(From the archive – 2012) I am lying in a comfortable double bed; obviously not mine since I sleep on a mattress on the floor in my current dwelling. Someone is curled up beside me. Our bodies do not touch, but I immediately sense a naked backside and catch a glimpse of pale pudgy skin and well-worn boxer shorts. Not a lover. Perhaps a friend? I myself might be naked, not sure, but I am carpeted and warm in a white duvet and there is a soft pillow under my head. Laid still, with dawns light breezing through an open window and fluttering sheer curtains, I survey the environment.
Not my subsidized one room unit, located in a bedbug, cockroach, and crack infested housing high-rise. Still, there is something familiar here, yet I know I have never stepped foot in this particular spot before this hazy moment of awakening. Feels like a safe haven of sorts! Good, because now when the large middle-aged man beside me stirs, rises, opens the bedroom door and walks out pulling it partially shut behind him, I am not afraid. I pretend to sleep, assuming he has gone to pee and will crawl back in beside me soon enough, but he doesn’t and the minutes pass. I don’t feel high. No hangover either. Sober and sane, I now realize who he is, but not what has brought us to pass out and wake up in a bed that belongs to neither one of us; him having his own single elsewhere.
No time to ponder. Dreams do not stay put for long. The pace quickens.
I am up and out of the apartment in a blur of movement. Down the hall I see an EXIT sign and run towards it. No longer safe. I feel the danger. Fear is the factor and the fright pushes me into flight mode.
I awaken; too much to handle. However, my eyes will not stay open and I cannot raise my head, so I succumb and fall back to sleep right where I left off. I will tell you something, scary or not, I do love to dream and this one is going to be a doozy.
The back of the building now. Flashback to the mid-80’s. Late night prowling through the downtown core. A recollection of Regent Park in its seedy past. But this is no longer my stomping grounds, so I stand for a second, holding the heavy door open behind me, observing the maze of buildings and pathways and corners in front. A light here and there, evidence of life shining through small windows covered by dingy blinds. I let it slam shut and move away from the brightness of the building, the warmth of that bed, and my one companion. I realize I am going to get lost, quickly too with each footstep I take. Regardless, I dive into the darkness of the alleys ahead.
Big mistake girlfriend! Talking to myself now! Panic is setting in. Paranoia could come next.
Suddenly, I am aware that I am clothed and grope my garments as I move quickly. Empty pockets, no money or cellphone and then I recall a knapsack beside the bed. Stupid move, leaving stuff behind. Should have stayed there, searched for my associate, gone into the living room, found out what’s up. Now that I think about it, as I was leaving I did see people there. Others in that place where I was, down the hall, just past the front door, out of the corner of my eye. They must have known me, might have helped me? I turn to look back, but the building is gone, deep fog clouds my sight and I know I will not be able to find my way inside again.
Up ahead…is that an old Bell Canada telephone booth? Virtually obsolete nowadays! I step inside and lift the receiver. A dial tone greets me and I observe that it takes only twenty-five cents to make a call. I push zero but nothing happens, no operator answers. Just a loud buzzing in my ear. I check my pockets again. Just in case.
No point staying. I cannot call anyone for assistance. I have no change and there is no one about to bum money from, besides, thanks to modern technology my contact numbers are not stored in my memory. Even if I was to get a hold of someone on the other end of the line, I do not know where I am. Only that I’m lost in a twisted dream; a frequent occurrence for me.
All the while as I flee there is not another soul in sight, neither foe nor friend! Am I alone? This cannot be! There must be someone somewhere? Seeking sanctuary I run past stained and graffiti covered concrete walls, through long walkways between eerily silent high-rises. Finally, an entrance, and I rush to open it.
THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS
I enter a shelter of sorts, like a dorm for young women, teenagers I think. Am I one too? The mean looking matron directs me to a room at the top of the stairs and around a bend. A whole lot of girls, just mingling about, and no space on the many beds; like a scene from Oliver Twist only the kids are a bit older and opposite in gender. One or two acknowledge me. Another moves over, lets me sit on the edge of her sacred spot, whilst assuring me it is okay.
It is not! Up and out I go. More stairs, more girls, mean ones now. No refuge for me and they make it known, “Get the fuck out. You don’t belong here Bitch!”
