Nightmare Squared

It’s Saturday, and things are brewin‘ along quite nicely.

In my mind’s eye, Saturdays have a red-organge border around the edges. You know what I mean? They’re those warm, happy days, when you’re free to do anything your heart desires.

Sundays… well… Sundays are chores, groceries, and other tasks that bring you circling back into Earth’s orbit, and the life you live Monday through Friday.

But Saturdays?

Saturdays are the fun uncle you hope will never leave.

This morning I was waiting for my order at a taco place, and as people shuffled by with their lil’ plates of food and children in tow, my mind quickly began to wander, as it often does. When I was a kid, my fourth grade teacher complained to my parents that I would often stare out the window during class, seemingly lost in thought.

Well, I am what I am. I make no apologies for an over-active imagination. In this instance, at this random taco place, I was thinking about a project, and the finer details of my workflow: how to quickly transition from a concept design, to a quick 3D model, to a high resolution sculpt suitable for 3D printing.

Out of the blue, an old man greeted me with a simple: “Hello there.”

Quickly snapping out of it, I returned his greeting, slightly wrong-footed.

“It looked like you were 800 miles away.” he said.

In that moment, I realized he was right. Without thinking, I replied back: “Oh.. yeah, just thinking about work.”

He nodded slightly, and sat down at an adjacent table.

“No matter where we go”, he said.

That was the end of the exchange. It lasted… just a few moments. Seconds. And yet, I find myself reflecting back on it continually.

I find that I can’t recall his clothes, his facial features, or anything specific about his appearance, besides being old.

I tend to jump around from various projects a lot, and when I return to one, I often find that after the interim I immediately have new ideas that seemingly bubble to the surface of my awareness like juicy chunks of beef simmering in stew.

The subconscious is both blessing and curse. With practice and gentle coaxing, it becomes your ally, yet it’s also a powerful, enigmatic part of the mind. Sometimes I wonder if it’s wise to encourage it. Does it ever feel like, once you wake up, you’re switching gears, from dreams to real life?

It does to me.

When I was in middle school an artist came on career day to talk about the work he did, and his life. He mentioned keeping a sketchbook close to his bed, so that when he woke up, he could depict his dreams. It’s a good idea, but as many will tell you, the more time and effort you spend trying to remember your dreams and nightmares, the further down the rabbit hole you travel, and the more “real” it all becomes. There are levels of truth we all hide within ourselves, simply to keep functioning. However, in dreams, such forces are let loose, unbound and free to masquerade and terrify.

Last month I had a nightmare.

In the nightmare, there had been a number of instances where my lower jaw and tongue had ached. I’d pushed my tongue across the sore spot a number of times, but mostly ignored the pain. Eventually, starting to tire of the annoyance, I stood in front of the mirror, leaned in close, and opened my mouth. On the side of my tongue I found a large spot had been eaten away, leaving a layer of sickly flesh visible, and a jagged abscess in the center. Looking closer, I saw a highway of maggots and tiny roaches branching through a network of veins. I began to scream in utter revulsion, unable to stop myself. Never before, in real life or in a dream, had I experienced a complete loss of control over myself. As I continued screaming and shrieking, I remember my youngest brother was there, somehow, and that he was telling me he’d reached my Dad, and that he’d be there soon. I remember thinking I needed him there NOW, not soon, while vainly lashing my tongue back and forth within my mouth, in the doomed hope of being rid of the filth inside my body.

I’ve considered what the dream meant. One interpretation is that I’m rotten inside, or sick. Another is that I’m evil. Or that I’m getting older.

Still, I think it was the loss of control that was significant. As I said, that had never happened to me before. I’ve always been able to master my fear, shove it down within myself, and proceed forward logically.

In a way, it’s bizarre to think that the first time I’ve ever failed to master was my fear was in a dream my own mind composed.

Weird, right?