Even my dreams have gone down the drain. I’m not talking about my dreams for the future—they evaporated mid-March, when the Coronavirus took hold and we were all ordered to “shelter in place.” I mean my sleeping dreams.
I used to have exciting, colorful dreams. Really long, complicated, fun ones. I would be a maestro, which I am not, entering the stage and greeting the string players to my left and surveying the audience to my right, stepping onto the podium and lifting the baton, adjusting the symphony score on the stand.
Or I would be window-shopping along the streets of Paris with my mother, which we never did, pausing to discuss Monet over tea. Or hiking through the Himalayas and coming upon a meadow full of yaks. Swimming under the Golden Gate Bridge. Pitching for the Red Sox. Extended, convoluted dreams, often involving in-depth conversations more interesting than any I tended to have during the day and often with people I missed. I would go from place to place, like in a Charles Dickens picaresque novel where the story has no intention of coming back around to the beginning but is just a rollicking, straightforward journey. One of the best things about my dreams was how happily illogical they were while covering a lot of ground. I could be jogging along Lake Michigan, then flying over the Atlantic with pelicans, then landing in a college lecture hall with old friends before zooming back in time to make breakfast.
Last night, I dreamt I couldn’t find my glasses. Talk about a new low.
A few nights ago, my husband woke up with a jolt. Of course I was awake, since the pandemic has, like Macbeth, “murdered sleep.” I was so relieved to have someone to talk with, to get my mind off exactly how I would set up our house if one of us got sick, or how maybe we should just throw caution to the wind and both get It, since I couldn’t stand the loneliness and if I can’t sleep now, well, without him I would really be a goner.
“What are you dreaming?” I whispered. “Anything good?”
“Can’t decide,” he mumbled.
“Can’t decide what? What?”
“Whether I should go in the pool or not.”
“What pool? Where?”
But he was back asleep.
That’s it? I scoffed to myself, rolling over. That’s the whole dream? Pathetic.
And now it’s happened to me. Covid has not only stolen my peace of mind and reasonable regard for germs, but this being cooped up for months has robbed me of my imagination, too.
It’s crazy to be simultaneously looking forward to and dreading every mail and UPS delivery, tiptoeing down to the mailbox, spray bottle in hand, ready to squirt alcohol on everything in sight. It has disinfected my subconscious.
I used to love to nap and go to bed at night because I couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. In fact, sometimes those were the best parts of my day. Not that I haven’t had my share of sleepless nights: my dreams began turning very negative around November of 2016, when I started waking up and fretting at about three-thirty.
Now, like everyone else, I lie awake worrying about people I know and love who are sick, about all of humanity, the economy, the state of the world—not to mention my old standby, the burning-up of our beautiful planet. When our kids were little and my parents were sick, I worried all the time. But not like this, obsessing constantly about catching the dread virus from cardboard boxes and groceries and becoming more neurotic by the day.
Before, I could count on my dream stories to keep me entertained and, even if they were sad or scary, to be at least lively.
Where did I leave my glasses? Please.
I suppose last night’s banal nonadventure is just another reminder of how lucky I once was, BC (Before Covid). What a contented luxury it was, as Shakespeare wrote, “to sleep, perchance to dream.”
I didn’t appreciate it enough.