I’m not sure why these dreams have stuck with me all my life. They did recur, but I think only once, maybe twice each. The first one I remember waking up from terrified, running to my parent’s bed where my mother’s side smelled flowery and powdery and warm, while my father’s side was acrid and smokey. I pushed my face down into my mother’s pillow trying to erase the bizarre images from my head.
That dream started with me walking through the streets of a town. It was a flat landscape and all the buildings seemed low-standing with maybe one or two exceptions off in the distance. A canal ran through the town, not a river. I say that because it was very square and straight. In fact, when I think of it, the whole town seemed very model-train-set-like. The streets were all parallel and perpendicular to each other, the buildings very square and colorless. The whole scene was shades of gray and old denim blues.
So I was just walking and looking around, a few empty lots here and there, but I started to feel a large presence behind me. The streets were otherwise deserted. I looked around but didn’t see anything, just a low rumble through the ground, the air warming up behind me like breath on my neck. When I think about it now I wonder if my brother hadn’t walked in the room and loomed over me or something…
I started to turn corners and zig-zag through the blocks of the town. The rumbling grew behind me. I finally walked onto a block with a bunch of vacant lots so I could see pretty far in each direction. It was then that my pursuer showed himself. Coming up behind me was the largest, purplest, most polka-dotted pachyderm I had ever seen. It towered over the one and two-story buildings. It stood on its two hind legs and shook its head around as if it were shaking bugs out of its big, floppy ears. Its brow was furrowed, its eyes closed though it kept walking at me. It was at this part of the dream that I started to run.
I kept up my zig-zag pattern through the town but for some reason, just like in the movies, I lost track of where the elephant was and I would flatten myself against gray walls and peer around corners, to make sure I wasn’t running into it. The sun was starting to set. Some of the buildings had the warm light of people at home seeping from the windows. I distinctly remember being under the dining room window of a family as they ate dinner. On my tip-toes I could just peer in the window. They were having pancakes, a mom and four or five kids. The mother was pouring syrup on a stack of pancakes for one child while the others chewed, their cheeks stuffed with the spongy cake, and drank cool, white milk. One shaded lamp hung from the ceiling and lit the whole warm scene in yellow light. I wanted to be in there so much. I knew that was the safe place rather than out here in the cool air and cold colors and with the purple elephant. It’s at this point I always woke up and ran for my mother’s side of the bed.
Another dream happened in high school and there are only pieces of it left. I was walking up a street, at the end of which was my high school. The street ended in a drop-off circle for all the parents dumping their kids out of their cars as they rushed on with their lives. It was always a long line of traffic here and I actually have no idea why I was walking up this street at the beginning of the day. I would either ride with my father (an English teacher) to school, or one of my friends later on, when we had our licenses.
But there I was, walking up to the squat, yellow, brick-faced building of my high school. Very quickly there is a feeling of terror running down the line of cars. There was something happening on the hill behind the school and I’m not sure why I thought it was okay to get up on the roof of one of the cars in line to see. In the distance were the unmistakeable shapes of mushroom clouds on the horizon, about 3 of them.
Yes, I was going to high school in the eighties and the Cold War was still going on. Don’t get visions of kids with perfectly parted and greased hair, dapper shirts and shiny shoes, poodle skirts, etc. hiding under their desks like those crazy safety films from the fifties. In the Fall and Winter I wore Levis, Nikes and a hoodie to school almost everyday and in the Spring and Summer, shorts and t-shirts. It wasn’t that Bay of Pigs kind of terror from the early sixties either. It was just an uneasiness that these hammer and sickle wielding commies wanted to blow us up because we had a lot of vegetables in our grocery stores. At least, that’s what I thought. I know that’s where the dream stems from. I was a nervous kid anyway who thought way too much. I didn’t have the facts until later in high-school. Mr. Nappo’s political science class was one of the best I ever took.
The dream didn’t last much longer than this usually. I would start to feel the wind from the blast, start running for the school, and wake up. I’m sure I ran for the school because we had some kind of bomb shelter in the basement. A sign posted down near the band room or shop class rooms told me that. I remember one time making it all the way to one of the doors of the school before the wind had me literally flying like a flag as I held onto a light post. Pretty terrifying.
The last dream that I remember happening more than once was awesome. A flying dream. The only detail I remember was being above the small bit of woods that stood at the edge of the neighborhood where I grew up. I do remember tucking and doing a summersault in mid-air and spreading my arms and accelerating up into the clouds. I used to be able to recreate this dream if I thought about it before I went to sleep, but I haven’t tried since college probably. There’s something to put on my to-do list. Brush my teeth, get in bed, think of flying.