Awaking from a nightmare, I check the time. 3:15 am, the watch face tells me.
In my dream, I had been walking home from an unknown location, only “home” was a tiny apartment I never lived in, and the “unknown location” appeared to be across the street from Niceville high school, from which I graduated in 1980. I had encountered some drunken people on the street, who attacked me; I managed to get away and get back to my dark and dismal apartment, where it was also just after 3 in the morning.
In my nightmare, being home felt worse than being attacked. I then awoke.
I get up. I take an energy shot, then check my work computer. I work with people on the other side of the globe, so 3:20 isn’t a bad time to check in with them. I then transition to my own (non-work) computer.
On Facebook, I “like” some pictures of my wife’s family reunion that’s going on in New Jersey, but that we chose not to go to. One of my daughters is there, her son has been with us.
Sticking with Facebook a little while longer, I get 40 out of 40 questions right on a “Harry Potter” quiz. Big shock there.
I check my poetry site. I chickened out last night on the image I used on my poem; I had one that was a lot more provocative, but it just felt wrong.
Everything feels wrong.
When I was a young man, I traveled around the country for my then employer, and was naively shocked to see how many of my co-workers ran around on their spouses. I decided nothing good happened when I stayed out past a certain time of night, so I stopped going out when I traveled.
30 years later, I’m still the “early to bed, early to rise” type. Only “early” keeps getting “earlier”.
I stop a moment to wonder why returning home felt so hollow in my dream. I obviously lived alone there, was probably one thing. I had narrowly escaped assault, was another. But there was something more.
Something is wrong.
About that high school: bored out of my mind, my most common activity there was skipping class. I spent a lot of my class-cutting time hanging out at the laundromat across the street. That laundromat is one of the few things that is still there, just as I remember it.
A kind of haunted place at night, that was. Haunted, like I am now.
One of my common pastimes as a teenager – particularly when unable to sleep – was imagining what crowded places were like at night when no one (or almost no one) was there. Places like amusement parks, or restaurants, or the school, or churches.
I remember thinking about that laundromat in just that way. When I would be in there during the day (I was the world’s most harmless delinquent) I would find myself having vaguely sexual thoughts about the young housewives I would often see in there. When I used to imagine it at night, I would compose little mini-movies where young housewife would suddenly look over at scrawny teenage me and realize I was the love and passion she’d been missing all her life.
Only that never happened.
In fact, a little rough reckoning tells me that the young housewives I fantasized about would all be in their 60’s or even 70’s now. I am 55 now. Like the speed limit that was imposed nationally back when I was a teen.
It’s 4:41 now. I ought to go to the gym. Some exercise should help me feel a little less morose. Either that, or give me different types of aches to dwell on.
I don’t know that there are any laundromats left in this town I live in now. I remember where one used to be – it might still be there. I’ll have to look next time I’m that way.
I suppose this essay ought to have some sort of conclusion, one that makes sense and that ties all of these disparate thoughts together. Alas.
Nightmares are like music: we try to share our feelings about both of them with others; but they are so intense, and so personal, that our message gets lost during the transmission of it.
Besides that, nothing good happens this time of night.