Memories of nightmares


My mama always sighs when the sunshine beams out from all around a cloud. Tonight it was a cool lemon yellow, the shadows all lavender and gray. I was bone tired, lazily listening to the children's chatter about their day, their art projects, watching the fields go by: corn 5 feet tall in the low ones, then a rusty sun burnt patch of soybeans, more corn, but this only up to my knee. The wind bounced off the mustardy corn tassels, almost like thousands of invisible fairies running across them. We were belting out "Jesse's Girl" to the classic rock station, and it was the fourth song I remembered. In a row. My thoughts caught a ride on that memory, how old I'm getting when my kids relate better to pop songs than I do, and all my favorites are on the oldies station. Then the mind swings and hooks on to the lyrics again. I am suddenly back in reality with a jolt, still singing along with all the rest. Except somehow I don't feel old any more; I feel like I'm sixteen.

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I am awake with the stars, my loves all heavy with black velvet slumber, as if the night sky had descended and covered them in the dark. I'm running through memories that won't stop coming. Trying to fly and float simultaneously, for I could feel the undertow of the funneling brain dragging down into the darkness. I remember floating down rivers in gangs of high school and college kids, and going through the whitewater sections, we all would lift our arms and legs out of the water, pointing our toes, clutching tubes so that we wouldn't be caught by a sudden drop or a deadfall's rotting branches.

As each thought spins and catches the next, springs that and the next, and so on - one memory latches on to another. I am sixteen and singing with my best friend and driving way too fast. Then I remember doing my penance on the way home, trying to somehow defeat what fun or happiness I'd experienced. Emotions churned unnamed, almost unnoticed, the steel of my mind's resolution to contain emotion slowly descending like ice through my veins. Numb, I remember putting my hand to my face slowly, and I thought, this is what they mean when they say "her eyes glinted". My other hand slowly grips the steering wheel harder, I set my jaw, I swerve to the left into the oncoming lane, go over a hill almost flying. Then squeal back into my lane after playing chicken with the first car. That sudden, visceral mixture of extreme pain and extreme pleasure that burns up intensely and quickly, then suddenly is receding from your core. Sixteen has been gone eighteen long years and still the memory brings back all that sensation - WHAM! Just like that.

You ride out the adrenaline and rush of the memory of sixteen, fastforwarding lackadaisically through your life. You hit on twenty-one, when you graduated and moved to Minneapolis and bought your first house. You remember the numbing effect of work on all those vagrant thoughts and sensations, the more you could throw yourself into technical details, the quieter were the longings and the broken heart. And there the memories finally stop flowing. You pause, catching your breath. Yes, they're gone.

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I wish I could sleep, shut off, rest. The hours creep by and the panic builds..."How can I live on 4 hours of sleep..." "oh, now we're down to 3 hours! Hurry up and go to sleeeep!" Often these days the gray dawn begins to creep into the bedroom, and I haven't yet slept. So I sigh deep and aching, shuffle out to the kitchen, have a cup of coffee with you. Some kind of mania or hyper-awareness comes occasionally. Almost as if my wires are too finely tuned and respond to the slightest signal. Vascillate rapidly between almost-awake and almost-asleep. Funny, I've always thought it odd to wish someone "golden slumber"; I crave complete blackness, unconsciousness, completely isolated from my mind and body, suspended in some netherworld of sometime dreams or nightmares and long periods of silence when the brain waves slow and the deep whir swelling from their revolutions lulls you into spellbound, still and staring.

Is it wrong to be looking for a shut-off switch for memories and ruminations? Could I dull myself to passive somehow, be less complicated? There is no manual for one's own deconstruction.