This morning I jumped out of my sleep screaming. I was having another snake dream. Lately I’ve been having recurrent dreams about snakes, and roads and bridges. In the dream I find myself, for whatever reason, walking along a road, the way I walk along a local road every day to compulsively burn calories and also to expel my ever-present, overwhelming energy—my existential disgust, that is. And then I get to a point where I need to cross a bridge, or an overpass across a highway or something. It’s a typical suburban overpass overgrown with weeds and thickets, etc. And it also is crawling with snakes overhanging from branches and wrapped around poles and power lines and vines, and curled up on the pavement. It’s grotesque, and when I get to the middle of the bridge I encounter one particular, brightly colored virulent snake. The others are only black garden snakes that are merely disgusting, but this one is disgusting and also poisonous. This one in the middle of the bridge is a pinkish, organge-y earth tone with some design on it, and it’s slimy, and it’s curled up like a pretzel, waiting for me in the middle of the bridge. In this particular dream, I started to cross . . . and then I sprung up out of my sleep in a hysterical scream, waking myself up (kind of) as I approached the pink snake.
When I screamed myself awake, I started checking my blankets and bedding around me, convinced there was a snake crawling around my room or bed, still delirious with slumber. It was around 8:15am. Then I fell back into a zombie stone-like sleep spell until around 11:30 or 12, when I was no longer delirious, and I resumed my usual daily routine of staying under my blankets awake and dumfounded and hiding from life until I finally somehow managed to force myself up and desperately drink coffee.
The above is actually an entry I wrote in my journal last January. For the last several weeks now I have been completely stuck by my ankles in a muddy swamp of writer’s block. I simply congeal into a torpid sludge whenever I bend over a keyboard or notepad. I’m not just talking about the little writing projects that I set up for myself (like, this blog, for example). The decay has also spread into my no-strings-attached, hidden journal of random thoughts, which has always been my refuge and the place where my guts get spilled unceremoniously and unchecked. This is serious. Because I am only able to comprehend anything in this world by writing it down, if I can’t write, then it means that I am completely disoriented. Consequently, I am not fully cognizant of my existence. I’m in a coma.
When my writing and therefore my thinking—or is it my thinking and therefore my writing?—get stuck, I go through my journal and my scraps of written thoughts to figure out where I might have left off or where I might be able to pick up or simply if there’s anything of me that might still exist. I did this last night and a part of me that still might be alive landed on this journal entry from January 16th. Something about being terrified and blocked in my life, I suppose, stood out to me. I was also struck by the promising side of the nightmare that I did in fact try to move through my terrifying existence, and I did scream when I needed to (and this is rare in my waking life).
What’s eerie is that about a month after I dreamt about the pink snake, my roommate discovered a snake nest under the stones on our front porch. They had apparently been hibernating there under the floor boards since last fall and were just hatching and emerging from their den after the early spring thaw. They would mate in a month or so and then return to the nest again next fall. While my roommate stood on the front porch with the shovel from the living room fireplace and frantically chased down and whacked the heads off the hatchings, I stood behind the screen door screaming like a banshee. I startled the cats and scared them shitless. Unlike the way I thought about the screaming in my dream, my roommate didn’t interpret my screaming at the sight of the wispy baby snakes as a sign of courage. “Seriously?” she grumbled at me. “I guess I need to put on my big girl hands for this.”
Especially when your unstable living situation dictates that you sleep on a bunch of blankets heaped onto the floor instead of on a bed, a snake nest that lies at the foot of the house and adjacent to the room where you sleep is a particularly troubling discovery. It’s not comforting to have to lie down on the floor every night knowing that snakes are nestling and thrashing around below the floor boards directly under you. Moreover, I worried that the angst surrounding the discovery of the snake nest would creep into my sleep, as waking disruptions to my everyday life often do, and I became as terrified of the potential snake dreams when I fall asleep at night as I was of the actual snakes under my floor.
To cope with all of this, I began to share my blankets on the floor with my roommate’s two cats. The hope was that they would attack anything that may potentially make it through the foundation of the house and then through the floorboards. I also hoped they would protect me spiritually, through the comfort that only warm, furry, clawed creatures nuzzled next to someone can bring to a tormented sleeper.
The cats like to nuzzle next to me and they have faithfully protected me every night. I haven’t yet woken up to find any snakes next to me on the floor, nor have I woken up screaming from any snakes that have crept into my sleep since I began sharing my bedding with the cats. As I browse through my notebooks and read my account of the nightmare about the pink snake, I wish their protection could also extend into my waking life during the day. I remain blocked one day after another inside what feels like the most surreal fantasy, and unlike in my sleep, I’m not able to scream.