Thursday, December 26, 2002  

“Brake Failure”

I dream in a sort of violent realism. And this realism has nothing to do with color. When you hear someone talk about the vivacity of their dreams they usually just mean they dream in color. But I’ve found that my dreams contain more than just color. My dreams have the depth of shades and shadow. They have the tactile sensations of texture and temperature. They are in full stereo with the volume set to high. And the only thing that keeps this otherworld from being an exact facsimile of my waking life is the suspension of every natural and physical law to ever exist.

Sometimes it’s the same dream. Not so much a recurring dream as much as recurring themes. Dreams about my dead dog Meatball are common. In the dreams he’s still alive yet sickly even though I know for a fact he’s really dead. The guilt I feel about putting him to sleep doesn’t recognize that he’s already dead, so I apologize to him. There’s also a theme where I find myself in a house that belongs to the parents of an ex-girlfriend. This one has less to do with guilt than it does redemption and survival. Sometimes other people are there; sometimes the girl herself inhabits the dream. I say a lot of things I could never force out in real life and sometimes she answers back. The dream I‘ve been having lately is an old standard that has been with me for years. It is always about cars I can’t stop.

Let me just say I don’t put a tremendous amount of stock in the things I see and experience in my dreams. I think Freudian analysis of what my brain thinks about when I am not in control reaches a little too far for answers and tries too hard to assign meaning where often times none exists. The dog, I miss him and guilt is a fact of life. The girl, I miss her too, but survival is a goal of life. Nothing my brain-on-standby can conjure will change the reality of my losses and failures. Like an impressionable 3rd grader, my brain has only a finite number of scenes and stories with an even smaller number of props and characters to draw from when shaping a story. The serial nature of the dreams proves this. My sub-conscience is not battling with Ids and Egos and Superegos for a sense of closure…it is merely reprocessing ghosts in a closed circuit.

Lately there has been brake failure. In cars I don’t own and on highways I don’t recognize, there is a need for a hard stop. Be it a traffic jam up ahead or a child on a bicycle, I need to stop the car. The moment I realize I have to stop, the pedal beneath my foot turns soft and seems to go to the floorboard and a bit beyond. The car doesn’t stop and at times I could swear it’s even picking up speed. A landmine in the road, the orange and white stripped barricades that warn of road closure, or the road simply ceases to exist at mile marker 187…the car never stops. The break pedal just kisses the floor and the trusted mechanism of hydraulic pressure that makes DOT 3 fluid force pads to meet rotators seems like just a silly theory of make-believe automotive science.

I never make contact. The kid never gets hit. The barricades never get driven through. The landmines never explode. But the car never really stops either. I just wake up. Like the “falling” dream where you wake up before you hit the earth, I awake at the moment just before the failure becomes terminal. And that is how it ends. Were I to ignore my distaste for analytical interpretation of my dreams I would call it fear. Like many people, I have a fear of the future. I remember being a child during the height of the Cold War build up of arms and rhetoric. When I thought about my future all I saw was a mushroom cloud and nothingness. It’s pretty bleak imagery, especially for a ten-year-old kid. Over the years the fear has subsided but it is still a ghost in my machine. It hangs around and waits for low-esteem moments to make its move. It questions me about the attainability of my goals. It preys on my self-hatreds, consuming them for the strength to survive. It might very well be finding a voice in my dreams. It builds the barricades and plants the landmines only to make me powerless to stop. And I awake before I give in and let it trap me…

Or maybe dead dogs, cute yester-girls, and perpetually failing brakes are just random cutouts that form a backwards-glancing collage meant only to decorate the halls of a mind switched off for the night. Either way, it doesn’t make the dreams any less real.

posted by Mike | 11:59 AM
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