tw: depression, death
“…frequent and distressing nightmares, along with several other qualities of disturbed dreaming, such as changes in emotional intensity, increased bizarreness, or unusual character interactions, have been associated with specific psychological disorders, including depression…”
I’m having the dream again.
I’m in bed, my bed in my house— my mom’s house— all white blankets and white pillows and whiteness enveloping me. But it’s levitating in the centre of the enclosed porch at my dad’s house— legally mine and my sister’s house now— and through the mesh screen windows I don’t see the backyard I spent my every childhood weekend in, all I see is white. White ocean. Aching, empty, endless white ocean.
In the dream I know that I am dead. In the dream it is so… peaceful.
Then I wake up, because I’m not dead, I’m alive, and I’m not at peace, I’m lying in bed, accompanied only by my rapid heartbeats and cold sweat. I check the time on my phone, and it feels great to know it’s 6AM and I’ve already cried today.
Later, I’m at work, and I’m being yelled at by customers because I don’t have a patio table readily available for them. I’m not sure why they care enough to yell at me. I haven’t really cared about anything for a couple weeks. I mostly don’t think about patios. I mostly think about death, and how it’s coming for us all. And I don’t mean to make myself sound as if I exist on a higher plane of consciousness than mere mortals, and I’m not troubled by silly little things like where I’m going to eat lunch, because usually I am. Usually the main reason I can deal with getting yelled at over nothing by entitled restaurant goers— aside from my wonderful coworkers— is because at the end of the day, I have money to waste on clothing. Right now, I kinda wish I gave enough of a fuck about anything to yell at someone over it. I wish I gave a fuck.
I’ve been trying to write it all down, get it all out, because that’s what I do. That’s how I cope. And it’s half-working, but it sure isn’t articulate. I journal a lot, because there’s so much to say, and I try to write about everything, which is impossible. I wind up with weirdly obsessive entries written in the most rudimentary, unsophisticated language.
My memory is just really bad, and I’m just so afraid of forgetting everything. My father died a few months ago, and I’m already forgetting the exact shade of his eyes, the sound of his laugh. I don’t want to forget anything ever again.
Logically, I know I’m not capable of creating an all-encompassing documentation of myself and my existence— of anyone’s self and existence— but I keep trying. Logically, I know when my brain clouds over with depressive fog, I can’t wax poetic, but I keep trying.
I’m in the entryway of my dad’s house— my house, legally mine and my sister’s house now— and I’m sitting beside him on the floor, our backs against a wardrobe, like children. I tell him he looks great. He says, “don’t I?” And everything changes, harshly, suddenly. “No,” I say, “you don’t. You only look great because this is a dream. You’re dead.”
I hadn’t realized I was dreaming until the words came out of my mouth. And that wasn’t enough to trigger a lucid dream— which is my favourite kind of dream, because at least in those I can jump off a high-rise without hurting everyone I love— instead, I wake up. I wake up into another dream. I’m in my bed, my bed in my house— my mom’s house— all white blankets and white pillows and whiteness enveloping me. In the dream I know that I am dead. In the dream it is so… peaceful.
Later, I’m awake, properly awake, in reality this time, and I’m thinking about how the only place I’ll ever hear his voice again is in my dreams. When I first came home from the hospital, I went through my phone and saved all the voicemails he left me. I couldn’t bare to listen to them until months later, but knowing they existed was comforting. Until, when I finally had the strength to move them off my phone to somewhere safer, I found out they’d been permanently deleted 30 days after they’d been saved. It occurs to me that I’m going to feel this every single day for the rest of my life. Every day I will remember anew that he’s dead. Some days hurt less than others, but every day I feel it.
I’m not sure what to do with this knowledge, so I look out the window, at raindrops hitting the glass. This is the first summer in a long time during which I’ve actually enjoyed the weather, but on days like this, which offer me a preview of the seasonal gloom to come, I remember how much I love winter. Everything cold and quiet and dark and dead. The ugly and beautiful alike, blanketed in snow. An untouched sketchbook. Aching, empty, endless white.
