Thursday, December 10, 2015
4:30 am, and I wake from the clutches of a bad dream that is slow to let go. I seldom have nightmares, and they aren't often really bad ones, but they do tend to leave an unsettling feeling in me long after I wake up.
Thank goodness for Christmas lights, strung around my blinds, and for cats; the fluffy cat curled in her special shallow cardboard box, which I have moved into the bedroom so she doesn't have to sleep alone, and the baby cat (now a robust 2 year-old) curled tightly against my legs. It may have been their shifting that woke me. Their owners, my roomies, are away on a month-long vacation, and we are all getting used to the big empty house. The first night they were gone, the hi-tech smoke alarm shrilled in the middle of the night, its calm disembodied robot-lady voice stating Emergency. There is smoke upstairs. Emergency. Beep, Beep, Beeeep. I leapt out of bed, heart knocking against my ribs, and dashed upstairs, examining every room, sniffing the air... Nothing. A total false alarm, but I lay awake twitchily for hours afterwards.
Tonight it is my own brain that keeps me awake in the small hours of the morning; unusual for me not to sleep through the night, and unusual for me to have bad dreams. As with most dreams this one was mishmash of events and emotions: a concert, applause, a hug from a friend and then... an old hotel, like in the Wild West. A shooting, bodies lying bloody in their beds, mostly unseen, just a glimpse of the horrors within.
I know where this comes from, of course.
I am not, in my waking hours, someone who spends a lot of time agonizing over the news. I can hear about terrible events and still go about my day; I find I am unable to immerse myself emotionally in bad things that are not part of my world. It's not that I don't care, but it's removed from my everyday experience. I refuse to buy into the doomsday, we're-all-going-to-hell pessimism- not that it's not necessarily true, but... We have one life. I refuse to spend it in constant dread.
This string of senseless, brutal shootings, though. How can it not seep into my consciousness, even as I have my cozy days at home with Christmas music and cats, and the deep everyday happinesses that are part of my lucky and fortunate life.
There it is, made bogeyman in my brain: the horror of the random gunman spraying bullets, mixed with some el-cheapo wine drunk too late at night (more of gravy than of grave, as Scrooge would say), and some late-night reading about the musical "Hamilton" (Hamilton was killed in a duel) and...voila. I can't sleep. I listen to the cat turning in her box, and try to toss and turn as considerately as I can, so as not to disturb the other cat, the one against my legs. I think about the other thing that came out of my dream, along with the unshakeable dread-feeling.
There it was, like a gift in the midst of the nightmare: 2 lines of song, with ethereal bluegrass-y harmonies and everything. When I realize I won't sleep for a while, I jot the lines into my phone so I won't forget them.
When it's after 6, and I'm still not sleeping, I take the unusual (for me) step of deciding to get up. For once I am up before the garbageman, and the sun. I do half an hour of yoga. I shower. I decide to treat myself (at 9, when they open) to a cheap breakfast at a local cafe.
I lie on the couch feeling exhaustion lurking behind my tired eyelids and type this, thinking If I'm lucky, I'll turn those lines into a song. That something pretty could come out of horror... well, that's just about the best we can do with what we're given, isn't it?