Saturday, September 17, 2011

The End of the World

September 17, 2011 – The End of the World

I dream about the end of the world. In warning, this is a very disturbing dream, but (at the risk of even further alarming Katrina who’d asked me after reading my last two posts if I was okay) I’m going to relate it (and yes, thank you, I am okay).
Now, in real life I hate apocalyptical stories. I can’t stand them. Movies like Twister or The Day After Tomorrow or Deep Impact where weather becomes this sentient and malicious thing drive me nuts. I didn’t cry at the end of Armageddon when Bruce Willis stayed behind to blow up the asteroid. I barely endured War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning. Actually I remember thinking, “If Dakota Fanning screams one more time, I’m gonna scream.” If I hadn’t been at the theater with friends I might have walked out halfway through. I purposely sidestepped The Perfect Storm. I skipped The Core. I evaded seeing Dante’s Peak. I ignored Volcano, Earthquake and Meteor. Why can’t these super-smart weather patterns ever do anything good? The film 2012 I avoided like the plague even though John Cusack played the lead. I mean that’s almost sacrilegious, right? Didn’t someone say, “To hate John Cusack is to hate life!”? ( And I do love life.
One of the first things Walter asked me about when I moved to Cieneguilla was if I believed in the Mayan doomsday prophecy regarding the year 2012.
“No,” I said. “I don’t.”

I’m a skeptic. I didn’t stock up on water and beans for Y2K. I didn’t change out my money to gold bricks. I didn’t go off the grid. I wasn’t wrong either. Y2K didn’t bring down the civilized world as we know it. I don’t have any more faith in the potential calamity proposed for the end of next year than I did in the Y2K disaster. Although I think Walter believes a little more than I do, he and I made a joke of it.
“Well, it doesn’t matter if I finish fixing the roof,” he said, “The world is going to end in how many days? Fifteen months… and how many days?”

“I’ll go make us a countdown calendar,” I said.

If I’m wrong, well, who’s going to be around to laugh at me? Maybe I feel that real disasters are enough sadness and destruction to deal with that I don’t need to live through a fictionalized version of one.

Something terminal must have been on my mind though. Maybe aftereffects of the recent earthquakes around the world. Last month Colorado and the Northeast experienced rare seismic activity causing everyone to ask, “Is this the end of the world?” and “Did you feel that?”
Which reminds me of this great episode from the TV show called Life: The two detectives Reese and Crews are standing outside when an earthquake happens. “Did you feel that?” Crews asks Reese. Reese, the skeptical and jaded female lead, wonders why someone always asks that when you’re standing right next to them.

But we always have to ask, don’t we?

The day after the earthquake in New York, Lima shuddered from an earthquake that epicentered in the Amazon of Peru. Did I feel that? Actually no. Katrina and I were on a combi. On a very bumpy combi. Not only did the bus not have shocks but the driver was racing another IO-50 and we were taking speed bumps and potholes at record velocity. There was no way we’d have felt an earthquake; the whole ride was a continuous tremor. We got to Giancarlo’s class and he asked us if we’d felt it. Huh?” we both asked.

After this (unfelt) shake up--like the time I nearly succumbed to claustrophobia after going to the Real Felipe Fortress in Callao-- I experience a thick and strange dread. For a count of ten, I have an overwhelming fear that a full-sized earthquake is going to strike Lima and I’m going to die. I don’t want to die. I especially don’t want to die in a massive earthquake. My imagination goes to the worst case scenario. I see it clearly in my mind. There’s some butterfly effect from a supernova in space. The energy waves brush the Earth’s magnetic fields and rock the moon which causes the tides to shift and the earth’s tectonic plates to collide. The ground beneath my feet shakes, trembles, shudders. Rolls up like dough. Buildings crumble around me and the earth opens up to swallow me just like the earth did in Numbers chapter 16 when God opened up a chasm to swallow up the followers of Korah. I don’t need to watch apocalyptic films, my imagination can handle all that on its own. Chill out, Mind, I tell myself. Chill the heck down.

See, there’s me. There’s my ever-overactive imagination. Then there’s my subconscious mind. Oh lord. Maybe I should be in therapy. Wait, isn’t that what writing is?  

[Wipes dribble off chin and straightens up after rocking back and forth in the corner.]

