middle of the night

We woke at around 3.30am, I sensed me a little before you. The wind was howling as it had been for hours, rattling the blinds and slamming the window. It was somehow perceptible even through sleep, through dreams.

They were unpleasant dreams, both of ours, as edgy and unsettled as the weather outside. Perhaps because of it. Someone brutally attacking our dog while out on a walk in my dream, followed by a wider world issue, a war, trying to edit a photograph I’d taken of South America from space. It looked good and felt important.

In your dream my Mum had a stroke while we were on the phone to her. It upset you, clearly reopening your large allotment of brainspace dedicated to illness and death. It made me fearful.

Did we wake up around the same time or had one of us woken the other? Who can say? Now in this middle of the night unsettled wakefulness, everything seemed fearful. There was a grave sense of immediate dread. What was that creak? The dog shuffling round or an intruder come to kill us?

What if our fearful unconscious synchronisation of unpleasant dreams actually meant something? Like it might in a film. What if something had happened to Mum, or Dad?

Considering the reality was distressing. I realised how I take my Mum for granted, her permanent twittering, eminently mockable presence. I imagined what a colossal hole it would leave in our family if Boom, game’s up sorry, no more Mum. It wasn’t impossible. They were both of a certain age, although both in ostensibly rude health. It could change everything about our family. It was frightening and shocking to ponder the reality if death were to happen like that, rather than creep up quietly. She does so much, far more than Dad, more than she should. She moans but you suspect quietly loves most of it, feeling needed, being so much better at handywork than Dad.

Shit. I hope she’s ok.

Has North Korea tested another long range missile? Or maybe they’ve actually gone for it and made the Japanese mainland with one, sparking World War Three. Perhaps that howling wind isn’t entirely natural. The distant fallout from something? What if a major global incident like that happened in the middle of the night UK time, around 3 or 4am when most people are asleep, unsuspecting, not checking Twitter every half hour, able to slide away and die almost unconsciously as passive Putin’s shockwaves rippled out? Would that be the most humane way to conduct nuclear war and destroy a civilisation? Maybe it wouldn’t work like that.

The brain freewheeled on and on, entirely conscious. You tried to tame it, control it, put yourself on a football pitch because dreams of playing football were the best, if they stayed with you playing football. It didn’t work.

Everything was unstable, on edge, dark, unsettled. The wind flumped the window closed again. You got up to pee, I checked my mobile phone. Nothing.

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little dreams of me

On the nearby mountain, or steep hill.  It’s a big peak at least. They call it a mountain and it’s called a mountain, but it isn’t really, you know, a mountain.  It’s not the Alps: rugged, snow-topped and majestic.  It’s Wales.  Pretty enough, but still just Wales.

It’s also besides the point.  I’m there anyway.  Perhaps I’m just sitting and worrying, or thinking. Or walking about.

When suddenly a plane appears, very low and very close.  It’s an old Nazi war plane. It’s quickly clear it’s in trouble, before crashing to a controlled, surprisingly unspectacular landing. I rush over to help, much to derision of other walkers and passers by who don’t seem moved in the slightest. ‘But the war is over!’ I argue, annoyed by them.

I find an old lady in the cockpit. I shake her gently by the shoulders and make sure she’s ok, then I back off.  She slowly climbs out of the cockpit and wanders off down the hill without so much as a thank you.

*

Standing at my childhood bedroom window, I see it’s wintry and bleak outside.  The whole landscape has changed in a possibly post-apocalyptic fashion.  It’s virtually blank now, white.  No back lawn, no forest, not a single tree.  Clusters of small white, feral beasts scuttle around, sniffing for scraps.  I drop a glass off window ledge and it smashes upon impact with the ground.  I lean out and look around the corner, hearing something loud and monstrous and massive.  I see the edge of what must be the expected biblical tsunami which rapidly engulfs everything: the building, the room, me. I wake up drenched in sweat.

*

I’m scared and nervous again about work, my finances, paying rent. Those parameters you’re used to seeing your bank balance being between, generally, month to month: they are ever shifting, down and down. My cushion, my safety net, is ever slender. Is it worth the worry, the pressure, the angst and the self-doubt? Should I seriously consider getting a job again? But I’m not very employable anymore, 4 and a half years out.  And a redundancy before that.  Should I at least try? Look? Even a part time thing to give some much needed cash injection?

Dreams are always more vivid on the nights of the week when she isn’t lying next to me.

*

In a mazy tall block, I’m being officiously controlled by a boss or a leader, or leaders.  He or she or they want to put us in individual physical boxes and push us down steep chutes to somewhere. Nobody knows where. There is urgency and panic and desperate need to escape. Which eventually I do, after a leap and a fall, and a guilty sense that I’m deserting colleagues. I’m running away, relieved, things around me fading, waking up.

