Yes, I woke screaming in the jungle. Not a sleep-paralysis attempt at crying-out, where the sounds are stifled and unable to escape, but a full-throttled screech. It woke my cabin-mate. In my nightmare, I had been ceremonially wrapped in garlands and buried alive, waking with the taste of dirt in my mouth.
I couldn't breathe in the concrete bunker where we were staying overnight; there was no air in the room, nor light. I remember it as being windowless. The generators were turned off early in the evening, and it smelled like a grave. I took a sheet and pillow and went outside to try to sleep on a ratty chair below the dizzying canopy. There was no light outside either.
Earlier, at sunset, we had gotten lost on an ant-trail attempting to see more of the ruins as we were leaving the next day. At some point, certain we were no longer on a trail, I was swarmed by black butterflies, each larger than a fist. We were finally led out of the forest by the voices of Mennonites singing from atop one of the temples.
For the first several nights back in Seattle, I couldn't sleep at all. I felt rushes of warm air circling around my bed, from below to above me and around again, in a whooshing sensation that was both audible and palpable, at least to me.
I was accompanying a symphonic composer to Russia in winter. We flew into Moscow, then took an 11 hour train ride, by night, to Kazan. She said we should sleep, because when we arrived the media would be waiting for us.
During the the night, the train stopped for a long time. I heard dogs barking and loud voices. I pulled the window curtain back, seeing several small fires burning by the tracks, with people gathered around them. There was fresh snowfall, a clear sky and a full moon. Rainbow-flickers reflected from the ground, bouncing off of the snow and the crystal trinkets that night-vendors were hawking alongside the train.
I woke in Kazan, where I would stay in a Soviet-era high-rise for four weeks. The trip was filled with meetings, performances, and talks. Midway through, I grew exhausted, insisting on staying “home” in the flat one evening. I wanted some down-time.
It started snowing heavily. Looking out the window, I could barely see anything, but the street lights created bubbles of color that caught my attention. The clunking of the elevators and the sound of heavy-metal doors shutting reverberated throughout the building. When the composer and her friends came home, they made some food for us, and we told each other stories in broken languages.
When I went to sleep that night, I dreamt I was being buried by a snowy avalanche. Again, I found myself in a strange place screaming myself awake. So panicked that I couldn't go back to sleep, I woke the composer in the other room. We talked for awhile.
She told me she had also dreamt of me. In her dream, she said I had broken eye-glasses and some people were trying to hurt me. She recounted more of her dream, which in detail described an event in my life from years before, that she could not have known about. As we discussed these dreams, we smelled something – the stove's gas had been left on, and was now filling the room. We were able to extinguish it. We opened up the windows, letting in the chill and the snow from the ledges.
During the heatwaves of summer, we slept downstairs, the only floor with air conditioning. There were two sofa-beds and some musty cots. But I wanted to go outside to play in the backyard, with the fireflies and stars above. I wanted to sleep out there, but they wouldn't let me.
Two blocks away, the lake lapped at the shore. Later, when I was older, I would spend the night on the rock embankments that formed the lake's edges in a self-imposed ritual. The lake at night would haunt my dreams for years, along with several parks that formed a nightscape I returned to often, combining elements of real places and ones that existed only in these dreams. Always it was dark, and I was exploring.
In one dream, there was a park with a tree I adored. I would sit on a bench below it each night. There was a gate around the park, with an engraved sign. It said this was Igor Stravinksy's park, that he once lived in a house on its grounds, and the park was dedicated to his memory.
I woke from that dream trying to remember who Stravinksy was – I believed I had heard of him. I vaguely thought he had been a composer, but I had to look it up. I went to the library and checked out all of his recordings and listened to them night after night, trying to make sense of life on earth, trying to fall asleep.
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