Tag Archives: dreams

Stolen Moments

A friend of mine, Preston*, has recently taken to poetry writing, or more specifically to haiku writing.  Haiku (or hokku) is a Japanese verse form of poetry that follows a very strict composition of three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables.  Not popular in Western cultures until about the early 1900s, haiku are often accompanied by an image, or a pair of images, meant to depict the essence of a particular moment in time.  Their brevity is occasionally an introduction to a longer poem or a story, but its central purpose is to focus the reader’s attention on that one single moment that struck the poet’s mind as critical or somehow significant; a moment where everything came into focus; where the complexities of life were abruptly reduced to what is – and what is not – essential.

I trust and admire Preston greatly.  I wrote about him nearly 6 years ago in “One Good Friend.”  He’s truly one of those rare individuals who is focused and level-headed.  For us writers, focus is always a challenge, while level-headedness is sometimes elusive.

Time is a bandit

Reducing our hopes and dreams

To mere memories

 

– Preston

 

*Name changed.

1 Comment

Filed under Wolf Tales

Daymares

image002

Within the same week a few months ago my parents had nightmares about their former jobs. It’s unsettling because they’ve both been retired for a while. My mother worked in the insurance business for nearly 51 years before retiring in 2003 at age 70. My father worked for two different printing shops; starting when he was 17. He got laid off in 1994 from the last one. They’re old school; in their day, you went to work for a company and stayed there for decades. Thus, I’ve had some trouble explaining my career as a freelance technical writer to them. They each worked roughly the same number of years I’ve now been alive.

But why, after all these years, they have occasional bad dreams about work is beyond my comprehension. I suppose they gave so much of their time and energy to those places that it’s dug an emotional trench in their respective souls like a gunshot wound.

I’ve only had three dreams about work. The first occurred in the late 1980s, when I worked for a retail store. I was being harassed by a manager who already had a nasty reputation. Strangely, though, (and what dream isn’t strange?) my parents were at the store with me. They knew I’d been having a tough time with that asshole of a manager and had come to help me out. When he shouted at them, I lost my temper and screamed at him. My own yelling woke me up. Not long afterwards, that manager was transferred to another store. I guess someone in the company’s echelons of power heard me yelling.

The other two dreams came within months of losing my job at an engineering firm in the fall of 2010. I had been so stressed out there in the last few months it was almost a relief to get laid off. It even cost me a back tooth. Just a few weeks earlier I had begun experiencing pain on the left side of my mouth. I didn’t know what to think when I realized that tooth was loose. Neither did my dentist. But, by the time I visited him, I knew my job was the crux of the agony.

“You have two choices,” he told me. “I can pull it or try to do a root canal.”

“Pull the bitch,” I calmly told him, thinking of my then-supervisor and then-manager. As he wrangled it from my jaw, I tried to think of ways to make it look like that supervisor and that manager had freak accidents. At work. On the same day. With no one else around.

Stress does that to a person – especially work-related stress. It makes them physically ill and emotionally drained. At various times during my eleven years working for a large bank, I felt the impact of job-induced stress. Back aches and short bursts of rage were the most common for me. Back then, though, I was able to fight it off because of my strict exercise regimen: pushups and crunch sit-ups in the morning; weight-lifting; jogging; and taekwondo. In one martial arts session, I almost beat the crap out of a close friend. We were fully padded up, so neither of us felt much. But he told me afterwards that I literally scared him. I apologized, but he just laughed. I explained to him what was happening to me at the bank, and he understood. Still, at that moment, I felt angry enough to send Chuck Norris screaming from the room. Despite my tenure at the bank and all the crap I endured, I never once dreamed of the place.

So, it’s still a mystery why I let my eight-year stint at the engineering company affect me in the nocturnal hours.

In the first dream, I was at corporate headquarters in Southern California with my former project manager, Dagwood*, who had hired me in 2002. He was a quirky character who’d joined the company right out of college. But I liked him and stood up for him, whenever I felt another associate was disrespecting him. In the dream, the building sat right along the coastline, separated from the water only by a strip of sand and a road. Dagwood had been there many times, but this was my first visit. And everyone was on edge. A major quake had pummeled the seabed a few miles offshore, and local officials anticipated an equally massive tsunami. The coastal areas had already been evacuated, and building management had informed us they were monitoring the situation closely. When the first wave approached, they’d sound the alarms, and everyone on the lower levels would flee upwards, which in real tsunami reactions, is known as vertical evacuation.

