I’m blaming 1982. In 1982, I was not an eye-liner-wearing, wanna-be New Waver. My clothing choices reflected my mum’s budget (nonexistent) and my auntie’s taste in dresses (frilly). I didn’t know who David Bowie was, and my primary musical interests included Kenny Rogers and Raffi. I read a lot (that hasn’t changed), wrote a lot (yup), and liked to twist my ‘fro into dozens of little points while waiting for the story to get good. (I still do that, but since I keep my hair much shorter, it’s harder for people to notice… right?)
Also? I had nightmares. Nightly. I would lie in my frilly, canopy bed, and the shapes in the fabric above my head would morph into faces, demons, monsters, and creatures from Greek and Egyptian mythology I had read about in the shiny white New World Encyclopedia set my Mum bought in installments. They made up the two bottom rows of my bookshelf (the encyclopedias, I mean). I learned the Phoenician alphabet and would draw the characters on the ceiling with my eyeballs when I got bored. Except, if I did that on the underside of my canopy, when it was very late at night, the letter shapes would become tails or weapons, shaking fists and twisted scowls. Probably watching old Twilight Zone reruns at my babysitter’s house after supper didn’t help much, either. And the open casket at my uncle’s funeral….
So, nightmares! I had ‘em. In 1982, I was five years old, and I would go to sleep in my peaceful, little girl bedroom, and wake up in the dark with shadows blacker than night gazing hungrily from their bedpost perches, dead things reaching from under my bed and the dimensional portal below my closet door, leering at me through my dresser mirror. If I was lucky, I would wake up before they had covered my floor or had begun to slide down from the canopy. Then I could jump onto my nightstand like a superhero, dig my toes into the baseboards and creep along the wall. I could escape into the hallway, where the light was always on, and run on tip-toe feet to the safety of my mother’s room and curl up into her back. But if I wasn’t lucky? Well….
Some mornings I came down to breakfast – Rice Krispies or Cheerios with as much sugar as I wanted – and my eyes would feel scratchy, like someone had broken the No Throwing rule at the sandbox, or I had been experimenting with Mum’s makeup and made a mistake. I didn’t want to talk about it. When I was five, I would rather write about important things than talk about them. That hasn’t changed much, either.
Anyway, yesterday, my Kobo battery died just as my Saturday student arrived for tutoring. And since I leave tutoring to “watch” my daughter’s wushu class, I needed something to read for that half-hour or so… because I’m a bad parent. So, I grabbed 1982 from the library’s Hits to Go rack. I like Jian Ghomeshi. I read a bit of it during class. A bit more after supper. A few more chapters before bed. And went to sleep. 1982 is not scary. It’s funny, sometimes poignant in a totally un-self-conscious way. But not at all scary. At all. It does, quite effectively, take one back in time, though.
I dreamed all night, last night. I dreamed horror movie snapshots glimpsed through the rails of the condo stairs. I dreamed creeping beasts and hungry ghosts. I dreamed dead things begging to exchange their lives with mine. I dreamed ghosts curled into closet cracks reaching to pull me near. I dreamed myself falling through dimensions and time, my family lost to me forever. Sometimes I would wake and Mike would be there and I could remind myself that I was safe. But I was so tired, and the dreams were there. Laughing. Waiting. Hungry.
Sometime this morning, a dream left me reaching for a relative who wanted my life. I would give it to him. I was ready to give it to him. Anything to ease his pain, you know? But he kept backing away, and as he did the dream lifted, and as the dream lifted, I opened my eyes…
And saw my son. Still as stone. Watching me with his fingertips lightly touching the very edge of my bed.
He said, “Mum, can I have some breakfast please?”
I might not be able to finish that book.