Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Awake or asleep

I'm having nightmares. I wish I could say they are the stuff of Steven Spielberg. They are not. Last night I was trapped in a bath with a dead otter.

Sometimes the otter scrabbled its sharp brown claws, and tried to live, but I knew it was already drowned. I couldn't escape, couldn't move, and only sat there, tied up by cold bathwater, praying the otter would find life, leap up, and flee, even though I knew it wouldn't, and we'd both be locked for all eternity, me and otter, trying to live.

I'm sure that dream was not prompted by being woken at 3am the other night. It was a dark shape above me who stroked my shoulder and who, on waking, I thought was a poltergeist, shifting shape into hairy face and arms. After the first heart-pumping moments, it revealed itself as a daughter of the human type: she'd heard someone bouncing a basketball in the bathroom, and wanted a grown up to throw them out.

I found the basketball player. It was the wind, tugging at the door, and softly bouncing it back into the frame with a bump bump bump.

I'm sure it wasn't that moment which set off my nightmares. Maybe it was the person I live with, the one disguised as a grown up, the one called husband, whose words echoed in my head all afternoon. Foolishly, I laughed at them.

Daddy, daddy, what shall I draw? Those words had been circling around in the same form some 500 times in the last half hour, drawn out of three competing voices; maybe the husband had grown tired of saying a butterfly, a horse, a dinosaur, a flower. Because then he quietly said, A vampire unicorn. No, make that a zombie horse, a vampire unicorn and a flower. With fangs. I heard only the sound of me laughing.

Maybe the nightmares and dead otters don't come from that. Maybe they are found from our very own kouklitas, our arseface versions, those visions of decaying loveliness.

I discovered them on my camera. They'd taken themselves there in photographs of their day, so they could linger over happy times in holidays. Those are the days when it is a duty to be free ranging and irresponsible. Bubblewrap serves as bikini tops; our bottoms go free. Spas can be taken in a sink, and it is a right to be photographed splayed out naked under an umbrella.

The nightmares might not be any of those. They might be the failures of my aspirations and my endeavours, who turn into otters. In the daylight then, I need to laugh at those. Or they might be the consequence of a troubled daughter, who beats at her body with a waterbottle, where her tears soak her clothes and her howls fill the room; who claws at her own face and whose impact on me is such that sometimes I forget what is life normal and what is strange. What I do, and what I do not do. When I start up, punch drunk, at 5am, nightmired, asleep-awake, do I stumble out of bed to wash my face in battery acid or not? Which is normal, and which is not? Bewildered by shapes, confused by time, forgetful of what I do next, I can't remember. But I can always hope. I'll wake up in daylight and know these are just dreams, and find the otter was never dead at all.