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It’s Dark in There: Nightmares, Subways, Boxes July 7, 2009

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

In the middle of the night, I woke up making one of those half-scream sounds I make when I’m attempting to scream in a dream. It’s most disturbing.

I don’t think I have what would qualify as true recurring nightmares anymore. I used to, a bit, as a kid. But some anxiety-producing themes do surface semiregularly. Over the past few years, for example (and this was the case last night), subways have figured prominently.

I know, I know. Could my subconscious pick a more obvious metaphor?

I love subways. I love their beauty, their practicality, their impossibility. So it kind of pisses me off that they are not playing well in my dreams.

More often than not, the theme is one of frustration. No matter what I do, even when I do everything right—use crisp bills in the machine, take the right train, get off at the right stop—something is going horribly wrong and I am not able to do what needs to be done. The scream, I think, is usually a frustrated scream.

Occasionally, though, there is an element of fear in the dream, usually relating to having to get off the train somewhere obviously unsafe. I only had a couple of bad things happen to me on the subway in my waking life: the one time someone pushed up against me in the crowded car and I thought, hmmm, that feels familiar, I wonder what . . . oh. And then the time some kid and a few of his close personal friends walked toward quite-alone me way out at the end of the platform and flashed a knife, which, to this day, I’m not certain was real (but I have to assume it was), and then backed away when I looked him in the eye and said, “What are you doing?” I was about 10 days away from moving to Vermont. Great, I thought. After all that waiting, I nearly didn’t make it.

The recent crash on the DC Metro hit me particularly hard; it was on the route I took every day. In fact, it happened right near the station where the kid pulled the maybe-a-knife, that particular station being one where some trains turned around, so if you had to go a little further on the line, which I did, you had to get off and wait for the next train.

But this is just a prelude to talking about another of my recurring dreams, one that I expected to resurface, but which has not. I could have sworn I wrote about it already, but I’m not finding evidence of that. It has to do with a post office box.

Here we go again, I hear you sigh.

Yes. When I was bemoaning finally letting go of Box 84 last fall, one point I was certain I had mentioned—but which I apparently did not—was that one of my recurring dreams has to do with my college post office box. For many years, I’d have this dream in which I suddenly remember that I’ve forgotten to get my mail at that box. That I’ve in fact forgotten to go get it for months or for years. I’m sure there are bills to pay, all sorts of things I haven’t taken care of. I try to get there and am thwarted all along the way. I can’t get back to the college; if I get to the college, I can’t get into the building; if I get into the building, there’s too much mail and there’s a slip I need to give to the postmaster to get the rest, but the window is closed. This anxious dream, I fear, says way too much about my personality.

And I was pretty sure that once I gave up Box 84, I would start having the dreams about it.

But so far, no. Just subway dreams.

When I recently went to my college reunion, I decided I had to visit my old PO box. I have a certain fondness for it, after all, and hey, sometimes I can face my demons. And now, I’m going to share with you one of the horrifying faces of my recurring dreams:


Be very afraid.


1. Cedar Waxwing - July 7, 2009

Your dreams sound familiar to me — not in that I have the very same ones, but in that the frustrations are similar. Mine usually involve trying to make a telephone call.

And I know exactly what that non-scream sounds like.

2. Eulalia (Lali) Benejam Cobb - July 7, 2009

That is one scary-looking mailbox.

Like Cedar W, I find your dreams quite familiar–not the images, but the feelings.

3. bettyslocombe - July 8, 2009

Very afraid. Indeed.

4. Craig (Maito Sewa Yoleme) - July 9, 2009

OK, two things:

First, anyone who goes after a gang of potential muggers on a lonely subway platform, threatening them with a simple “What are you doing? and making them back off, has nothing to fear from a frickin’ mailbox.

And second, I have the same nightmare about my own college mailbox, now stuffed with 32 years of unread mail. I can get into the building, but I have forgotten the combination, and there is no one who can help me.

5. bridgett - July 9, 2009

I have telephones that ring and ring that I cannot find.

6. Lynda - July 10, 2009

OK, clearly we need to start a “Dream Group”. Just women (sorry Craig) and just to talk about dreams – especially anxiety dreams. I was just about to comment on the fact that IB and I are even more alike that I originally thought, and alas! The rest of the women feel the same emotions in their dreams!

Mine is always about a school locker filled with books that I cannot access because I have lost/forgotten the key/combination. Then there’s an exam, and I have NO IDEA what the class is even about!

So f&#% the book groups. Let’s start a dream group. Anyone?

7. bettyslocombe - July 10, 2009

How culturally specific dreams are: We didn’t have lockers, or post boxes, so I have never had those dreams: but the exam unstudied for, oh yes,( with that great moment when you wake up and realise you actually passed all your exams ten years ago) later transmuted into the TEFL teacher with no lesson plan dream. Kate would be great for any such group. She gives good dream.

8. Mali - July 10, 2009

Like Betty, I don’t get the locker/post box thing. My frustration dream is being late for something (usually a flight), needing to pack, and being unable to finish it or get to the airport, as time ticks by.

9. indigobunting - July 10, 2009

Lynda, I’m afraid I don’t have interesting dreams often enough for a dream group, but I could try. And just so you know, if you want interesting dreams, Craig really should be involved. Of course, he’d show us all up.

Betty, I assume you mean YOUR Kate gives good dream. And I’ll be she does.

I find it fascinating the lack of lockers and post boxes on the other side of the world. It’s something I never even thought about thinking about. And now I will. Or, here’s a dream: I’m in New Zealand or Australia, searching high and low for a post box, but I can’t find one! No matter how hard I look, I…

10. bridgett - July 10, 2009

No post boxes. Huh. Does mail get dropped through a slot in your front doors like here? Dropped by plane into your back yards?

I have those flight ones, too. I call them airport anxiety dreams and I always start having them a few weeks before I travel (Even if I’m traveling by a less time-sensitive mode).

11. LisaS - July 10, 2009

i visit my old college post box every time i’m there, too … one time ran into my box-mate doing the same thing!

12. indigobunting - July 11, 2009

Lisa—now THAT’S a fun story.

13. Joya - July 11, 2009

My anxiety dreams are always finding myself in class on final exam day and realizing that I haven’t attended classes all semester and I have no idea what the subject is.

Why do so many of these have something to do with college?

And now, I think I must post about the dream I had the other night. Hint: it involved Anne Boleyn and a bikini…

14. bettyslocombe - July 12, 2009

A headless woman in a bikini? Now that IS scary…….

15. indigo bunting - July 12, 2009

Joya: Good question on the college thing. I have exam dreams too, just not as often. I will be definitely looking for this post…

16. Susan - July 17, 2009

Subways? Mailboxes?? Isn’t anyone stuck in a good old-fashioned public rest room anymore?

17. Adam Byrn Tritt - July 19, 2009

Ceci n’est pas une boîte aux lettres.

18. damyantig - August 4, 2009

My anxiety dream is usually a Chemistry exam, for which I turn up after a whole slew of preparation with text books on Social Studies.

19. indigo bunting - August 5, 2009

Susan, Adam, Damyanti: Smiles all around.

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