Of dolphins and decapitation

“Come and look!” I beckoned my friend.  “There has to be a dozen or more of them.”  We looked down from a lofty flat in what felt like an otherwise empty building.  Swimming around in the rain-specked sea, at the base of the cliff were dolphins.  Their fins rose and fell, panicked and urgent as they circled, as if in warning of something.

“Strange.  They never usually come this close.”

No humans were nearby.  We were alone here.

I moved away from the window and back to the oven hobs.  Looking down at his cleanly dismembered head simmering in the large saucepan, I was unsure of myself, of what strength heat was correct.

For him to stand any chance of survival we needed to take him out of the freezer and slowly defrost his head at regular intervals, before returning him to the freezer again.  I didn’t understand the science.  It was horrible and I was painfully squeamish about the whole thing.  My stomach turned just to glance at him.

My two friends had done it already, I think, and appeared far more stoic about the process.  One had shown me how, the gay one who was closer to him but not like that.  He was unflappable and had put it all very simply, what we had to do.  We all had to do it.

It was a struggle to look at his face.  I’d never really liked him but you wouldn’t wish this on anyone.

“You put him on a low heat at first, didn’t you?” my gay friend asked.

I hadn’t.  I’d put him on full heat straightaway.  I felt guilty and lied.

“Yeah.”

I turned the heat down three notches.

(a dream).

abstract expressionism

We push open the heavy gallery doors and step out onto the museum’s first floor landing.  It had been different speaking about art out loud to you, hearing someone else’s interpretations, not being trapped in the confines of my own brain, wondering if these thoughts were ridiculously pretentious.  Surely a point of art is to unlock that part of your brain, to allow it to freewheel and riff.

The door swings back behind us, clumping closed.  Now the marble and stone creates a wave of echoing acoustic that jars against the sealed art space quiet.  Louder voices, chatter from downstairs, squealing children, pandering parents.

You’re saying something about that last painting but I’ve stopped listening.  I’ve stopped listening because out here there’s a sound, a voice which unsettles me, a blurry familiarity I can’t place, I don’t want to place, I’m scared by.

His voice slices in like a real world sound cutting into dream, like a sound which may initially be part of a dream before becoming real.  Worlds collide with his overfamiliar voice, a voice which has sliced into consciousness from radios and televisions. Those can at least be switched off.  Shit, a second glance.  Definitely him.  I need a magic remote control to just..  What’s he doing here?!  What’s he even doing in this city?  Shit.

You’re still speaking and I’m still nodding, pretending to listen, but this nervous hinterland returns me to dreams of a few hours before.  Afterwards I interpreted them as being related to you, to us, to this; but I didn’t tell you that or explore in any depth.

(I told you the one, where you’d decided not to stay and had caught a bus, literally, the rear pole of an old London Routemaster, just as it was taking off, and you had flown away.  I had been left standing there watching it go, disappointed, confused and yet slightly relieved.  I thought this a reflection of feelings about relationships, their general here today gone tomorrow transience – however seemingly long-term solid or briefly flaky.  Anything can happen.   In the next I sat on the top deck of a bus or a van, not that vans usually have decks, as it sped too fast down country roads.  I felt giddy and sick and couldn’t bear to look, although the roads were scenic.  Everything was moving frighteningly fast.)

Now I peer around a pillar and over a stone bannister to a small mezzanine area containing a statue.  The man and boy are about to climb the small flight of steps up to where we’re standing.

“Do you want to meet my brother?” I ask you.

He doesn’t know about you, of course.  None of my family do; not yet.  It hasn’t been that long.   “..saw him with a girl” I can already hear him telling his wife in an incredulous, mocking tone.

Now he’s climbing the steps in this direction.  I’m semi-paralysed, feet cemented.  Run away?

“What? Why?” you reply, looking scared too.
“Um, because he’s here, he’s just down there, with his son.  He’s coming up this way, now.”
I feel my face pallid, lacking blood.
“Do you want me to meet him?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t mind either way.  Do you want to run?”
“Yes.  A bit.”

Although I feel I shouldn’t.

He arrives at the top of the stone steps, a few feet away from us, still talking to his whining 5 year old. I remain frozen. We could still run. He still hasn’t seen us.

He looks up to get his bearings, glances straight through me once, twice, maybe three times.  We’ve been given ample opportunity to run, to turn our backs and walk away.  Still could.  But somehow I can’t.

Now he registers the unusualness of my unmoving shape, a man rigidly and weirdly staring at him.

“Oh hellooo!” his smarmy voice peels up into the domed ceiling and he smiles broadly, walks towards us.  I smile nervously and he steps into my embrace.  I introduce you.