Wednesday, October 06, 2004


I once had a disagreement with Sister Maria, my diminutive high school religion teacher, over the existence of hell. "If God is benevolent, then there can't be a place of eternal suffering," said I, the sheltered-high-school-senior who knew that all of life was sweet. Sister Maria's hands fluttered to her face. "Oh, Cello! Cello, don't say that. Hell does indeed exist."

Years later, I decided that Sister Maria wasn't so much cowed by religious doctrine so much as she was aware — through her work on behalf of political prisoners — that hell may indeed exist here on earth.

Years after that, I discovered what one version of my own life's hell might look like.

The dream always starts with my shock at finding him in the house. Then comes the chilling realization that, in fact, the space is his and mine, and there's no way to get him out. He makes overtures of physical affection. (The very thought makes me retch.) And, most horrifying, he seems to have displaced Adam. Panic rising, I covertly seek Adam out. This means I must feign distraction, make excuses, and twist away from the massive, soft-bodied man who lumbers and lurks like a trickier version of Frankenstein’s monster.

Where is Adam? In the dream, he’s stuck in history, and I’m frantic to dislodge him. I clandestinely dial his Minneapolis apartment to remind him of the life we’re supposed to have started five years ago. The monster knows this, and finds it delicious. In some dreams, the monster is content to leer at my unhappiness. I watch with disgust as he stoops, awkwardly, to peel off a sock. In other dreams, the monster bellows in a fury, having found some evidence of the life I haven’t forgotten. He charges me with raised fists and chuckles when I flinch.

The evidence of Adam — a bicycle, a new university address — always appears late in the dreams, just before I wake. Maybe the evidence is conjured by desperation? “This is not how it happened,” I tell the walls. "This is NOT where I live."

I jolt awake, clammy with sweat. I would have killed him. Not in real life perhaps. But, in the dream, I’m absolutely ready to murder the monster for what he’s taken away. I wobble my way into the kitchen, woozy on fumes of that uglier self. Then I wobble a bit more, in the rush of waking relief.


At 11:27 PM, Blogger What Now? said...



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