I’ve always been fascinated by the more extreme elements of the natural world and recall being fascinated with the prospect of witnessing a tsunami up close. But I was also frightened, since I’d never been through something like that. Dagwood had, though; a similar incident had occurred a few years earlier, he told me, before I started with the company. A massive seaquake had struck, and a tsunami was expected. But it was almost a false alarm; the tsunami waves turned out to be merely inches. This time, however, officials anticipated a real disaster.

“Don’t worry,” Dagwood reassured me. “Just stay with me, and you’ll be alright. When those alarms go off, we’ll just head upstairs.”

Cool, I thought. I felt better.

Then, as I labored over my laptop, seated right beside a window overlooking the beachfront, the alarms went off. I heard a loud thundering sound and looked out the window to see the first monstrous wall of water rushing towards us. I panicked, as I leapt to my feet and began looking for Dagwood. He was nowhere. Some people started screaming in fear, as others headed towards the stairwell. Where was Dagwood? I kept asking. He’s supposed to be here. Good God! Did he just abandon me?

I ran from one office to another, searching for him, thinking surely he wouldn’t be so cruel towards me. Several other people were also scrambling around; consumed more with hysteria. But I still couldn’t find Dagwood. Finally, I just stopped and, as the sound of the encroaching tsunami drowned out every other noise, I turned to the ceiling and said, “Fuck him.”

I proceeded towards a stairwell, and – amazingly – everyone else stopped screaming and followed me up the stairs. We all made it safely and could only watch as the water rumbled over the sand and the road, before tearing into the building’s ground floor.

But I kept asking myself that question over and over: where was Dagwood? He was nowhere to be found. What had been trepidation just moments earlier turned to anger. He really did abandon me.

I woke up.

In the second dream, I was back in downtown Dallas, at the government agency where I’d worked most of the time I was with the company. We had an important meeting; one where we’d learn our fate under the new contract. I simply couldn’t be late. As the meeting time approached, I was trying desperately to finish a critical task. I finally tore myself from my computer and headed towards a nearby meeting room. No one was there. I darted to another conference room. It, too, was empty. Where is everyone? Where is this damn meeting being held? I can’t be late!

I began scampering about the building; running into every conference room I could find. They were either empty or occupied by someone else. But, by then, I’d realized something even more disconcerting: I was stark naked. At some point, my clothes had come off. That usually happens only to porn stars and politicians, not to technical writers. And not in a government building! No one seemed to care, though, and I was only slightly bothered by it. I was more concerned with finding out where that damn meeting was being held. I finally gave up and sauntered into the break room. I dropped into a chair, still butt-naked, and resigned myself to an uncertain fate.

I woke up.

Both dreams are rife with symbolism. I know what they mean to me, but you can make your own inferences. Yet, once I recovered from that second dream, I vowed never to dream about work again. It wasn’t worth the aggravation. No job is. After years of dealing with bully bosses, hostile coworkers, office gossip, impossible deadlines and paltry raises, I want to occupy my mind with something far more significant and meaningful than a fucking job.

And it’s worked. I haven’t dreamed about the engineering company again. I told my parents they need to let go of their old jobs. “That was years ago,” I said. Those places shouldn’t hold such a strong grip on their minds.

We spend so much of our lives at work, or doing something work-related, and we don’t always get something positive after expending all that time and energy. People, especially men, have often defined themselves by what type of career they had. Blue collar, white collar, no collar. Whatever they did to make a living is who they were. One of the first questions people ask when they meet someone for the first time is, “What do you do?” And, of course, they don’t really mean, ‘What do you do in your spare time?’ Or, ‘What do you do every third Saturday of the month?’ They mean, ‘How do you make yourself a valuable part of your community?’

But I know people are generally worth more than the way they earn money. I define myself as a writer; always have and always will. So I proudly tell people I’m a technical writer. That’s how I currently earn my living. Eventually, I hope to make a living from my creative writing. Regardless, I know for damn sure that slaving over a hot keyboard is not all that I am. And whatever type of job or career you have, dear readers, should not be all who you are. We’re worth a hell of a lot more than that.

And, next time I’m on the west coast, I may see a real live tsunami, but I won’t be thinking of Dagwood.

*Name changed.

