Where’s Aunt Sally when I need her?

I had a strange dream early this morning.  It was the kind of dream in which my conscious self knows that I’m dreaming and even talks to me as the action of the dream is unfolding about the fact that I’m dreaming.  It was my conscious self that ended the dream, that made the decision to open my eyes and wake up so that the dream would stop.

In the dream, my worst ex was in my apartment.  This isn’t the Morphine Man or Vlad or any other ex I’ve mentioned.  This is the dangerous, abusive man I never talk about here.  And he didn’t show up in this apartment.  I was living in some enormous loft/performance space, similar to the loft I lived in when I was dating that man, only much, much bigger (and with the performance space my actual apartment, sadly, lacked).

This man — let’s call him Michael — came into my room and woke me up, yelling and threatening me with … I don’t know what.  I had done something to piss him off and he had come to exact some revenge.  He was advancing through the apartment, breaking things, tearing things off of shelves and flinging them against the walls.

I was scared, but I was also surprised to see him, surprised that he would suddenly be there, in my house, in my life.  I watched him come toward me, watched the mess he was making of my home, but didn’t do anything.  And that was when I noticed that a) my apartment was a performance space and b) it was full of people, including my brother and some of my friends from college.  I used the distraction of the crowded room to slip out of bed (because of course all of this was happening while I was in bed) and hide, first at one end of the apartment and then at the other. 

My conscious self was annoyed, kept rejecting the idea that Michael would ever come after me in any kind of violent way.  Yes, he was abusive, but not physically.  I started reviewing all the terrible things that happened between us and pointed out to my dreaming self that none of them had involved physical violence.  Dream me was unconvinced and continued to look for a hiding place.

I caught my brother’s eye, and he smiled and patted the air with his hand as if to say, “Calm down.  Everything’s going to be fine.”

I could hear Michael behind me and crouched down so I could crawl under a table … and that was when conscious me decided I’d had enough and snapped my eyes open into my just-before-sunrise room, and I was awake.

WTF?!

Years ago, I read Louise Meriwether’s Daddy Was a Number Runner with my class.  That book was a great experience, gave me a chance to learn so much more from my students than they learned from me.  One day they taught me about number books, about interpreting their dreams so they’d know which number to play.  This was a world I knew nothing about.  Happily, there were plenty of places that still sold those books, and I bought a few to bring to class.  My favorite was Aunt Sally’s Policy Players Dream Book.  My students and I had a great time with the dream books, recording and interpreting our dreams. 

I still have Aunt Sally around here somewhere.  I need to find her.  This is the first dream I’ve remembered in a long time, and the most vivid I’ve had in ages.  Surely my lucky number is in there somewhere.  Hitting Powerball from a dream about Michael would be excellent.  Finally, something positive would come from that unfortunate relationship.

PSA: In case you didn’t know …

Sometimes, it takes hearing it from a four-year-old for the message to really sink in.   So, if you hadn’t already heard:

Sophia’s right, of course.  Something is wrong, and we do have the power to stop it.  I found this while looking for something else entirely, but it’s actually a nice tie-in with the adipositivity post.  Substantia Jones is using her power to make change.  What about the rest of us?

Overly-Sensitive Reader, Know Thyself

I’m reading Francisco Goldman’s The Art of Political Murder: Who Killed the Bishop?  Goldman is a novelist, but this isn’t a novel, it’s about the murder of Bishop Juan Gerardi in Guatemala in 1998.  This is absolutely not a book I should ever read.

When I read Bury My Heart and Wounded Knee, and In the Spirit of Crazy Horse I noticed a curious effect the books had on me.  Aside from the anger, frustration and pain the stories in those books made me feel, I found myself walking around in fear, nervous as I turned corners on the street or walking out of a building.  I didn’t know what was wrong with me, what had me so freaked out.  Then I recognized it: I was identifying too intensely with the people in the books.  I was walking in the street, expecting the US Cavalry or an FBI agent to come round a corner and shoot me, expecting to be ambushed as I stepped out of my apartment building.

I mentioned this to a woman I worked with at the time, and she was certain it meant I had been a Native American in a past life and that I was reliving my past experience of being persecuted by the American government.  Yeah, well, maybe, but I don’t think so.  I actually think there are other reasons for my fear, but the fact is I know that I have this reaction to stories of violence, true stories of violence.  And not just in books.  I have this response to watching Goodfellas (which hasn’t kept me from watching it several times, but the feeling is definitely there), to watching Wonderland.

I mostly spare myself from taking in stories that will trigger this intense fear.  For some reason, it didn’t occur to me until I started turning the pages that this would be a story I shouldn’t read.  Goldman starts us off with facing-page maps of the neighborhood in which Gerardi’s murder takes place and the house in which the murder takes place.  Boxy line drawings like I might make using MSWord, no real images.  Those maps were the flashing red “DANGER!” light for me, the signal that I should close the book.

