10 July 2009
Sleeping Off The Past 50 Years
Last night, I fell asleep some time shortly after 7:30 pm and woke around 6:30 am.
For some people, that is not a remarkably long slumber. However, it is the longest I've had in a very long time.
I had gotten into bed after Valerie, a petite, dark-haired nurses' aide, helped me to rearrange my pads and the two tubes that were attached to me and chafing in one spot whenever I sat down. She suggested that the job would be easier if I were to lay on my side. After she finished, I started to read a chapter of Marisha Pessl's "Special Topics In Calamity Physics," a novel I've been reading for no particular reason.
Anyway, I read only a couple of pages before I fell asleep. I don't recall drifting off: I went directly into an eyes-firmly-closed, unconscious slumber on no account of what I was reading.
Some time before I woke up, I had a rapid-fire series of dreams that, I believe, were connected by that logic by which dreams swim, sometimes languidly, other times with the force of one running for her life, through our internal seas of memory and conflict.
I normally don't make a great effort to remember dreams, but here is one I recall from just before I woke: I boarded a train at a station that looked like like the Queensboro Plaza stop on the N, W and 7 lines of the New York transit system. That train made its usual descent down a ramp of tracks that passed the Long Island City factories on its way to the long, deep tunnel under the East River that leads to the mosaic of the Lexington Avenue station in Manhattan.
However, the train did not go to that station. Instead, it took me--I was the only one who disembarked from the train--to another station constructed of curved girders and glass tinted very lightly of linen sunlight that, because it was so gossamer-like, seemed to be floating many stories above something. But the station platform on which I stepped stood exactly level with the ground.
And there was no gate, or any other device, to allow people to enter or exit the station. Rather, I walked directly from the platform to a lawn that skirted some large body of water: from what I could tell, it was an ocean, though not any I'd seen before.
There, a rather stooped man, somewhat older than I am, met me. All around me were women, of all ages (all ages that I've ever seen, anyway), of different sizes, races and demeanors--all of them in the starkest yet most pristine white dresses I've ever seen. At that moment, I noticed I was wearing a dress just like the ones they were wearing.
The man didn't introduce me to the women so much as he led me to them. They all seemed to know who I am, and in that dream-logic I've mentioned, I knew them, too, even though I have never seen any of them in my waking life. One of them was walking to some place; I knew (again, in the logic of that dream), that I was supposed to follow her, at least for the time being. She wended her way through one group of women, and we all seemed to be making a sort of intutitive introduction to each other that did not require names, or even eye contacts.
And then I found myself following those women--to where, I didn't know.
About the man in the dream: He is transgendered. I know him in my waking life. I did not know him when he was named Charlotte; I have known him only as Charles. (He insists that people call him that, not "Charlie.") I know of his past only because he's mentioned it, only in passing.
Somewhere in that walk with all those women, I woke up. Joyce, who had her surgery yesterday, slept in the other bed in the room where I slept. I didn't want to take the chance of waking her, so I picked up the book I was reading when I fell asleep. I read a couple of pages, until one of the characters said the following:
You wouldn't believe this, but life hinges on a couple of seconds you never see coming. And what you decide in those few seconds determines everything from then on. Some people pull the trigger and it all explodes in front of them. Other people run away. And you have no idea what you'll do until you're there. When you're moment comes, Blue, don't be afraid. Do what you need to do.
Of course, this is nothing new as wisdom. But imagine that you were struck by lightning and it caused you to let out long, cathartic tears. That is what seemed to happen to me.
I can recall now two moments in my life when I did exactly what I had to do: When I woke up from a "lost weekend" and got myself into an AA meeting, and on that day when I saw a woman crossing the street on her way home from work and realized that, if I were to live at all, I would have to occupy time and space as she--and other women--do. But even those two moments paled into what I've always thought of as my memory.
Now I am starting to live the outcome of those two moments: life as a sober woman. I have absolutely no idea of what lies ahead. It may be fifty years or fifty weeks long. Whatever it is, and however long it is, it will be the result of the only choices I could have made if I wanted to live, and to live as the woman I am.
Perhaps I needed to sleep off the past 50 years, and perhaps I did that last night.