The nightmare

Vintage postcard, source unknown.

Vintage postcard, source unknown.

The monsters found me again.

They keep me company in my sleep, carrying me from one day to the next, ensuring that even my unconscious hours feel adequately nightmarish. Umbilical cords, dead babies, exploding buildings, stabbings, miscarriages. They all play starring roles.

Usually I wake up and move on. Occasionally, a nightmare is so vivid, I need a few minutes to stop sweating and calm down.


I walk into a hotel bathroom on the second floor instead of the lobby. I can't remember my reason for being in this hotel in the first place. I wander in and hope intuition will guide me through my fog. I am frightened and out of control. Has someone drugged me? Where am I? How did I get here? What am I supposed to do now? How do I get out? Where do I go after that?

I walk toward the last stall to change my clothes, with no idea why or for what occasion. As I approach the door, the room starts tilting sideways. It tilts more and more until it is upside-down and shaking. The doors on the stalls clap and pop as they slam open and shut. Is this a hurricane? A bomb? What’s happening? Where am I? I grab onto the top of the stall door and hold tight, swinging while the room turns and shudders. I hang on without understanding why I am there at all.

Eventually the room rights itself and the ground is level again, like a motion simulator that finally comes to a complete stop. I am relieved that whatever happened seems to be over. But when I try to stand or walk, I collapse. I vaguely feel my legs, but mostly they are numb. I bump into the handwashing area and decide to leave, down one floor to the main lobby. I hope I will understand more once I get there. Maybe there will be a clue why I am in this place.

I want to take the elevator because my legs are weak and wobbly. I push the button, but the elevators are full. I decide to walk down the flight of stairs. I stumble, fragile and unsteady, but make it to the ground level without wiping out. I turn right into the main lobby and see a group of women on couches. They’re chatting. Things feel breezy, lighthearted, and easy. They take pictures of themselves in matching dresses, not a hair out of place. It seems they did not just experience whatever crisis hit the floor above.

These are some of my closest friends, but all I feel is familiarity without recognition. In my logical mind, I know these people—the people of my childhood sleepovers and playdates; the roommates, partners-in-crime, and deepest friends in whom I confide everything—but I remain baffled. I can't think of their names. I don't know why they are all sitting together, what the big event might be.

How did I not know about this gathering? I was clearly left out. Whatever this was, I would have been a part of it in the past.

I walk toward the group but still can't feel the ground under my feet very well. Numbly, I make my way over, breaking my fall on the back of a couch where most of the group sits. I stare at my friends, dumbfounded. Who are these people? Why do they seem unfazed? Why am I the only one who’s confused? There is a sense that under normal circumstances, this is a group I belonged to and knew inside and out.

I begin to wonder if perhaps no one sees me. I don't utter a word, but no one says anything to me either. Maybe I am an apparition. Maybe I have died and am floating around looking at other people carrying on. Maybe I am visiting from another planet. Maybe my species cannot be identified by the human eye.

No one seems to notice I exist. I am not sure if I do either.


I woke up and told my husband about my dream. How weird it was, how I didn’t want to fall back to sleep.

“It’s a metaphor,” he said.

“For what?”

“For your life now.”


Do you dream? What do your dreams tell you? Are they a vague reflection of something? Are they the subconscious off-gassing of PTSD, in nonsensical fragments, or are they more explicitly the sorting-out of your relationships—and your relationship to the world—post-loss?