt
They were outside their home, hand-in-hand. They wore the acceptable heavy business clothes and the late-in-winter, hated overcoats of a long wearying day. He withdrew keys from his pocket and unlocked the door, pushing it in with his shoulder, and went inside first as he had always done. He led her by the hand past him slowly as he stood inside looking away from her, his eyes surveying the corners of the room. They hadn’t ever spoken of this ritual. It had always been understood between them that he never cared for rote social ritual, and would never usher her into any space before him, to bear the brunt of whatever lay ahead as if she didn’t matter, as if she were alone. On entering she saw what he had seen, the bustle of more people than usual around the nurse’s desk that came out from the short hallway in an L shape, curving toward the left. He closed the door as she slipped off her coat and draped it on the nearby coat tree. He crossed the room as she did, to a door on the opposite side. They stood before it and studied the doctors and nurses talking to each other in the language specific to their professions, understanding each other, moving on to the important tasks at hand. One doctor motioned to the wife. With her eyes she asked her husband to wait for a moment, and he did as she walked to the desk to be caught up on the day’s events. The doctor, an older man and an expert in his field, motioned her around the desk to the elderly man in the hospital bed behind it. She stood at the head of the bed, and the doctor rounded it to the other side.
“Your father is resting comfortably, but,” he said gesturing to the patient’s forehead, “You see? This growth appeared earlier today. These appear very close to the end.” The growth was short and mushroom-like, about the size of a quarter, and a pale grayish color, the vague color of dire illness. “They are a sign that the body has become very sensitive and is trying to protect itself. It won’t be long now.”
She saw her father sleeping so soundly, the soft roughness of his breath audible above the quiet murmur of activity around them. “How long?” she asked without looking up, “Days?”
The doctor shook his head. “Hours. You’ll want to be here, if you want to be with him at the end.”
She nodded. “I’ll be back soon. Thank you.” She walked back to her husband as the doctor went about his work.
“It’ll be soon. I’ll have to come back down.”
They went through the second door and climbed a dark staircase up to their bedroom. Intense moonlight shone on them and lit the room through a large window as they undressed and slipped into the comfortable sweaters and the buttery softness of worn out jeans that can be worn in private life. He sat down on the side of the bed and tried to keep his face from twisting. “You’ve been going through this for so long, ever since I met you. I thought tonight we could just sleep, be quiet together. I’ve needed this all day… I was just hoping…”
She sat beside him and put her arm around his strong shoulders. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“And now I’m this horrible man who can’t support his wife on such a terrible night.” He moved away from her. “I should be taking care of you, not feeling sorry for myself.” He straightened. “I’m just so tired. I missed you.” He dragged his hands over his face for a long moment, then pushed himself off the bed with them, and stood up. He reached his hands out to her. “Let’s go downstairs.”
She looked into his eyes and saw that this day and so many before, had taken nearly everything out of him. That he worked hard yet was upset that he had come so close to telling her about his own discomfort. She understood who he had been, who he was now, the things he had seen and how much he wanted to shield her and walk with her through everything that would come later. She would never doubt his committment to her, no matter what, and though she was tired, too, she knew her biggest challenge so far would come to its end soon. She took his hands and pulled him back to her. “Come lie down.”
He shook his head no, but didn’t have the energy to fight her. They slid down together and sank into the softness of their sanctuary. “No,” he said, “I was being selfish. I just want you for myself sometimes. I’m sorry. I hate this.”
She held him and shook her head, feeling her cheek brush against his face as he lay beside her, drifting against his will into temporary safety and stillness, though she would not. “Shh, be quiet. You never knew Daddy, and he didn’t know you. Go to sleep. I’ll stay here with you until you’re sleeping, don’t worry. I’ll go down later and I’ll be fine. You’ll be fine after you get some rest. Go on to sleep.”
This part of the dream was powerful for me, and I had to linger for a while to ponder it before getting out of bed. The specific incident didn’t happen to me, and I don’t know the husband. I haven’t figured out what it means yet, but I can work that out later. What I am wondering here is this: Do you think this stands alone as a very short story; is this interesting to you as you read it? If you do find the story interesting, does the oddness of where my dream placed the hospital add or detract from it? As always, I do hope you enjoyed it (but I can handle the truth!) and many thanks to all of you who visit me here.