I awoke so many times I lost count, with tears in my eyes. One time in particular I awoke after a nightmare. I’d been at a gathering in an old house that I do not recognise but in my dreams it is familiar to me. I fall asleep and as I do a deep fear grips me and I know there is danger, I try to move, to awaken, but I am in a deep paralysis. This time I woke and my heart wasn’t thudding like it has when I’ve dreamt this in the past. The dawn was still and cold and the birds and faint voices of early travellers outside seemed more like noises from a television set than the outside world to me. I lay and blinked away the tears from my eyes, bruises with purple pressure dots from trying so hard not to cry, and I realised suddenly how stupid I had been. How foolish it was of me, to believe that anything would change.
When I was 15 I realised it would be selfish to expect anyone to help me. I promised myself I’d never let anyone fall in love with me.
By the time I was 16 I had put myself through painful months of brainwashing, convincing myself I didn’t want children when in reality I was just terrified of ending up with them and still wanting to kill myself and not being able to. I convinced myself they’re nothing more than an anchor to life, holding me down, I didn’t want them. For about a year every young child I saw, every baby, every piece of baby clothing, every children’s game, every pregnant woman, they all made me cry.
I’ve realised in the years since that family is the only thing that can ground me. The only thing that draws me time and time again back from the edge. I have such love and such joy with my family.
Yet whenever I’m with them and whenever I’m with every friend I’d made since I feel guilt.
As if I’m lying to them when I say I love them. As if it’s inevitable, that no matter what they do and no matter how much they love me, and I them, I am going to ruin them. I am going to kill myself, shamelessly selfishly, and I am going to destroy their lives.
Last night my dreams disturbed me. Myself and two others were put helplessly above some wild, caged animals. We were left sitting upon flimsy scaffolding, trying to help one another although falling to our doom was inevitable for one of us.
Among these animals were a number of grotesque human-lie creatures. They stood with bound hands and feet – as far as I could tell – trembling. They were fidgeting constantly in pain and anger. Some had their faces covered by sacks, some had the heads of animals instead of a human one. More than I could focus on keeping myself or friends safe, I focused on them: thinking and knowing in the pit of my stomach that they were the biggest threat. They were dangerous. And hoping to God that they weren’t and never had been human, that they didn’t have the ability to cognate or to move.
I knew, somehow, that in their consciousness or not they were waiting, that it was our fault and that they wanted to destroy us.
I woke as someone fell.
In this dream I sat silent as I could below and old window, my back pressed against the cold, hard concrete of the abandoned house.
They were after me, a man and a woman – whose faces I did not know. And in my stomach I felt a tug for there was someone I had promised to help but I could not.
I dreamt I was visited by an old friend, one who is on the other side of the world.
She surprised me. Unannounced she arrived and as always our friendship was in full bloom and I felt such joy.
I awoke too early, again, and sat in the silence and over-warmth of my room, alone.
I slept long and deep. With flashing memories of cold and Matlock and dangerous strangers and the warm allure of death.
The cold, harsh morning brings some bitter comfort after a sleepless night.
And when sleep did take me I dreamt of childhood, I dreamt of family and a thick, unyielding snow that gnawed at my fingers. I dreamt too of friends. and the white blanket field in my mind rang with laughter so loud that finally the snow and ground collapsed down upon us to bring us silence.
And in that calm and darkness, again, I awoke.