Did you ever have a recurring dream? I mean one that you somehow remember when you wake up, and it stays with you all day. It sets up a kind of disturbing undertone that is just beneath your consciousness until you lie down for the night. As soon as you are prone, it comes flooding back.
Well, when I was a young person, sometimes I had recurring dreams and sometimes I had dreams that I wished were recurring dreams. I have had one dream that has persisted into adulthood, and no, it's not the one about showing up for the final exam with no clothes on, although that's always a good one and just about everyone has had that one at least once. My son actually showed up a day late for both his finals last semester. When he told me on the phone, I said, well, at least you were wearing clothes!
No, this one is just me and maybe some other people driving down this hilly forested dirt road in North Carolina. I actually know the state, and somehow that is a major part of the dream. It's always the same road, the same car, and I am always lost. It's pretty though, and not really scary, just disturbing. I have another variation where I'm driving and I am lost, of course, and I am entering into a city, probably St Louis, and there are all these highways coming together in a big megalopolis and it is raining. And all the highways start to sink under water and start to crash. I am up high enough to see this. I see a hole open up and all the water and roads start to be sucked down into the vortex. I am hysterical and I don't want to die, not like that anyways so I wake up. My blood pressure just went up like 10 points just writing that down. That one is terrifying.
Still, that's not what I wanted to tell you about. There was this other dream. I was in fourth grade and this is the first dream I remember remembering. Firstly, you need to know that I was one of those kids who, as my Mom described, had an over active imagination. You know, artsy. I used to be able to lay in the grass for hours and just stare at the clouds until they became whales and men with large noses and stuff. My Mom could leave me at the end of the driveway where all the gravel was and I would content myself choosing the sparkliest gems for my ever increasing collection, straight from the local gravel pit. At least I was an easy kid.
So, anyways, my parents would go out every Saturday night to Marti's, the best restaurant in town. My brother and I would have a baby sitter. After the dog bit Mr. Samis, we got a new sitter who was a teenager I guess. She just wanted to watch this scary movie. I started crying because of the overactive imagination. She said that the best thing to do would be to watch it and see that it wasn't so bad. Don't you know where this is going? Right! It was so much worse than anything my young innocence could conger up. I've tried to block it out, but I still remember this scary murderous harlequin clown on a merry go round. Doesn't it strike you as odd that I'm not scared of harlequins, clowns or merry go rounds? I know! I love all those things. But put them together and I'm terrified! The mind is a complicated thing.
So, anyways, I'm 9, and I have this dream. It was one of those dreams where part of the dream is that you are sleeping and you wake up. I wake up because I hear this loud tapping at my window. In fact it sounds like the glass is about to be shattered.
Now it is important at this point to tell you about the place where I grew up. It was a pretty impressive setting for western New York near Lake Ontario. It was pretty flat, except for the hill that lead up to the one lane bridge that crossed over the Erie Canal. Actually, that artificial hill was the source of a lot of good and bad times, but that's another whole story. Oh, of course, I'll make it short. When I was a kid my brother and I and some other kids used to sled down that embankment on our saucer sleds wearing our snowmobile suits. It was basically straight down, but sort of short, so we didn't really have to worry about breaking our heads. That was one of the fun things. The other was when my brother discovered skateboarding and he use to skateboard down that big hill doing his giant slalom turns, going about as fast as a car. I tried it once, but I broke my foot. When I was eleven I was riding bikes with my cousin Mike. Our instructions were to just ride up and down the hill, but how boring is that after the first couple of times. So then we got permission to go over to the next road and ride up and down that hill. Well, I made an executive decision that if that was ok, then I was sure that riding to my grandmother’s house should be ok. Besides, my brother was there learning how to ride a horse from my uncle Paul. So we took off the other way and rode about eight miles to the next town over. My uncle saw us and unbeknownsed to us he called my Dad. Well, all was going well until he showed up and belted me. Mike got off scott free. Still, it was so worth it! The worst thing that happened on the hill didn't really involve me at all. It was my brother, Frank. He had a recurring run in on the school bus with the kid that lived at the bottom of the hill. He decided that he had enough, and got on his three speed bananna bike to go beat up this kid once and for all. Now something you need to know about Frank is that by the time he was in jr high his feet were like size 15. The other thing is that he used these feet as brakes for his bike. My Mom was frustrated because he was always wearing out his sneakers. So anyways, he starts out down the hill going really fast. When he lowers the big dogs to slow down he gets all tangled up and crashes into the gravel. He shows up at the house all dripping with blood and my mother freaks out. He has to go to the hospital and get stitches and get all the gravel picked out. And you know what, that kid at the bottom of the hill never knew that he almost got his comeuppance that day.
So, the bridge went over the canal and the canal was one of the borders of our property. The towpath was on the other side of the canal, but if we got down the hill we could walk all the way to town if we wanted to. During the Blizzard of '77 Frank cross county skied 7 miles on that towpath into town to get us food. In the late fall they drained the water mostly out of the canal. I have no idea why. There was still enough water in there to drown though. One time I went down there and there was just the head of a baby horse sticking out all frozen. My Dad called the people who lived on the other side of the bridge hillbillies. Probably that was because of how they took care of their horses. The canal nevertheless was a very big part of our lives and my overactive imagination.
Now for the dream: so the window shatters and in comes this long giant fingernail. At the end of the fingernail is a dark hairy finger. I am not scared in the dream, I'm just observing this. It's daytime somehow and when I look up I see a giant gorilla. It's like King Cong. I don't think I had ever seen the movie, but I must have heard something about it, or how could my imagination have thought this up? I sense that there is something he wants of me so I stand on the fingernail and he withdraws me to the outside. He is giant. He is about fifty feet tall and he raises me up, up up to sit on his shoulder. Than he walks me down to the canal. Down on the embankment I see a giant pod that has been cracked open. I get the connection. Cong can't speak, but when he grunts I sense that he is confused. He has no idea what he is doing in Albion, New York any more than I do. Has that pod always been there? Did it come from outer space. Who knows? I feel a bond with this enormous creature though. One thing is clear to me, he is my friend. We become inseparable with me riding halfway to the sky nestled in deep fur. We explore the canal, the apple orchards and the woods around the house. I set up a place for him to live under the bridge. I have dreams of how Cong and I will make the world a better place. He is like a one gorilla bulldozer, so he could help construction workers and farmers. He would excel at demolition work. He could also be my protector against bullies. Things are going along pretty smooth for me and my secret friend. (Because it’s a dream, the fifty foot tall gorilla can stay a secret for now.) Of course it can't be long before some of the men see Cong and me. They think he is kidnapping me or worse and come running with their guns. I am screaming and screaming not to hurt him; that he is friendly and he wants to help us, but no one listens to a kid, especially a little girl. They start shooting at him. It isn't really hurting him, it more just makes him mad and he starts swatting at them. Now people are getting hurt. Cong feels bad. I try to calm him down, but it's as if he realizes at that moment that he can't coexist with us. In the confusion he lopes down to the canal bank, slips inside the pod and it seals itself shut. No one knows but me. Even though I could have said where he was, I never would. I was waiting, even after I woke up, for my princely Cong to return once more.
Every night after that for a long time I would try so hard to recreate this dream world.