I woke up today with the anxiousness of breath brought on only by a terrible dream. A nightmare, yes, but not the hokey bogeyman type. Despite its slapstick quality, it had a realism and an intensity I was overjoyed to escape.
It starts innocently enough, although like all dreams, it's tinged with bizarre scenes and circumstances. I imagine the comedic duo Jerry Seinfield and George Castanza - the Abbott and Costello of my day - driving through the countryside with the top down. Only I'm dreaming in first person; I'm Seinfield at the wheel.
George and I are discussing the latest James Bond flick as we come to an old wooden bridge. It crosses a narrow but apparently deep river separating us from a forest. After a quick debate in which I prove the structure stable, if rickety, we amble across to the sound of creaking and snapping.
Upon getting to the other side, George hands me a promotional photo from the movie, which just happens to show a Bond girl I used to date. (Hey, it's a dream!) I trade driving duties with him so I can examine the image more closely.
At this point, Costanza determines the road goes no further and turns around. With me preoccupied, George attempts the bridge himself... and fails. We drop into the drink, but George is still able to drive to the other side. Everything is submerged but our heads.
After getting out of the car, we turn around to see the small plateau of shale that must have prevented us from sinking to the murky bottom. Then things get much, much worse.
From downstream, seemingly just around the bend, I hear the voice of my little boy screaming for me. Before he finishes the next "Da-dee!" I'm in the water and pulling with all my might. As I do, my mind sifts through the trip in the hope of determining what has gone wrong.
Where did he come from? Was he in the car with us? He must have been. Why didn't I notice him? Regardless, I know it is my boy as surely as I know this water is cold. And he needs me now more than ever.
I round the corner just in time to see men in a patrol boat scooping up my unmoving child. I holler through my sobs for them to stop, to wait for me. They reply there is no time to turn around and if I want to come along I should grab the towline they are casting my way.
Withouth thinking or arguing, I do so and am dragged along at an almost unbearable speed. I skim past jagged boulders that tear away at my clothes, then bare flesh. I am then pulled through a gauntlet of floating chicken wire that finishes off my clothes and picks up on my skin where the rocks left off. I am all but oblivious to this and feel nothing but dread for my son.
We reach the dock of the patrol's headquarters, some sort of police-rescue hospital. The men rush off with my boy and leave me to figure out where to go myself. I struggle to my feet and stagger, scraped and torn, tattooed and tattered, dripping pink puddles down the hallway to the lobby. There, I'm told to wait for an answer. I can do nothing but torment myself for being so careless, so irresponsible, so unfatherly.
And, just like that, I'm awake, panting heavily and glancing around the bedroom to confirm this was indeed a dream. I get up quickly, walk out to the living room and give each member of my family a kiss, my son first. I mention I had a bad dream, give my wife some of the highlights, but say little more.
I don't say too much because I'm already deducing where this scenario sprang from. My wife confirms my son did get upset and call out for me shortly before I awoke. This explains how he was inserted into my dream, but not why?
It doesn't take long for me to see a correlation. My dream tragedy happened just as I was thinking of another woman. In reality, just a few months earlier, a beautiful lady nearly lured me away from my family. After some wrangling, I resisted and eventually told my wife everything. Still, thoughts of this other woman haunted me. I couldn't help but wonder whether I had made the right decision.
In an instant, this waking dream gave me all the affirmation I needed. Despite our ups and downs, I couldn't imagine living my life without my family. They bring me a peace and a purpose unmatched by any desire.
And, just in case I forget this, I carry that dream's undeniable sense