Tuesday, June 7, 2011

the mechanics of dream crying

I had the saddest dream last night. So sad, in fact, that I woke myself up crying (or maybe the dog barking woke me up; it was simultaneous). My husband and I were living (with other people, of course--I couldn't possibly have a dream in which I don't live in a group arrangement) in a rooftop apartment. It was really just a small box-shaped one-room building with extremely low ceilings, on top of the flat roof of an older building. I think the building itself contained a mixture of offices and apartments, and it wasn't in great shape.

We had been out and about and were returning home, if you can call such a living arrangement "home". It had been raining, and as we neared the top of the stairs leading to the roof, I noticed water pouring down the stairs from the rooftop. I made a note to let the building manager know (incidentally, the same guy who manages the building at my real-life office). It didn't really occur to me to be worried until we came out onto the roof and saw that it was completely flooded, almost up to the wall around the edges, which was about six feet tall. We could still walk through the water easily, but it was threatening to fill up the apartment to roof level. When we went inside, everyone was confusedly trying to gather up their things to evacuate. I looked around for our dogs with an increasingly sinking feeling. I asked someone about them, and just as they started to answer I brushed up against what was obviously one of their bodies floating around under the surface of the water*.

Of course no one had thought or had time to rescue our dogs, and it was terrible to think about them struggling to keep their heads above water in the middle of the crowded bunkbed setup (the room was filled with bunkbeds like a summer camp). I felt terrible realizing that if we had been there we could easily have gotten them out of there, and terrible in a different way thinking that if the roof had had proper drainage this wouldn't have happened at all.

I've always kind of wondered about the mechanics of crying in dreams, in those cases where you wake yourself up sobbing violently--how long are you actually crying in "real time" (it always seems to me like I cry for hours in the dream), and are real tears coming out? I still have no conclusion, but found it interesting that I woke up with tears in my eyes (but not streaming down my face) after what seemed like ages of crying. I also woke up slowly enough to note that I was gasping, sob-like, but my sleeping partner is a heavy enough sleeper that I've never been able to get an outside observation of whether I'm actually sobbing or just gasping.

Anyway, it was a harrowing dream, and I was very glad to hear the dogs barking when I woke up from it.

*This seems like a weird detail, that they would be floating around at a 3' depth, but I don't know enough about the physics of water and dog corpses to say whether it's really inaccurate. Another weird physics-related detail was that after we had removed the dog corpses from the flooded rooftop I was carrying them around in a garbage bag, casually slung over my shoulder--all 170 pounds of them, which I would surely not be able to do in real life, especially if racked by sobs.

Which reminds me of another gorily specific detail: I was carrying the dogs around because I hoped to find someone to flay them and preserve their hides for me, and also to remove and clean up their skulls so I could keep them as mementos**. When my husband expressed dismay at this weird and excessive desire, I said, "but think, don't you know any hunters who could do it? It would be easy for a hunter who was used to processing deer!"

**I probably shouldn't confess this, but I have considered in real life (although purely theoretically) the possibility of keeping the skull of a dead pet as a memento (in my defense, the hide idea hadn't occurred to me), although I'm sure I wouldn't due to a lack of butchering/taxidermy skills/cast-iron emotional constitution, and the fact that I don't know any local hunters.


Leah said...

The taxidermy postscript put my over the edge and made me laugh out loud, even though the dream itself is very sad.

I've managed to wake myself up sobbing several times. My sleeping companion actually has had to wake me up because I was crying in my sleep and it was freaking him out. And I was obviously distressed too.

I've come to with tears streaming down my face, with the big, hiccuping sobs of a little kid.

I've also awakened myself by laughing, but that was more of a sort of "huh huh" grunting sort of laugh. Not my usual laugh.

strovska said...

oh, that's interesting. i'm not sure if i've ever woken myself up laughing (although i've woken up very amused and pleased with myself for a joke that turned out to not make any sense). i think this is the first time i can remember waking up with tears, though.

that would be really unsettling to have one's sleeping companion be sobbing in their sleep.