recurring nightmare

school bus

The school bus: Love it, or hate it.

YOU’VE HAD THIS NIGHTMARE. You suddenly realize you aren’t wearing any pants, in the mall. Your teacher throws a pop quiz on a subject you know nothing about.  You are onstage and you forget your lines; in fact, you don’t even know what play you are in. Your mouth is full of pounds of stretchy gum that you can’t pull out.  You try to run from a dangerous person and you can only move in slow motion. You have to pee real bad and all the toilets are clogged and overflowing so you have to go in the sink (this one runs in my family).  You try to dial 911 when someone attacks you and you keep hitting the numbers wrong or no one answers.

Twenty years after graduating high school, I still have dreams where I am running to catch the school bus as it pulls away, or I get on the wrong bus and it drops me off in a strange place.  A few weeks ago, I experienced one of these unfortunate nightmares while I was awake.

It was about 7:30pm when I sat down by the fire to read the newspaper, specifically the Ithaca Journal business section that had come in the mail that day.  As I sipped my bourbon and flipped through the pages, I saw a blurb on the blogging workshop that I would be teaching next month in Trumansburg.  “That’s advertised about four weeks early,” I thought.  “Wow, those T-burg Chamber people really plan ahead.”  I turned the page and started reading another article.  Leah came in from the kitchen.  “Look, honey,” I said.  “My blog class is advertised in the paper already.”  As I flipped back to the page to show her, my eye caught the date of the workshop:  November 17.  I stopped breathing.  “What’s today’s date?”  I asked Leah.  “November 17,” she said.  My heart turned to ice.  I looked at the article again.  The workshop starts at 7pm, it read.  I looked at the clock.  7:36pm.

“Sh*t!” I hollered as I leapt out of my chair.  “Sh*t-sh*t-sh*t!” I said as I frantically changed into a pair of jeans and put my boots and coat on.  “Sh*t!” I muttered as I jumped into the car and drove really fast the half-mile to the library, hoping the cops weren’t taking radar in the middle of town like usual.  The library was dark.  “Sh*t,” I said as I turned the car around.  I had a sinking feeling that I had messed up really, really badly.

I stopped at Gimme coffee on the way home and the girl was just closing up.  I banged on the door and gave her my best pleading face.  She laughed at me as she unlocked the door.  “You need coffee that badly?” she asked.  “No,” I said as I walked over to the bulletin board.  “I need this.”  I pulled down the poster advertising my workshop that I had noticed hanging there earlier in the week.  November 17, 7pm.  “I missed my own workshop,” I told her.

Later I found out that the Chamber of Commerce, the Library and I had all written the date down as Dec 17, but the woman who did the publicity had accidentally switched it to Nov 17.  The blogging workshop technically was scheduled for December 17; it was just advertised wrong to, say, around ninety thousand people.

I was off the hook, but the anxiety was all too familiar.  I had dreamed about missing the school bus the night before.  Last week, all my teeth crumbled and fell out.  And the week before that, I tried to stab an intruder with a butcher knife and it turned into a compostable plastic spoon.  My near-miss was an all-too-real reminder of where these anxiety-provoked dreams come from.

Sweet dreams, and see you at the workshop…

-Amelia Sauter


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