SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
October 16, 2011

Dreams: A Huge Pain in the Ass

 

When there’s not much going on, when there’s a little money in the bank, I have no immediate deadlines to worry about, there are no pressing crises to contend with—in short, when I spend my days mired in the tedious crap of mere existence—my dreams follow suit. They become banal documentaries about buying groceries and walking to the subway. Those days, and those dreams, are rare. When there’s stress afoot, however, too much going on to think about, the dreams turn wacky. I guess most people would call them nightmares in one form or another, but they’ve never bothered me that much. They’re at least more entertaining than those fucking grocery store dreams.

            In either case I can’t escape them. They pile up every night, dozens screening one after another, leaving me exhausted when I wake up. There are people out there who tell me they don’t dream at all, or they never remember their dreams. The first are liars, the second are lucky sonsabitches.

            It’s not that the dreams are bad or that I feel haunted by them—they’re just the little movies that play in my head is all. No, what bothers me about remembering them is the fact that they’re so damned obvious. I don’t have Salvador Dali dreams full of bizarre images open to interpretation. It doesn’t take a shrink to untangle what’s going on. Mine are just blunt. The kind of dreams I wake up from and say “yeah, I know that already.”

            Bear with me through one brief example. One recent night I dreamed I was sitting in the small lobby of a pleasant apartment building. Not a big building, maybe eight or ten units tops. It was owned by the same woman who owned my place in Park Slope. And here as there I’d been told I had to move out. It was something I’d known for a long time, but I’d yet to make any preparations. Now I had to be out of my apartment the next day, and I’d yet to pack a single box. I was a little nervous about that.

            As I sat there at the bar (there was a bar in the lobby) thinking about this, my soon-to-be ex-landlord kept approaching and introducing me to all the new people who were moving in. Young professional types, mostly, and I despised them all.

            My landlord introduced me to one man who had with him his young son. The boy, about six, was blind and was using a cane. I knelt down and shook the boy’s hand.

            “Being blind really sucks, doesn’t I?” I asked him. He nodded solemnly in response, but said nothing. I then asked, “Are you getting used to that cane?” To this he shook his head slowly, then turned and walked away.

            Okay, that was the dream. While it might seem obvious already, let me explain exactly what was going on here.

            Apart from the congenitally blind and the victims of hilarious accidents, the people we call “blindos” don’t live in a world of complete darkness. They generally have some type of vision left, whether it takes the form of mere light and shadow, or an extremely limited visual field. In my case it’s a miniscule visual field mostly comprised of light and shadow, but there is a tiny sliver of clarity left. Last year’s cataract operation helped that sliver considerably. It wasn’t much to work with—I still needed to use the cane—but it was something.

            Well, in recent months that sliver of clarity has started to deteriorate quickly. It’s the way things generally happen with retinitis pigmentosa. Although it’s considered a gradual degeneration, it advances in abrupt fits and starts, costing you large chunks of vision almost overnight. Something about it this time, though, didn’t seem like RP. So I went to see my ophthalmologist to find out what the hell was going on here.

            I was told it could possibly be one of four things. It might be simple eye strain (it had been a very busy few months), or it might be a swollen retina, or it might be a little bugger they call an “after-cataract.” It’s not a real cataract, but sort of like one, and grows on the part of my eye that overlaps the new bionic lens installed during the operation to hold it in place. If it’s none of those three, then, yeah, it’s just the RP doing what RP does, which means I’m shit outta luck.

            The dream came after I decided that the eye drops I’d been trying were doing nothing to help. That ruled out the eye strain, which left me two options before accepting the inevitable. My doctor was going to try a few other things, some tests and some surgery. But the more I thought about it the more the inevitable seemed, well, inevitable. It meant kissing off what bit of clarity was left, tiny, useless scrap though it was. It meant I might actually have to learn how to touch-type for real, and finally get used to that damn computerized voice reading things back to me. Still hadn’t quite settled on a voice that works.

            Yeah, there was a bit to do, things I’d maybe blown off for too long, the same way I blew off that whole “you better learn Braille” warning from my Uncle Tom when I was twelve. He’s one of the wisest men on the planet.

            So there you have the dream, right? In condensed form without any medical terms, it neatly sums things up. And this is why I find my dreams so goddamned annoying. I’d rather have dreams about hordes of zombies in the streets (even if that would be obvious, too).

 

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