Last night, I slept fitfully and without satisfaction, my brain addled by the moon’s bright insistence. I am floating now. The earth is separated from my feet by wind and cloud and empty space. I do not know when I will find solid ground.
Right now, two books are growing like moss under my fingers – each a different color, a different texture, a different wild name called against a wide sky. But I will not work on them today. Today I will float. Today I will think about dreaming.
In between each dream last night, I woke with a startled cry, a flail of limbs, a sob lodged in the throat. Each time I got out of bed and walked across the icy floor to the wide windows facing the back yard, and the field, and the creek, and the city beyond. Each time, I pressed my damp fingers to the cold glass, and watched the progress of the moon across the frozen land. Each time I watched my breath collect on the window like a cloud, and vanish without a trace.
This is what I dreamed.
1. I am in a gold-colored tent in an alpine grotto beneath a snowy peak. I have been here before, many years ago. I slide onto the platform upon which the tent sits and slip my feet into my government-issue boots. My ranger’s shirt. My fire-proof pants. I go to the metal cache and pull out what we need for breakfast, but nothing is there. The cache is empty. I call to the man sleeping in the tent – the one who becomes my husband, but in the dream, as he was at the time, he is connected to me by will and by love, and not by law. The tent unzips. He lumbers out. A damp snout. Black fur. White teeth. Ten bright claws, shining like glass. He regards me, as I regard him. The smell of bear musk. The shirr of the breeze. I snort, snuffle, and open my throat and roar.
2. I am in a submarine, following the migration of blue whales. The submarine is gold with black stripes, like a bumble bee. It is narrow at its face with a swollen middle, as though ripe with young. It has a comfortable, easy look to it, as though it’s only purpose is to act as a plaything for the whales. Indeed, the blue whales seem curious, turning their great, round eyes toward the view windows and peering inside. They blink. I blink. They lean into the deep and I scuttle after them, leaving a trail of bubbles behind. My children are in the submarine and they are stopping up leaks. They use their fingers, their hands, their clothing. They use wax and rubber and paste. They press their mouths to the holes and blow out. “Mom,” they say. “We have to go back.” “Just a little bit farther,” I say. “Mom,” they say as the water pools at our feet. As it splashes our knees. As it slips up around our waists. “Just a little bit farther,” as we skirt the backs of the whales. As we turn upward with them toward the invisible surface thorough the endless stretch of salt and dark and cold, cold, cold.
3. I am being fired. Again. It hurts just as much as before.
4. There is a wolf fast asleep at the end of my bed. It is curled around itself, a spiral of fur and tail and meaty breath. I sit up. It cocks its head and blinks its eyes. It gazes at me sleepily. “You!” I say. The wolf yawns. “You were expecting someone else?” it says.
5. I am wearing a black pencil skirt with a matching jacket and patent leather pumps. My hair is done with a swooped bang and a high bun and a pillbox hat. I am running. I realize that the world is in black-and-white, with the occasional jerky flash like poorly threaded film, and there is a soundtrack running behind me – bright and jangley like a Hitchcock flick. I have no name. I know I have no name. My only purpose in this movie is to die. The light changes. A blade flashes. The music launches into a brash, assonant chord, like the shatter of glass. I feel the knife enter at the back. I feel the steel in the space between ribs, in the sinew of muscle, the sponge of lung. I do not breathe. My arms fling out like wings and the light surrounds me and I am gone.
6. There is a knot in the umbilical chord. And oh god, there is a knot. And oh, god, there is a knot.
7. I am outside. It is freezing cold, and I am in a tank top and my underwear, walking barefoot across the lace of snow over the brown grass, down to the creek. The cattails are flattened against the shore – no herons nest there now. The foxes have found more private places for their denning, and the ducks have launched into the air and shot across the sky. I am alone. My toes curl onto the mounds of frozen mud and I sink onto my heels, regarding the frozen creek. There is a figure under the ice. Its hands are pressed against the surface. Its mouth moves in horror. It is dressed as I am. Its hair floats in the murky water. I turn, find a stone, crack the ice, and offer my hand. My hand on my hand. My fingers around my wrists. I help the woman that is me out of the ice and lead her back to the house. Where it is warm.
One of these days, I will sleep without dreaming. But not soon, I hope. My dreams are strange, but they are mine. And I will keep them.