Monday, March 7, 2011

A Ghastly Dream

So I wake up in the middle of the night. Well, 12:30 might seem like right after bedtime to some people, but to me it felt like the middle of the night. And, after waking, I am having this very hard time getting back to sleep. What's on my mind is next week's trip up north and my speaking gigs there... But there's a transition at some point between having a hard time going to sleep and actually going to sleep and dreaming that I'm having a hard time going to sleep; I'm unaware, then, obviously, that the transition has occurred. Though already asleep, my mind is telling me that I'm still having a hard time going to sleep.

And... for some undetermined reason Ellie and I have decided to change houses in the middle of the night. We are walking from one to the other and Ellie gets into a bit of a snit about the fact that I write a lot about other people's art but I never have anything to say about hers. I'm aware of this but I'm so desperately tired and so desperately in need of sleep that I can barely walk, let alone worry about Ellie's worries. There's just this uncomfortable tension between us...

When we get to the house--it's not actually, from the outside, our house, but it seems to be our house when we get inside--I'm too tired even to get to the main bedroom. I'm in a bit of a snit, too. So I literally fall into the little guest room with its single bed, collapse on the bed, and cover myself with one of our light tartan "blankies"--more comfort than warmth!-- before plunging down into the deepest sleep imaginable. I mean, it's frighteningly deep, and the descent is vertiginously abrupt, like falling over the cliff at the edge of some bottomless pit.

It's not even really sleep. It's all brightness and glare. I find, now, that I'm having difficulty breathing; the breath comes in great desperate gulps, each one more desperate than the last. I begin to think, this is what dying must be like, and panic sets in. I think I should call for Ellie, but I manage to make only these strangled little sounds. She'll never hear me. I think about bashing on the wooden wall, in the hope that she might be awakened by the sound, but that proves equally impossible.

I'm gasping, now, for air; my chest feels like it's about to burst with the effort of catching the next breath, and each breath feels like it could be the last. And finally, with a supreme effort of will, I manage to call out Ellie's name...

... and wake myself, and her, with my cry for help.

(There could be a simple explanation for this dream. As I think I may have mentioned in the past, I sleep with the aid of a CPAP machine, a simple air pump that spares Ellie the sound of the dreadful snore I would otherwise produce and, at the same time, is a prophylactic device for sleep apnea. It requires me to wear a mask, and it's possible, I think, that the mask may in some way have slipped while I was asleep and was obstructing rather than aiding the breath. It's a theory, anyway. Perhaps I was more simply manifesting my fear of death.)

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