I am not good at sleeping.
When I was in high school, I would wake before dawn to punish my then-hated body with an hour-long run before the hour-long walk to my school; in college I suffered insomnia, and don’t remember sleeping much at all. The slightest thing wakes me, and the slightest nap suffices, and these days the four or five hours I steal from the day are crazy and rare: from five in the morning ’til nine am, or from four in the afternoon until ten at night, or in the form of a long and sheltered mid-day doze.
I am not good at sleeping. I am greedy for time, and would prefer consciousness, and I think sometimes the only reason I lapse is for the peculiar horror of dreams. My dreams are vivid and terrible, and I love the crazed poetry of their world nearly as much as I do that of this one. I love my dreams, and I love as much the listening to dreams of others. I love, too, that these days I get to use the most innocuous inquiries as a segue.
Tonight after midnight, and because I could not sleep, I went out walking, and on the way home, for a drink. Tonight after midnight someone incuriously slurred a question about my background. “I’m working on a doctorate in Depth Psychology,” I said, and studied my glass. “Do you dream?”
“Well, sometimes,” he said. He told me, through a face painted with age and pain and finished with guarded skepticism, he’d dreamt recently–“This is going to sound crazy…”–that his mother was really a man, and that she’d been hiding this his entire childhood by wearing dresses, and her hair long, and whispering in an artificial voice. He told me that in his dream that his mother–his man–had showed him this, and that she’d then given him a tooth, bloody and human, and that the long roots of the tooth had started growing, and growing, and that they wouldn’t stop. In his dream, he said, he buried the tooth outside, and still its roots grew, and in his dream he was worried what would happen if they grew through the Earth. “What does this mean?” he asked, hesitantly. I told him I didn’t know.
I didn’t, but I said it was good that he dreamt. (What I meant was that it was good he was sleeping.) I didn’t, but this is not true.
I walked home later, through emptiness, and the dark, and I wondered about dreams and the worlds of strangers, and of mothers and teeth, and of how distant and how married we are all.