So I have this end of the world dream. I’ve heard that if you tell a dream it won’t come true. I have this ancient, tugging desire deep inside me that longs to be superstitious. Recently I avoided seven (or more) years of bad luck by not walking underneath the ladder Mariella was using at Casa Del Gringo to water the patio plants.
I would probably throw salt over my left shoulder if I could remember why I was supposed to do that and after stepping over all the cracks in the sidewalk, I’d most likely nail a horseshoe over my bedroom door for good luck if I knew where in Lima to buy one. However, even more than my OCD tendencies, I keep this aspect of my personality on a very tight leash. I’d be knockout crazy if I let myself be. I know this. Even so, here’s the dream, I’m telling it (knock on wood) so that it won’t come true.

Did I mention that it’s disturbing?

The Dream.

I swim in the waters of a cold and earth-covering ocean. Bodies, living and dead, float alongside me. A voiceover says, “The devastation is tremendous. People all over the world are suffering. Although there is water all around, there is hardly any water to drink.” Yeah, my dream has a voiceover and apparently my subconscious mind is less succinct than Samuel Taylor Coleridge. A man’s body next to me submerges and, a few moments later, resurfaces headless. The voiceover explains, “Even a mouthful of water is a precious commodity.” I shiver. More from what I just saw and heard than from the cold. Someone, or something, took that man’s head to get the mouthful of water in his mouth. I shake with revulsion. What animals we humans are. I don’t know what lurks underneath me in the depths. I don’t want to know. Maybe I’ll be the next one to be pulled under and disappear forever.

But I’m not. I survive the water part and my dream flashes forward. I’m in a bunker. A cement bunker. Sitting on the cold, cement floor. There are barrack style bunk beds in the room. The place is stark, it’s bare. I’m waiting. I don’t know what for. There is a coldness in me as numbing as the coldness of the water outside. This waiting is normal. I’ve accepted what’s happened to the world. Waiting is just what we do. It’s almost as if nothing matters anymore. I’m there waiting. Or maybe, I’m hiding. Though I’m not exactly sure what from. Life is now wet, cold, hopeless. Full of despair.
A friend comes in and crosses the room over to where I am. A guy friend. Not one I know in real life. But here, in this dream, we’ve been friends for a while. At least since the disaster. (It’s never exactly clear to me if the disaster was a natural one or man-inflicted. But I have this lingering suspicion that it was intentional manmade destruction.)

My friend sits down next to me, pulls his knees up under his chin. Our shoulders touch. I know he likes me. I think I like him back, but I haven’t decided yet how much.

We watch in silence as, across the room near the door, some men put on deep sea diving gear. The water laps against the edge of the building just outside. There’s a submarine within hand’s touch of the men. I don’t if they’re looking for a path to safety or for a solution to this problem. I know they’re not going out to rescue anyone. It’s too late for that.

“You’re going to get cold,” my friend tells me. “I’m going to go get your windbreaker out of the boat.”

I don’t stop him. I let him go. In my dream I think it’s weird that I don’t go myself or, at least, go with him. I’ve settled into some kind of shocked inactivity. Into a hopeless dependency. I hope he comes back. I watch the divers take to the water and disappear. After some time my friend does return.

“Here, put this on,” he tells me. He hands me my windbreaker. I put it on. It’s warm. Finally some warmth in this hellish, watery world.

I wake up somewhere around this point, from that creepy and clammy dream. I lie in bed trying to remember it. “I should write this one down,” I say. “That was a little freaky. Maybe I shouldn’t eat so late.”

I go in for a little bit of psychoanalysis. Self-psychoanalysis is always fun.

There I am. Me, on the one hand, professional, with a notepad in hand. “Tell me this dream.” Serious. Ready to take notes.

Me, on the other hand, on the couch mimicking perfectly the voices from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

HOFSTEDDER: I'm still having these dreams, Doctor, and I still can't stop myself from believing them

DOCTOR: I've told you, Mr. Hofstedder, to believe in one's dreams is a manifestation of insanity.  And the sooner you accept this, the sooner you will get well.

HOFSTEDDER: But I dreamed the Archangel appeared and whispered into my ear and told me where to find a Golden Wonka Ticket.

“Be serious,” I tell myself. Great. Now I’m going to be singing “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket” for the rest of the day.

I get up and make my bed.

Contrarily enough, as if the dream cleansed out the worry clotting my veins, I feel better, physically, mentally, emotionally. I feel more upbeat than I have in days. That artistic melancholy that has been hovering about like a specter has vaporized.

Oh yeah, knock yourself out, Dr. Freud.

Did you feel that?

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, that's pretty freaky. Like Waterworld except actually scary.