Taking the article ‘Hatchet Piece (101 Things I Hate)’ that appears in the book ‘Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters’ as read (which we should, because it was, by me, midway through an Arts degree when it was far more fun to read weird books on the lawn in front of the Main Quad at university than actually attend English, Psychology or Philosophy lectures), it turns out that I am not just one of the things John Waters hates, but in fact the one-hundred-and-first thing; the thing, he says, that he hates “more than anything in the world: a person who confides, ‘I had the weirdest dream last night…’” At the risk of angering the pontifex of perversity, I must tell you that this morning, shortly before I awoke, I had the most horrific dream I have had for some time.
When my dad died, I was plagued by dreams about him. Initially they were ultra-vivid visions: he’d be laying bright red bricks under a clear blue sky in the hot summer sun, and I’d be helping him. Upon waking up, I’d usually burst into tears – all those years of resenting having to play bricky’s labourer on weekends and school holidays when there was serious guitar playing, record shopping or flirting to be done, and now those days were the source of about the best memories my unconscious thought I had of the old man.
After the extra-sensory memory dreams came the stress dreams: often, the old man would have just discovered a terminal disease and we’d all panic and wonder how we’d cope if he didn’t pull through. I’d wake up relieved, knowing that it was just a dream, and then remember that he had been diagnosed with a terminal disease, that he hadn’t pulled through, and that this sort of dream was part of the coping mechanism. I had a lot of these dreams in Italy especially, having gone over with my mum to settle the old man’s estate. In the early hours I’d dream that he was lying in a death-like state, and panic would ensue until I realised I could hear him snoring. Then church bells would ring and all would be well. I’d wake up, still hearing the church bells pealing from both our village cathedral and the one nestled on the side of the mountain facing our village, and realise that it was actually my mum snoring in the next room.
Although the emotions appear to be inverted, ‘interpersonal relationship’ dreams seem to be of a similar kind to the ‘coping with the death of a loved one’ dreams. They begin as erotic dreams prior to and during the actual interpersonal relationship, but afterwards they’re just ‘all’s well in the relationship’ dreams that invariably come after you’ve been dumped. You awaken from a peaceful reverie to realise that, actually, all’s not well in your world. You suddenly realise that your stomach cavity is once again filled with lead, as it was when you woke up during the early hours of the previous morning. You wonder how on earth you’ll get through another day and fall asleep again that evening. And so it goes...
My freakiest stress dream usually finds me sitting the English paper of the Higher School Certificate (commonly known as “the HSC”, Australia’s ‘leaving certificate’ examination) again. I particularly recall having this recurring nightmare when facing extra difficult periods of employment, specificially at my last full-time job, as a Publications Co-ordinator at a school(!) Why the English paper? Possibly because it is the first examination in the HSC and so at the time was the most stressful; after getting through the first, the rest would have appeared less formidable. And yet, my less-frequently dreamt and scarier nightmare, in a similar vein, is of a mathematics exam. I don’t know why.
Actually, my freakiest stress dream involves a scenario worse still than being thrown headlong into the examination scenario once again. It hasn’t happened often, but occasionally I dream that I am on the stage, performing, but under-prepared. Originally, these dreams involved memories of actual performances I’d been in, and amazingly, I’d remember whole chunks of dialogue and song from school musicals. (“So, if it ain’t Prince Tiny and the ‘little league’!” – my first line, as Freddie the Fidler, in Tin Pan Alley, the St Augustine's College musical from 1987. I was in Year 10. It featured girls from the local Catholic girl’s school, Stella Maris College, amongst whose ranks was a young Kym Wilson. She was fifteen, gorgeous and very popular amongst us horny and repressed Catholic school boys, so although I don’t quite dream about her, I may have the occasional little ‘think’ about her before dropping off to sleep at night!)
Nowadays, these dreams still occasionally take place in the school auditorium. However, when they do not, school teachers’ faces accompany those of past employers throughout the audience. I am on stage alone. There is nothing prepared. I start to improvise. And it always goes well. Hats off to my Id! Why can’t real life be that good?
So anyway, this morning I awoke from a dream that was worse than any of the above examples. In fact, I reckon it worse than all of the above put together. Here’s my dream:
I return to the venue of a party – obviously a friend’s house in the dream, but one I don’t recognise from my normal waking life – to retrieve a bunch of CD singles I left at the party the night before. But I can’t find them. And I wonder why I possibly thought I could leave them to retrieve later. Amongst the missing items is the ultra-limited Costello/Nieve box set that was released nearly a decade ago now, as well as a pile of Radiohead CD singles, including the even older and rarer ‘Drill’ EP. Although I eventually find the Costello/Nieve box set (autographed, to boot! My copy ain’t autographed in real life) I cannot locate any of the Radiohead stuff, and I am most miffed about losing the ‘Drill’ EP. I'm really despondent, disheartened, angry.
Eventually, I drift into wakefulness and start to tell myself I never took Radiohead CD singles to anyone’s party. And then I realise I’ve never even seen a copy of the ‘Drill’ EP in real life, let alone owned one.
Do you think I should consider an alternative form of employment to working in a secondhand/collectibles music shop?