Or maybe I just like the pathetic fallacy of it. A rainy day is just what I need. It’s what the city needs too. Vancouver’s been painted orange by forest fire smoke, because it’s August, so half the province is casually on fire. Being on fire is just part of a forest’s natural life cycle. Doesn’t that seem absurd? What if being on fire was part of a human’s natural life cycle? Fuck. Maybe it is. Maybe I was an over-mature forest, and my life was on fire around the time my dad died, and now it’s all just reforestation. Maybe. Maybe. ‘Maybe.’ That doesn’t mean anything, does it?
I’m in a clearing in the middle of a forest, tending to a massive bonfire. I keep throwing things into the flames, which eat ferociously away at anything I offer them. And every time it grows, fireworks explode. I’m dancing around it in circles, almost like some kind of tribal ritual, and I’m screaming, and I can’t tell if it’s out of joy, sadness, anger, everything, nothing…I get a couple of those paradoxical sensations you can only get in dreams. The situation is essentially chaos, yet my bonfire isn’t spreading to any of the surrounding trees, it’s controlled. And I know that I am alone, but people keep walking by the clearing, they must see me, but no one does anything to stop me.
Now I’m awake, and I’m scared, and I’m the bonfire. All burning, burning, burning, red, warmth, sparks, flaring, blistering, blistering, blistering… but illuminated. Even a dying fire is a light source. I guess I have that going for me.
Later, my mother informs me that we’ve found buyers for my father’s house. They’re a young family and they lost almost everything they had in a house fire. It’s kind of… I don’t want to say nice, because it’s not nice that they lost everything, that’s fucking awful, but… We lost something in a fire too. Metaphorically, I guess I could say pancreatic cancer was a murderous internal fire, but we also literally lit my dad on fire after he died, which is a blunt way to go about saying he was cremated, but he would probably find that funny. His ashes are in an urn that has a photo of a forest on it. I’m glad that after all these disasters, there’s good coming to both our families.
I’m in my dad’s house— legally mine and my sister’s house now— for the very last time, before the house changes owners. Before the house I spent my whole childhood in isn’t mine anymore. Before my childhood isn’t mine anymore either, although I guess that’s been dead for a while, I just can’t deny it anymore.
I walk to the porch, the scene of my white-oceaned dream, and I sit on the hammock for the very last time, and I think about how many memories I have attached to it, and how silly it is that this broken hammock is ascribed infinitely more meaning as soon as its owner dies.
I go to my bedroom and think about how quiet it is. This house used to sing the endless song of the TV, because he always had the TV on, probably because he lived alone and liked the white noise. Nothing plays on the TV now, because, aside from there being no TV anymore, who would pay the cable bills?
He hand painted the walls and ceiling of this bedroom. I think he did it when my sister was born, adorning the room with a tree and foliage, and, between the leaves, white skies, which as a child just seemed like another overcast day in coastal BC, but now seem… aching, empty, endless. When I was a little kid, we stuck glow-in-the-dark star stickers all over the ceiling. When I would turn my lights off to go to sleep, it was magical. I know there’s still magic left to discover in this world, but in that moment I didn’t see the point in looking for it.
Now I’m leaving, and I pass through the living room on my way out, looking at the piano bar he was so proud of and only finished making a month or so before he died, and at the wall nearby it, where a huge hand-drawn comic he made had hung my entire life. We picked it up the previous time I’d been there, and now it’s in my room. It almost feels wrong to have it there, but a lot of things feel wrong when you’re dealing with change you didn’t want. Life goes on, even when it’s cruel.
V (october— after)
I had my first good dream in a while. I only vaguely remember what it was. I was flying, but through water. Or maybe swimming, but through air. It was beautiful, all saturated blues and greens. I don’t particularly care about the dream, I just care that I woke up and felt okay.
I get out of my white bed, walk past my white walls, towards the window where I move my white curtains, and twist open my white blinds, and the October rain gives me white skies. It doesn’t feel aching, empty, endless. White light contains all the wavelengths of visible light. It is everything, all at once. Good and bad in a pot over a burning fire, melted together into something that is only what you make of it.