As a little girl I was, as many girls are, preoccupied with horses. I suppose Freud would attribute the tendency to- surprise! - penis envy, but to me it’s quite normal that a girl who is just coming to understand the many ways in which she is not considered equal to little boys would fall in love with a beautiful and powerful animal.
I suppose it’s small wonder then, that as a little girl I came to associate the concept of nightmares with a thundering herd of coal-black mares with flashing white teeth and foaming mouths and wild black eyes that rolled over white. The night mares would come and gallop across my consciousness as I lay in my bed, keeping me from sleep and the release that it would bring from those myriad childhood anxieties, like passing the math test, or getting through gym class without Rosa Garland using the dodge ball as a means to send my glasses flying across the room, which I believe is what she lived for.
Of course, creatures with that much power never really entirely go away. The night mares have remained a fixture in my life.
And they came again last night. I fidgeted in bed for hours as they roared past me over and over and over again. They brought with them fears about job security, and my paltry savings, and my sub-prime mortgage, and my health, and my declining looks, and even irrational thoughts such as at that very moment, my house might be on fire. Have I planned a way to escape? And what about the animals? Where are the cat carriers, anyway? And I never finished that earthquake kit, either. The big one is coming. The big one is coming. Holy shit, do I know how to TURN OFF THE GAS?
When I was a child, I would chase the night mares with Christmas. “Think about Christmas,” I would whisper to myself. “Think about the tree.”
Oh, if it were only that simple now. There is no more magic that can chase the night mares. Christmas these days is an event entirely of my own making, like Dog Washing Day. It’s become a list of things to be accomplished, and so is more likely to be fodder for the night mares than a touchstone to keep them at bay.
Beer is a good chaser for the night mares, but too much beer brings on the mare named “What If You’re an Alcoholic?” and let me tell you, that nag is a bitch. I also sometimes chase away the mares with good old fashioned exhaustion, but exhaustion has an unfortunate tendency to bring on various heretofore unknown aches and pains, which of course is just daring that old mare called “You Haven’t Got Many Years Left,” and her sister “It Might Be Cancer,” to make an unwelcome appearance.
For a while I chased the mares pretty successfully with a little miracle called Tylenol PM. Ah, the blissfully deep and uninterrupted sleep of TPM! TPM, you’re an angel sent down from heaven! You’re a demigod in bottle! If Athena really did split Zeus’s skull and spring fully formed from out of his forehead, then TPM is what Zeus would’ve kept on his nightstand on
Ah, but every drug has its curse, and the curse of TPM is dreams so endlessly and vividly strange and elaborate that I wondered if I hadn’t been possessed by Tim Burton. You know, a younger, still creepy, still talented Tim Burton. Pre-Planet of the Apes Tim Burton. For instance, the other night, I dreamt that I was forced to become a doctor, and the emergency room in which I worked seemed to be peopled entirely by patients whose innards had been forcibly removed from their bodies, but were still attached. They would walk up to me and shove their shockingly colorful and still-moving entrails in my face and demand that I see them next. Of course, I had no idea how to help them, but in the dream I labored most of the night on an endless line of patients, each one more fucked-up and demanding than the last. And that’s just the last dream I remember. They were all, as I only vaguely recall, marathon weirdfests of gore and expectation. Eventually, each morning after a solid eight hours of TPM-induced slumber, I ended up more exhausted than I was when I went to bed.
I say this all, sweet readers, not to invite your pity, or even your suggestions of hot milk or snuggly kittens or watching CNN. I guess I just wanted to say to you that it’s all been getting to me recently, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel like this country is about to get laid off, but we haven’t figured it out yet, and we’re still going out every night and spending our paycheck on hookers and blow. But last night, in the midst of the mares, and just when I had turned over for the 400th time, and let out my millionth sigh, Spooney, deep in sleep, let his arm fall across my hip and gently, just briefly, tugged me toward him. Just like that. Just one small flinch of wanting. Even through the fog of dreams. Just there. And that’s all it was.
And it so hit me, readers, that I think it is good to be with someone who is not so like yourself. Spooney is by no measure any kind of cock-eyed optimist, but having rolled with so much over the years, he seems to have mastered it a bit, and I want to learn how to do that. I really must learn how to do that.