So you’re at the local library, with a heavy workload. It’s midafternoon. You glance up from the table you’re sitting at, your eyes a bit weary from the past hour of reading you’ve been doing. You look out the window, at the parking lot, and the rows and rows of cars out there. You had to park a good distance from the library, because the lot was already crowded when you first got there.
You plow through your work, and eventually you see the light at the end of the tunnel. You close the book, stick your notebook back in your pocket, and get up to leave. That’s when you glance out the window again, and notice: it’s night time out there. That sure came on quickly.
So you exit the library, and head to the rear of the parking lot, and start looking for your car. You know exactly where you left it …
… except …
… when you get there … your car isn’t there.
Wasn’t it under the street lamp?
So you look around. Ok, wrong spot. You keep looking.
But as you start weaving through the rows of cars, it ominously hits you. You can’t find it. You know it’s here. It has to be. You remember locking it. So where is it?
You look back at the library, but it seems so distant from you now, like the lights from a ship far out at sea. You’re getting frustrated. Irritated. And a little bit nervous.
And then it happens …
You get a strange sensation — an intuition.
There’s somebody else very close to you. You can feel it.
You halt in your tracks. You’re not sure if you should move or not. You remain perfectly still for a moment. Then you listen.
But you can sense it: someone is right behind you.
Nervously, you turn your head slowly, to look over your shoulder — then you spin around — fast.
No one. You’re alone.
Nerves. Ok, just nerves. You start looking for your car again.
This is really getting frustrating. You’re heading down the third row of cars now, and you still don’t see your car. Did you miss it? Should you go back to where you first started, under the street lamp?
And then that sixth sense overwhelms you again — you instinctively know someone is approaching you —
You’re right. As you turn, you see a man walking right toward you. Another library customer looking for his car, no doubt ..
Only he’s not looking at the cars.
He’s looking right at you. He’s glaring at you.
Then he starts running — right at you —
Welcome to my dream world.
If either of these scenarios sound thoroughly unpleasant, anxiety-filled, even torturous, I couldn’t agree more. They happen to be two recurring dreams I’ve had for what seems like decades. They come back to me, like nasty relatives who show up uninvited around the holidays. They come back with no recognizable rhyme or reason. They’re just there, haunting my sleep, whether I’ve had a glorious day or a fairly crummy one. They leave me screaming in my sleep, waking up with a start. For long minutes afterwards, I lie in bed, feeling anxious and bewildered. I can’t shake that feeling of extreme vulnerability I experienced in those two dreams. It doesn’t help that I’m always lying there in bed, in the pitch darkness, where I can’t make out a single thing that’s around me.
The “I can’t find my car” dream has been haunting me for years. So has the “Stranger in the dark rushes at me” dream. Neither one has ever happened to me in real life. Oh, sure, I’ve had times when it’s taken me a few minutes to find my car in a giant parking lot at the theme parks or a mega mall; but I’ve always managed to locate it. I’ve never been chased by a stranger, even when I lived in New York City and Boston and used to walk home at night from the subway. Even so, these dreams are a part of me now. They never leave me.
When I had those nightmares as a kid, I used to wake up still feeling terrified, unable to comprehend that I was safe in my bed, my parents in the next room, ready to come in and protect me. I still get that feeling today after a bad nightmare. It takes me a while to calm down, to rationalize that I’m safe in my own home, that a stranger in a bad dream can’t chase me into reality.
You see, as I lie there … I know the stranger is in the next room.
I know he followed me.
I know he’s waiting in the dark.
And I feel paralyzed.
Then reality returns. My cat Squeaky notices I’m awake and comes over, meowing for attention. I hear a lone car pass by my house.
I don’t always like going to sleep. I don’t want to be wandering for my car in the dark.
I don’t want to sense the presence of someone else behind me.
But I’ll go there again.
I always do.
A few years ago, partly for therapeutic reasons, I started writing down some of my nightmares. I have no clue how to interpret them, to figure out what they say about my subconscious, my psyche. I have no idea how to analyze myself or get introspective.
But I do know this: deep within my psyche is a cold, clammy hand reaching out to touch the back of my neck in the dark…
Contact Mike Freeman at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.