I discover I am carrying something after all. I hold tight to an old and tattered phone-book, bond in brown leather, from years gone by. Numbers I no longer use, addresses of people I no longer know. Stuffed inside are a handful of loose papers. Reaching the top floor, I head straight to the end of the short hallway and enter an empty room. I close and lock the door behind me before placing the relic onto a polished rosewood dresser. Immediately I pick it up again. It is all I have. Could be scripts from the book I am writing, handwritten and so few of them. Did I lose the rest? God, I hope not! I hold tight to what is mine and retreat from the silent spot back into another chaotic scene. I see an open window, climb out and up onto the rooftop. I run and no one chases me.
Awakening again, tee-shirt soaked with sweat and shivering on my mattress. Cold terror grips me as I slip back into the nightmare. With the girls cursing and shoving me for a split second and then I am somewhere else.
Whoa, wait now, there is a guard approaching, but he passes without stopping or acknowledging my presence. What the Devil is going on? Where the Heck am I? Still unobstructed I race forward, speeding past blurred bodies behind bars, females encased in tiny cells, crying out to me. I am compelled to stop abruptly to stare at a beautiful young face just inches from mine. The second last woman in the line on the left. An image of blue eyes and blond hair, so clear and familiar it freaks me out. Who is she? Does she know me? My heart bleeds for her, but I am in no position to stay and help. I must move on.
More guards just letting me pass. No doubt, this is one delusion that I have not dealt with before. This time while sleeping I have stepped straight into the Loony Bin, grey walls, pale skeletal arms stretching and hands flapping, babbling visages, more cries for help. Encountering a patient, then two, inmates perhaps, sad and shattered individuals wandering aimlessly in the halls, fingers tugging on open night robes and flimsy dresses. I skirt to avoid collisions. Eyes blank, they do not appear to see me.
Nurses too, sturdy hard-hitting ones with permanent scowls dressed in severe outfits, blue aprons and matching caps carrying handcuffs and black batons. Not hostile, but not friendly either, frozen smiles, hair pulled back tight under the badge of authority. “I want to get back to where the juveniles are,” I implore over and over. One by one, they glare and label me a “liar” before disappearing. No one cares about my pleas. Must be impossible to go backwards. Too late and too old for that escape.
The workers are busy and few and I am sure there are cameras too, watching my every move. I am shuffling now like a convict with nowhere to go, creeping like a C.S.I. agent without a gun or a partner. Doors slamming around me, clamoring and bolting shut. It seems that I have tripped over the edge, dropped off that thin marginal line once again. Been there before! If you do not experience nightmares I feel sorry for you. It is a riot don’t you know?
I enter into a wide walkway, lined with small makeshift rooms with hospital beds and drapes drawn. I crash into one, through the curtain and up against a cot where a frail greasy haired old woman is bound and immobile. Stepping back before I tumble upon her, I reach to stabilize myself, something is stuck to my shoe and then I accidentally pull down the curtain and it drags behind me as I continue. Wait, no, it is not a curtain, it is a hospital gown and I shake it off violently while a passing nurse regards me with sudden interest. Do not want anyone to mistake me for a resident and house me here indefinitely.
I see something on the wall above my head. A chute of sorts. Climb up, crawl in, and slide down easily. Suspicious, should have been more of a struggle. Must be a trap.
I shimmy down a ladder, landing in the middle of what appears to be an enormous empty warehouse.
Wait! Looks like the way out is straight ahead….
ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK – Advance & Proceed WITH caution!
HA, HA, HA!
Real time now… There is an industrial garage door right in front of me, wide-open, leading from inside out. It begins to close, to shut me off from the scene. Past that is the street, the straggles of early morning traffic and the brightness of a blossoming day. I am so exhausted and it is really a long run. Futile to try to make it. No way, no how, but this is a dream and by George I do give it that last attempt before the metal rolls down and shuts out all signs of freedom, leaving me collapsed, lost and alone, with an unexpectedly soft clang. Therefore, in the end, I am diminished to tears and then sobbing break down. I sit, back up against the wall, imprisoned and under control of an institution. A dead end. Utter anguish takes over my mind and body and I force myself to wake.
Enough is enough. Stay awake too and cry until my tears are exhausted. Only then am I ready to rise and live another day.