3 Comments

Filed under Essays

I Heard Breathing

door

This is based on an actual experience I had some time in the fall of 1995.  Make of it what you will.

I heard breathing – heavy, steady breathing.  My eyelids jumped open, and I caught sight of the ceiling fan.  Where was I?  It took me a moment.  I was in my bedroom.

Breathing – breathing – slow – and steady.  Breathing – breathing.

What was that?  There was an animal in the room with me, beside my bed.  But, I didn’t own a pet. I was alone in my one-bedroom apartment.

I’d been fast asleep.  Then, the breathing woke me up.

I turned to my clock.  It was just after 3:00 in the morning.  Dead time.  When the spirits come to life.

But, I kept thinking – it was an animal.  But, what?  What kind?  What animal had made it into my apartment and curled up beside my bed?  At this time of the morning?  I never left the window or the patio door open.  The front door was always locked, especially at night.  I lived in a nice suburban neighborhood.  It was a quaint little apartment complex.  No one bothered me, and I bothered no one.  It didn’t back up to a stand of forest, or a farm.  Hardly anyone here had a pet.  So, what animal had managed to sneak in here?

No, I thought.  No animal.  Dead time.  A spirit.  Oh, God!

I listened to it for the longest time.  Something was there – lying on the floor.  It was on the left, next to the clothes hamper – and close to the doorway. Should I decide to make a run for it, I’d probably have to jump over it.

That’s if I could move.  And, I couldn’t move.  I was frozen beneath the single sheet – stiff – paralyzed with fear.  My heart started to thump hard against my chest.  My throat undulated, and my hands trembled.  I wanted to move.  But, after glancing at the clock, I couldn’t.  My body had stiffened.

I was in the midst of a nightmare, I told myself.  Yes, that’s what it was.  I was having a really bad dream.  I’d been having a lot of those lately.  What with problems in the family and the stress at work – I had trouble sleeping.  Yes, it was a stupid nightmare.  A nightmare – in slow motion.  But then, why did I look at my clock?  Unless your dream involves Salvador Dalí, how would a clock come into the picture?

It was still breathing.  Whatever it was – it was sleeping – or waiting.  Oh God.  Waiting for what?  I couldn’t move.  It could take me now.  This wasn’t a dream.  Something was there.

And, I got the sense it was something – bad.  Something – evil.  What demonic entity had entered my bedroom at this time of night and camped out on the floor?

I kept listening to that steady breathing – and wondering what it was and why it was there.

Then, it dawned on me.  I’d been so depressed.  My entire life had been turned upside down by crap at work and things in my family.  Everything seemed to be going out of control; occurring without my input, without my permission.  It had plunged me into a state of despair.  I was angry and upset all the time.  The only things that soothed my mind were jogging and jujitsu.  I’d run for miles.  I’d beat the crap out of a punching bag.

But, it didn’t settle my beleaguered mind.

So, I thought…well, it’s not worth it.  This world wasn’t worth the trouble.  Nothing – and no one – is helping me.

So…more than once…I thought…just end it.  I had to stop the agony somehow.  I had to bring an end to it.  Nothing was going right.  It wasn’t worth it.  I could stop it all on my own.  I could bring an end to this miserable shit.  And, no one would care.  No one would miss me.

Breathing – breathing.  Long and steady.  It was still breathing.

And, as I listened to it – whatever it was – I suddenly realized – it wasn’t right.  I couldn’t just end it.  I was educated and smart.  I still wanted to travel.  I had a lot I wanted to get done.

And, I couldn’t do it dead.

More importantly, there were people who really cared for me.  Family – friends.

It’s not right.  I couldn’t just end it now.

My heartbeat slowed, and I began breathing normally.

I realized – I was worth something – to myself – and to so many people.

It’s not right.  I can’t do that to myself.  Or to my family and friends.  I couldn’t leave that legacy for them.  I just couldn’t.

And, whatever it was – on the floor next to me – it had been waiting for me to jump off that cliff.  And, into its jaws.

My left leg twitched slightly.  And then, my right one.  Then, I could shift my pelvis.

And then – the breathing.

It slowed.

And, it stopped.

I turned my head to the doorway.

Something lifted up – from the floor – a lumpish dark form.  It got up – and slinked away.  Through the open bedroom door.

I wasn’t dreaming.

Something had been there.

And, whatever it was – it saved me.

© 2014

9 Comments

Filed under Wolf Tales