Saturday, May 12, 2007
Night of the Demon
I got into a terrible fight with my father the other night.
The fact that he's been dead since January didn't slow him down at all. He still wanted to wring my neck.
This was a nightmare, frightening and horribly accurate; a bad dream in the extreme.
It was more like a newsreel from my childhood than a jumble streak of bizarre images. The only thing missing was narration by Walter Cronkite.
In the dream, my father is right on top of my mother, screaming in her face. I'm standing in the kitchen, appalled by what I'm seeing and I say to myself, if he hits her, I'm going to kill him!
And then he hits her. A brutal smash across the face that sounds like a gunshot. I shout at him to stop and then suddenly, like any nightmare creature, my father is now in my face, his eyes rolling around in his head like they always did when he was angry.
"What's the matter with you?" he snarls.
And, as in real life, I shrink from him, frightened by his rage. I don't protect my mother, I don't punish my father for his awful behavior. I just back down.
God, this is so unfair. I rarely dream about my parents and the first time I dream about them together, they appear is this hideous scenario.
Sometimes I can figure out the source of my dreams pretty easily. I meet someone in the street and I dream about them, or some version of them, a short time later. Case closed.
But while I think about my parents all the time and I've got some unresolved anger toward my father, there was nothing in recent memory that would have sparked this horrible vision. I had to poke around the crime scene of my mind and find clues to this psychic felony.
My father did beat my mother and not in a dream; he did it for real, when I was a child, during a time my mother called "The Troubles." Though she was Italian, she saw fit to borrow an expression associated with the Irish.
Perhaps she inspired by my dad, who was Irish. And our house was often like a mini-version of war-torn Belfast, though without the barb wire.
I wish I could say I only dreamed my father struck my mom across the face, but that's not true. He did--at least one time he did it right in front of my brother and me; I didn't dream that up, though there were times later when my father tried to make me think I did.
He would refer to something that had happened during that time and start off by saying, "you don't remember back then, but..."
Oh, yes, I do, I would think in retaliation. I remember all too bloody well.
Years later, when my mother was in her 70's, she began to suffer from terrible migraine headaches, that kind made her a virtual cripple. She told me that resentment and rage about "The Troubles" from so many years ago were the source of the migraines, a testament to the power of unresolved anger.
But why do I dream of this now? The nightmare happened early Friday morning so I retraced my steps over the last 24 hours. At work I had my monthly same-store sales report, where I have to come in super-early and grind out three to four versions of the same story.
It's a tough day, but I actually thought it went well. I went to the gym after work and during the warm-up I had a momentary flashback to this terrible fight I had with my sister when we were kids. It was terrible, but it was years ago and had absolutely nothing to do with my workout.
"No," I told myself sternly. "You're just looking for a reason to fell bad."
And the bad memory went away.
That night, I went to the Second Annual Brooklyn Blogfest, where bloggers from all over the borough crammed into the Old Stone House in Park Slope. The meeting was a blast; I met some great people, saw the faces behind some of my favorite blogs and I got a free dinner.
In addition, shots of my bald head appeared in an NBC news report of the event and the New York Times blogger referred to my blog and quoted me during the open mike portion of the evening.
I was nervous about speaking to the crowd, but I had just done a much longer presenation during my recent solo performance class, so I got on line for the microphone.
As I got closer to the mike, I noticed my name tag was gone. I hate those damn things; I feel like I'm being tagged like an animal in the wild, but they do have their uses.
I looked around on the floor and then I saw it: my name tag was on the elbow of the woman currently speaking to the audience. It was really crowded up on the stage so I guess that's where the transfer happened.
I thought if I tried to take it back at that moment, I'd get a sock in the nose, so decided to let it go. Then I walked up to the mike.
"Hi, my name is Rob," I said, like a speaker at an AA meeting. "And my blog is called The Luna Park Gazette. Pretty much whatever is in my mind is on my blog."
I return to my seat to polite applause and when I sat down a young man tapped me on the shoulder and held something out to me: my name tag.
Okay. I came home and I was feeling good, honestly. I got through a tough day at work, went to the blogfest, and made some real connections. Then I made the mistake of going to bed.
I woke up at 3AM and hit the can. This being Friday, I figured I could get through with a little less sleep than usual. I went back to sleep and that's when I had the nightmare.
I woke out of that dream exhausted, frightened and a little ashamed. Even in my dreams I was a coward. Why couldn't I be some swashbuckling hero? Hell, why couldn't I dream I was Spiderman? I've heard that creative people supposedly have vivid dreams, but I wasn't feeling very creative. I just felt awful.
The dream held on to me throughout my waking life, as I had a truly bad day at the office. I kept trying to get this one story out and I couldn't get any of the information I needed. I was constantly asking this PR woman to e-mail me a copy of an analyst's report and she kept telling me that she had sent it three times already.
E-mail is one of the easist forms of communication on the planet and somehow I couldn't get one item sent to me over the Internet. Click a few buttons and you're done; or at least that's how it usually works.
The story was a total disaster. My editor kept asking me more and more questions about it and finally, at about 4:30 pm, she tells me via IM that she's not going to post the story. Fine. Do whatever you want with it. So what if I wasted most of the day on something that never ran? I still get paid.
I went into the men's room before leaving for the day and while in the stall, I decided to flush the toilet with my foot, rather than--I told myself--touching the potenially filthy thing with my hand. But instead of stepping, I stomped, big time, and a few seconds later, I saw a steady of water dripping out the side of the fixture.
It took a few seconds for me to realize that I had damaged property, not irreparably, not even seriously, but I had damaged somebody else's property, in a fit of rage. I started the day cowering from my father and now I had turned into him. This is progress?
So that's what happened to me, but it still doesn't explain why, why did I have this terrible dream when I was feeling so good before.
I remembered my experience at my gym, when I shooed away an unpleasant memory that I had conjured up solely to bring myself down. I couldn't do that in my sleep, I was locked in the theater of my subconscious.
I'm convinced there is some part of my mind that doesn't want to me be happy, to be successful. And that part of my psyche is going to lash out, put up road blocks and toss down boulders, do anything to keep me from enjoying life.
I've got a lot of work to do. I've got to work on that unresolved anger and I've got to learn to love myself, to lose the self-loathing that can scare up more frightening images that a horror movie triple feature.
Does forewarned mean that I am now forearmed? I won't know until I go to sleep.