Sleep is one of those things that can prove elusive. I’ve grappled with insomnia over the years, and am currently working my way through another bout. Friends advise me to see a specialist, or take some over the counter melatonin, but usually I just ride it out. At some point the lack of sleep catches up with me and I crash hard, reset the internal clock, and am back at it until the next round.
Also: really freaky weird dreams result from that insomnia. Not while I have it (because when I have it I’d rather blow my brains out), but because when I do finally crash, the dreams are exceptionally vivid. And in the last month I’ve had three particularly vivid and just plain weird dreams, which I will now share with you.
This was just before Christmas. My wife and I were passing through a small Northeastern town, and stopped into a bar for a drink. Turns out we’d ambled on into a whiskey bar – a hi-toned one that only served whiskeys. Yes they mixed drinks, but only whiskeys, and most came for straight shots of the good stuff.
It was a quiet day there, so I struck up a conversation with the owner who said that while business was good, he was retiring and looking for someone else to take over the place for him. He showed us around, and showed us the apartment upstairs that he lived in. Both were in the offing, and after some minor consideration, my wife and I decided running a whiskey bar would be fun. The apartment would be ours, I could keep up with writing, and we’d both run the bar ourselves. At least that was what we thought.
I woke up. Literally, woke from this pleasant dream. I lay there for a bit, went to the kitchen for a glass of water, returned to bed and fell quickly back asleep. But this time was one of those rare occasions where I resumed the dream where I left it off, back at the whiskey bar.
Only things had changed slightly. Like genre.
See, somewhere between when I last left the bar, things had slipped into horror movie mode. And we were dealing not with fine whiskeys but with a zombie outbreak. My wife and I and some patrons had barricaded us in the whiskey bar and were fending off hordes of flesh and brain eating zombies. How did we hold them off? By employing the arsenal of weaponry the owner had left us the keys to. Apparently zombie attacks were “just a thing” that the town had to deal with from time to time, like black fly season in northern Maine. So we unloaded on the brain biters, blasting them to bits, and celebrating victory with a sampling of single malts.
Then I woke up. The End.
Dream #2 requires a bit of backstory. In 1983-1984 I was living in suburbia. It was a Saturday and I was in the rec room watching TV, and there was some crazy animated film I happened to land on midway through. It was the story of a megalomaniacal alien from another planet, who had come to earth to fulfill some prophecy. To do this, he had disguised himself as a rock star in the Glam Rock mode (clearly modeled on, and voice by, David Bowie circa Ziggy Stardust).
The only people standing in his way?
Four upstart punks from Queens called The Ramones. They had confounded the evil rock star’s plans, and the climax took place in Madison Square Garden at an epic battle of the bands that featured everyone from Lou Reed and Rush to the New York Dolls and Parliament Funkadelic. At the end it was just The Ramones and Bowie left standing, and what ensued was a mash-up of punk tunes and classic 70s era arena rock as these two titanic forces battled, all roto-scoped by Ralph Bakshi from actual Ramones and Bowie performances —
And I woke up. The End.
I woke up really pissed, actually, because I wanted to know how it ended. But I was most pissed that it existed only in my mind, fueled by memories of seeing Rock & Rule and Rock and Roll High School years before (with a bit of American Pop thrown in as well). I tried to fall asleep again, but it didn’t take. That dream was over. Damn it.
The third and final dream was triggered one evening when I arrived home to this pleasant bit of news:
“The cat’s missing!” my wife cried. She’d looked everywhere, but the thing was gone. Given we live five stories up, concern was that the cat had climbed out onto the fire escape or fallen from a window.
“Hang on”, I said; “When did we get a cat?”
She couldn’t say.
“Okay, describe this cat to me,” I asked, because I’d never seen it, because WE DON’T OWN A CAT.
“It‘s a cat,” my wife said. “Four legs, a tail, whiskers, ears …”
“Anything more specific? What color? Is it black, or all white? Calico? How big?”
My wife stared at me. “I don’t know.”
“What’s its name?”
“Its name? You don’t name cats. Why name an animal that refuses to come when you call it?”
I looked around our apartment. There was no litter box or scratching post, or that smell non-cat-owners always notice when a cat is about, and is something a cat owner has become acclimatized to.
I went back to my wife. “There’s no cat here. I know this, because we don’t own a cat. We’ve never owned a cat. We never will own a cat, ever.”
“Why?” my wife asked.
“Because you’re allergic to cats.” I told her. “And I don’t like them. Period.”
“Oh,” she said, almost surprised by this fact of medicine. “You’re right. Never mind.”
“So what do we do about this cat?” I asked.
“Fuck it,” she said. “I’m allergic to ‘em anyway.”
Now there are questions that still linger with that final one. Why the hell did I dream we’d lost a cat we never had in the first place? Why a cat and not a dog, which would be more plausible given my wife and I generally like dogs. A cat?
Then my wife reminded me of something.
See, where we live now is upstairs from the apartment we used to live in. That apartment faces the street, and you pass it every time you enter and exit the building. It sat empty for several months after movin’ on up in the Jeffersonian sense, until one day I was coming home and noticed curtains were up, lights were on, and perched in the window staring out at the street and me, was a smallish black and white cat. I remember being somewhat weirded out by the fact this four-legged feline was prowling about the apartment I lived in for three years and a bit. I’d moved out, the cat (and presumably its owner) had moved in.
So why on earth would I want to medicate this insomnia problem away? Some of the best material I’ve generated has been due to lack of sleep. So yeah, I’ll ride this one out, because I know there’ll be weird dreams to reward me at the end.