I have been avoiding this topic for sixteen days. I’m afraid of my own fears — a silly statement, unless you’re a Roosevelt; then it becomes profound.
The last time I saw my therapist, we began to talk about my nightmares (or should I say dreams? I sleep, and there’s nothing there but fear.). When I was younger there were monsters behind my eyes, and now there are men, three men, who shift in and out night by night.
There is the downstairs neighbor who holds raucous parties on occasion, parties where people end up screaming at each other, and girls cry. I hear it all through the heating vent, and it colors my dreams. The man’s voice is the voice of a drug king; he is fighting with a friend who comes undone when he drinks or does drugs, and the man has a girlfriend whose screaming drowns out what the fight is about. In my dreams, the man, the drug king has taken some interest in me. He finds me amusing, pursues me, but not romantically. His girlfriend’s eyes and ears see and hear, yet she interacts with me in the building’s elevator as if we are to one day become friends.
I come home from work one day, and there are twenty or so people waiting. I know they wait for me. I fight them, shrugging off the first two, but I realize it won’t stop until I am battered black and blue. I stand still and silent as they rush toward me, awaiting the pain — and I wake, hearing the sounds of the man, the girl, and the friend echoing up the heat shaft; they won’t stop until the sun begins to rise.
There is another man, more boy than man, skinny thing, all elbows and nose, and his presence is sinister, but in the dream, I don’t suspect a thing. I talk with him, drink with him, lie in bed with him, re-establish intimacy that is never consummated because I wake first in protest. I have awoken punching walls. I have awoken about to scream.
The dream is a film of the past, of misdeeds done in the name of confusion and loneliness, and I watch myself ruin my life again and again, unable to intervene, only able to wake up with a wrenching will, panting with the effort. I settle myself into my husband’s arms, and stare off into the darkness for a time, blank-faced, hoping the memories will clear.
There is one last man, a powerful hunter, a repetitive abuser — he seeks me out in my sleep more than the others, mainly for sex. I do not like to talk about him. He exists in the real world, has hunted me, has hit me, has raped women I know — he has a history of hiring detectives to track down the people who attempt to elude him.
He is out of his prime now, would have arthritis, maybe his skin cancer has returned. He will be 65 on Sunday. I fear him most of all.
How does a woman befriend these fears that return her to shrinking girlhood? How does she remain strong in the face of three men who play upon her most vulnerable weaknesses? That is a thing that eludes me upon waking, every time.