But the book is this month’s selection for the reading group I’m in, and I’ve been such a slacker in the group lately, showing up the last two months without having finished the chosen book (two months ago I hadn’t even finished reading the foreward!), and I had decided that wasn’t going to be true this month.

I am a quarter of the way through the book now.  And feeling gutted.  Last night I came home terrified, as if I was going to walk into my house and find a thug waiting to beat me to death, as if I would turn on the light in my living room and find Bishop Gerardi’s body.  This kind of irrational fear isn’t very ‘calmable’ for me: leaving the lights on makes me a target, turning them off means I can’t see when the killers come for me.

Right.  Don’t try to make it make sense.  It doesn’t.  I’m not a high-profile investigator of human rights violations.  I haven’t just published a report that names names and documents my country’s horrifically violent recent history.  Oh, and I’m not in Guatemala, and it isn’t 1998.  Right.  It’s really just unlikely that I will meet Gerardi’s fate.  Of course.  Explain that to my fear response.

I passed a miserable night, getting maybe two hours of fitful sleep (with lights out but the classical music station keeping me company).  And by this morning I was fine.  Not sure how tonight will be, but probably a bit better.

How on earth could I have enthusiastically voted for this book as our January selection without realizing what I’d be getting myself into?  In this way, I know myself extremely well, but where was all that self-awareness when I needed it? I’ve let myself get mired in a painful, ugly story that’s keeping me up nights, and somehow I didn’t see it coming.

Good intentions.

I wrote once about asking a bus driver for directions.  He was quick and pleasant with his reply.  I asked more questions, and he was just as quick and pleasant with his follow-up answers.  He was extremely helpful.  Or, at least, he was extremely helpful-seeming.  I had, in actual fact, not the first idea what he was saying to me.  I was asking my questions in English, but I was standing on a street in Antwerp, and that quick and pleasant bus driver was answering me in Flemish.  He may well have understood everything I said, but his words to me were just sound.

On my way home tonight, I was reminded of that story.  My bus stopped and a woman stepped up to the door and asked … something.  The driver asked her a clarifying question, and the woman said … somthing.  A piece of that second something sounded like “Eighth Avenue,” so the driver explained that the woman was on the wrong side of the street, that she’d have to go across and get the bus back the other direction.  The woman shrugged and said something that sounded like “No English.”  The driver switched to some very broken, pieces-of-pieces Spanish and explained again.

I thought this was quite lovely, especially when many people — even in this city — still believe the secret to bilingual communication is simply to speak English really loudly.

As the driver explained, the woman’s face twisted into a “WTF?!” kind of expression, the kind of look you’d get if you thought you might be losing your mind.  And her face made sense because the driver — so helpful, so ready to be helpful — was speaking Spanish while the woman was speaking Russian.

After getting everything sorted, the driver shook his head.  “Russian?” he said to the rest of us on the bus.  “I’d never have known.  When I hear someone speak something that’s not English, I just figure it’s Spanish.  You know, unless you got the Chinese or something like that.”

Really?   Here?  In this city where we have so many languages we don’t know what to do with ourselves?  Is it really possible he could think the only non-English languages spoken here are Spanish and Chinese?  In that neighborhood alone I can think of twelve languages that are commonly spoken — inlcuding three different ones that would be called “Chinese.”

Like the bus driver who tried to direct me in Antwerp, this driver was so ready to lend a hand, to help the lost traveler.  I really like that.  It pleases me to see people ready and willing to lend a hand.  Such good intentions!  Where is it those intentions lead us?  I forget …

The true meaning of DSL …

… at least in my life seems to be “Damned Sometime-y Link.”  Mine’s been off since late Thursday night.  Feh.

I just spent almost six hours at work.  On a Saturday.  It’s not ideal, but I have to say: I got so much done!  That’s the crazy-making part.  I totally understand why I’m not able to be quite as productive when everyone else is in the building, but I hate having to go in on the weekend to do work I really should be able to get through during my normal working hours.

I wasn’t alone in the building, however.  My boss was in, too.  Her office is down the hall from mine, so we can work alone without really being alone.  So I had my music up — a little Joni Mitchell, a little Juanes, a little Ojos de Brujo — and didn’t have to worry about it bothering her.  At the same time, when I was fumingly frustrated by a couple of things I discovered, I didn’t have to sit and stew over them on my own, I could go down the hall and work through them with her. 

But enough work for one weekend.  Time to pick my hair out to full Cleopatra Jones glory, put on some earrings that won’t freeze to my lobes and go have a glass of wine with my friends.