I tend to remember the dreams I have right before I awake, which I think is fairly typical. Some of my dreams are pretty straightforward, at least in terms of trying to identify their meaning. I dream about zombies a lot, running from them, hiding in houses and looking out the windows while they stagger about outside. I dream about sharks. Usually I’m in a swimming pool, rather than the ocean, but none the less, there’s a shark in there, a big one, a great white. Those ones are all about whether I can scramble out of the pool before he shoots up like a two-ton missile and bites my legs off. I think the only reason I have those dreams is because I watch a lot of zombie movies, and The Walking Dead, and because I’ve seen Jaws and all of the awful sequels about a million times. It’s just those visuals leaking into my subconscious, nothing more.
But the other thing I find myself dreaming about a lot is the past. I dream about the house I lived in on Orchard Lane, in Cincinnati, for parts of the 90’s, and sometimes I even dream about the house I lived in before that, on Ledgewood Drive, in the 80’s, which no longer exists, having been torn down so that Xavier University could expand. I dream about former friends of mine, who are no longer in my life. Occasionally I also dream about people who are in my life currently, but that’s rarer. In my dreams, at least the ones I remember, I seem to gravitate back to the past.
Why is that, I wonder? When I have these dreams, they’re almost like wish fulfillment. I say things to people that I have contemplated saying in real life, if I ever saw them again. Sometimes, the dreams take the form of activities I used to do with these people, games we used to play, and so forth. Is it because I have some sort of overwhelming feeling of nostalgia about my past? I don’t think I do. I think about the past sometimes, sure, about earlier phases in my life, but doesn’t everybody do that? I don’t think I do it more than anyone else. And I hardly ever dream about, say, my college days, when I had way more friends than I did when I was young, not that I kept in touch with any of them, either. What it is it about my early childhood, in Cincinnati, up through my teenage years, till I left for school in Pittsburgh, that haunts me? What is it about that time in my life that holds such endless fascination for me? I don’t think I pine for those days. I think there’s just as much in my current life that makes me happy as there was back then. But your subconscious is going to do what it’s going to do. You can’t say to yourself “You’re no longer going to think about these things. That time in your life is done. Dream about other things now!” That won’t work. It’s hard enough telling yourself not to think about something when you’re awake. When you’re asleep and dreaming, your mind is going to go where it wants to go. You’re just along for the ride, whether you’re enjoying the experience or not. It’s not such a big concern, I guess, just a curiosity. Perhaps it won’t last forever. But for now, at least, during my days I spend time in this current phase of my life. By night, I often return to an earlier time. Like an adult ghost haunting the days of my boyhood, looking out through the prism of age and experience. But no wiser, no more confident, at least in my dreams.