A Small Story About Nightmares

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Photo: Richard Drew (AP)

I was alone in a hotel room on the East Side of Manhattan last week (PRO TIP: Never stay on the East Side of Manhattan during the UN General Assembly, unless you enjoy endless traffic barricades and the overwhelming stench of cologne in elevators), when I had a really bad nightmare. Like all dreams, the particulars of this nightmare dissipated quickly, like sand slipping through my fingers. But I do remember that the Wicked Witch of the West was involved. I’ve always been scared to death of the Wicked Witch. Her cackle alone makes me shit a brick. I remember seeing her in the dream, and her face turned from green to flesh-colored. And then it somehow grew even more deformed and hideous, like her face was melting. I was scared IN the dream, to the point where I was trying to scream.


I started saying NONONONONO over and over, trying to push it past my lips, but in the dream I couldn’t quite do it. Sometimes, when I have a bad nightmare, I’ll get a bit of sleep paralysis, where I wake up but I’m still IN the dream, unable to shake myself fully conscious while being somewhat aware than I’m in this weird, temporary limbo between dreams and reality. So I’m having this nightmare, and then I get lifted into a state of paralysis, and I can HEAR myself talking in my sleep, saying NONONONO. Only it’s not a crisp sequence of NOs. It’s this weird, guttural moan coming out of me. It’s not a noise I could replicate for you while fully awake. It’s the sound of my subconscious, and it’s pretty fucking awful.

So I’m trying to scream out NO, only I’m garbling it like a weirdo. And then, finally, I break free of the dream and wake up all the way. I can still see the Witch’s distorted face in my head, and it’s silently freaking me out. I don’t know about you, but I don’t do that Hollywood thing where you dramatically sit up in bed and go splash cold water on your face after a bad dream. I just opened my eyes and held still.

I was still out of sorts for a split second and had forgotten I wasn’t home. So I turn to my wife, who isn’t there. Normally, if I have a bad dream, it’s comforting to know she’s there. Sometimes, she’ll touch my arm to instinctively reassure me, or she’ll drowsily ask me if I’m okay before falling back asleep and forgetting that anything happened. Or sometimes she won’t rouse at all, but I’ll still be happy just to hear her breathing and know she’s there.

But she wasn’t there this time. She was back home, and I was alone. And that sucked. DEEPLY. I managed to shake off the nightmare and fall back asleep. But I really missed that moment of fleeting, bare comfort. I got home later that week and went to bed and pulled the covers all the way up and felt all warm and fuzzy because A) It really is a comfortable bed, and B) I was back home and wasn’t gonna have to sleep alone. I had my backup. I felt safe and secure again. I felt protected. I was glad I had someone, but I was also strangely glad I NEEDED someone, if that makes sense. My wife makes me feel safe. My kids make me feel safe. I’m bigger than all of them but that doesn’t really matter. I need people, and so does everyone else.

That’s it. That’s the story. I told you it was small. That fucking Witch can go to hell.