Image by Simran Garcha
I’ve spent a lot of time recently ruminating on the nature of dreaming. More specifically, what follows dreaming: the remembering, the sharing, the unpicking, the analysing.
Dreaming is something I’m extremely familiar with. I have a life-long loyalty card for the 24/7 off licence that serves up every kind. At home, my morning ritual has consistently comprised of me making my way downstairs to verbally assault whichever family member I encounter first with a vivid retelling. I move, scene by scene. Then, we react.
A stressful dream about an old toxic friend? My brothers are calling for a S.W.A.T force. My younger brother knows a guy from his Minecraft server. A dream about my mamma tearing my friend’s hair out? My dad thinks it unlikely, but my mother and I joke that we can see it happening. A confusing tale about giant talking gorillas in the house? My dad is saying that the key message is that appearances aren’t always what they seem. (This is not as insightful as you might think–he’s directly quoting one of the aforementioned gorillas).
A couple of months ago, I moved into a flat with two of my closest friends. We’re currently spending the final year of our degrees together. Our English Literature degrees. As you can imagine, my morning ritual is flourishing. A month into our tenancy, I have this awful dream where I return to my family home and my dog Decoy has forgotten and detests me. He keeps trying to bite me, eat me whole, (rest assured, this is completely out of character), and so my older brother must tie him up in the corner to keep me safe.
I go home a few days after and he greets me eagerly, ready to play. It is, as my flatmates (and parents) reassured me, just fine. A nocturnal manifestation of my homesickness.
More recently, my flatmate has three awful dreams in one night. She gently knocks on my door to share them with me. When I awake, we sit in the living room and unpack them. We search up the symbols from her dreams and their meaning.
1. She fails to water this massive plant in her room; she picks it up and as soon as she puts it down, it crumbles into dust
2. She touches her ear and realises that she has a second ear growing on top
3. She witnesses a big stray dog drowning a small Shih Tzu
We come to the understanding that the first two are stress dreams. They say, you’re thriving externally at the expense of something internal. I tell her these dreams are advice: she’s excelling in her career, but she needs to be more careful with herself and her health. (Our interpretation of the final dream is she was influenced by a bedtime story of Decoy jumping into a canal to swim after a cat).
There was a period in my childhood when I had this recurring nightmare. In it, my dad passes away and my brothers and I are forced to live with an old couple in their home, complete strangers. All we want to do is take some flowers to our dad’s grave, but they refuse, locking us up all day and night. Eventually, we manage to sneak out, and just as we lay the flowers down, they catch us. At this point, I would wake up.
I didn’t tell anyone for fear my dream was a terrible thing, an omen, a mark of some concerning macabre impulse. Aside from the factual inaccuracies (my mum’s existence being erased, strangers looking after us instead of our grandparents, and the idea of my dad being buried and not cremated), I was horrified by the fact that I’d essentially been repeatedly dreaming about my dad’s death.
One morning, I broke. I went downstairs and told my mum. She told me that in our culture when you dream about someone dying, it means they will live longer. I never had the nightmare again.
1. Mamma: maternal uncle in Punjabi
Edited by Ishita Uppadhayay, Essays Editor