To Sleep, To Dream

I slipped on the stairs while I was lying down.

I had been trying to take a nap, and as my mind wandered into the hazy daze of dreaming, I imagined myself walking down a staircase carved of stone.

Step, step, step, but then WHOOSH, the feeling of a missed step, and then the vertigo came with it. My heart lept, my ears popped (strangely enough), and my legs trembled at the misstep.

All of this was the physical reaction to something that had only happened in my mind. Which happens often enough.

The first time I can remember feeling a physical kick before/during/immediately after a dream is when I was in Shanghai with my great-uncle and great-aunt the summer before I went to college. I was sleeping on a taut woven mat suspended in a block wood frame (like a stand-alone hammock except extremely uncomfortable) and on sand pillows, and this being southern China in the summer, it was 90-someF out with 60-70% humidity. Needless to say, the weather was quite uncomfortable.

One night, I dreamt that a snake leaped out of a bowl of soup intended for my mother, and that it flew toward my face with a loud hiss. I woke up in a shock, and was so convinced that there were snakes slithering on the ground around my floor that I slept in a tight ball in the very center of the bed.

That same summer, I dreamt that me, my friend Kevin, and my boyfriend at the time were walking amidst a bunch of stark, white buildings (think Dom and Mal’s dream world in “Inception”), and there was this haunting melody (sang in the style of the song that plays during the Hattori Hanzo sword scene in “Kill Bill Pt. 1”) playing through the entire dream world as the three of us talked about how we were going to plan out our group suicide. I woke up in a sweat, and with that melody still ringing in my ears, I bolted out of bed to try and write it down. But there were no pens or pencils at all in the apartment I had been staying in, so I wrote down the melody on a napkin using mascara.

In my freshman year of college, I had two dreams within the span of a week that left me with chills. The first was when I was convinced I had been bitten by a snake, because when I woke up, my leg jerked and I still swear I heard a hissing in my ear. Afterward, I couldn’t move for about a minute or two because I was so scared of moving my arm to lift the covers around my still shaking leg–I was convinced I’d find two little bite marks right above my ankle.

The second was when Reverend Newlin from “True Blood” stabbed me in the back while chasing me down a dilapidated apartment building, and the pain was so searing that it felt real, however possible that may be. Naturally, when I woke up, my first instinct was to slap the small of my back to check for blood and/or stab wounds; also naturally, nothing was there.

I’m sure I’ve had more of these kinds of dreams before, but I don’t remember so many of them that I cling onto the images that I do remember, like the feathered Captain America shield suspended on a sword above a grave, or a translucent, dime-sized deer drinking water off of a baking sheet, or the sight of Frank Ocean looking down at me dreamily as a parade marches through a slit of light behind an almost-closed door.

These are the things I don’t know how I could’ve felt, experienced, but which I dearly dearly hope I never, ever(, ever) forget.

* I realize the title’s supposed to be “To sleep, perchance to dream.” But as this is a post on dreams, I don’t think there’s any “perchance”s.

(Image: Clouds by Pat Kinsella)


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