Saturday, August 4, 2012

Night Terrors

I suffered from night terrors when I was a little girl. I must have been about 7 when they started because it was shortly after my kid sister was born, two weeks before my seventh birthday. That birth was one of the prime suspects among the psychiatrists and psychologists I was suddenly dragged to see.

I really don’t recall the terrors per se. I do remember being scrutinized by my mother and father every mother: “How do you feel this morning, Honey”? And looked at long and meaningfully. At some point my older sister filled me into the vibe change.

“You know you wake up screaming every night.” she said. And something to the effect of “What’s up with that”?

I had no memory of these episodes but apparently they happened every night and after responding to my screams my parents were at a lost how to assuage my delirious rants which went on for hours they tell me. After a few months of this unsettling state of affairs, everyone was exhausted.. They were pretty sure I lost it.

Thus began the parade of professionals. School shrinks, “How do you feel about your little sister”? Then outside shrinks: building blocks and ink blot tests. Then the real big shot mental health experts in Chicago (we lived in the suburbs). More ink blots, interviews, regular visits. Every night the screaming continued (I was told). I still remembered nothing, which they found suspect because I was conscious in some way through much of it. But with one exception it was all a blank for me.

I remember the one exception rather vividly since I was, as I say seven. I sat in one of the bathrooms fussing with my father. He was trying to reason with me but he wasn’t having much success and he was frustrated. I kept whining that I wanted a piece of cake; why wouldn’t he give me any cake. There wasn’t any cake. I would give you a piece but there is no cake. And I kept insisting there was cake. It was birthday cake and I wanted a piece why oh why couldn’t I have a piece. And I was quite over the top about it. Crying and bitter, and angry as hell. That’s the only fragment I have any memory of.

I remember their exhaustion, their frustration their helplessness in the face of no answers from the doctors. I had a vague uneasiness they thought I was crazy and might put me someplace. But the consensus seemed that I seemed pretty well adjusted, about the new sister and whatever else goes on in a young kid’s mind and finally the doctors decided to look for a medical answer to all this. They ran a battery of tests, and shortly had an answer. I had a kidney infection of some sort. They treated me with antibiotics and immediately the night terrors stopped!

All was well and peaceful and normalcy settled in our home. I did still have nightmares and recurring ones. But they didn’t cause me to wake up screaming, or if I did, my scream woke me up. No in between the conscious and unconscious world for hours on end.

That is, until a couple of years later, after I turned ten. My father woke me up one night and asked if I knew why the front door was open and I said no and went back to sleep. The next day after more questions, I remembered walking down the street, a dark empty street. For the next couple of years I wandered in my sleep. And was discovered sitting on the front lawn, sitting in the empty bath tub, taking several midnight strolls again. Again I had little recall except the first night I was questioned and then another peculiar incident. I woke up, sort of and found myself feeling my way along the wall in the hallway into the kitchen. I remember thinking, why am I fumbling about, like a blind person, when I can see, my eyes are open?

I made a right turn and turned the door knob to the guest room, where my parents had guests spending the night. A prominent business associate of my father’s. I regarded them lying in bed, sound asleep, and calmly pulled my finger out of my nightgown pocket and pointed it at them, as if it were a gun. Then I loudly shouted “Bang, bang, you’re dead!”

Which woke us all up.

I couldn’t go to camp that year seeing as the cabins sat a few hundred feet from a cliff over a roaring creek. And they put an alarm on the front door. Then one day the walking stopped.

And I started flying in my dreams. Most of the time there was no plot to my flying dreams; I was just flying around the neighborhood, looking around. I still fly sometimes, usually now it’s cross country. I live in New York; the rest of the family is in California. I go to visit them

Lucky's Journey

Lucky Luciano Kozeluh, extrovert, was grinding pickles, lavender and gardenia petals in the cog to make his own melange of milquetoast. He was the Duke of Canterbury, the milkman in the empty quarter of our universe. Although, we realize there is a certain other universe whose meaning is infinitely deferred. Wherever we are content, that is our country. But Lucky Luciano Kozeluh was not content. And so he traveled.

But what did he know? What was unspeakable was his rendezvous with ruin, his lackadaisical date with too many tomorrows. It remains to be said and silence reigned in the displacement, the movement of all such discussions. The discussions in his, ultimately, in his head.

The discourse lay bare the knowledge that, if it does not determine action, is dead to us. That character is simply habit long continued, and horror is the soul of the plot. We cannot, nor will we ever want to, answer these questions, the ones of our making or not. And Lucky could never be in the position to find that every quotation contributes something to the stability or enlargement of the language.

He was an extrovert. He was a man who did. He wasn’t a writer, per se. He could be a thinker and an inventor of sorts. Isn’t every man, the inventor of his own premise? That were to be, his very life? And Lucky knew about life. About his life anyway.

And he feared it. Feared it in a way, because so many people are afraid of freedom. They are conditioned to be afraid of it. So they necessarily restrain themselves. Inhibition is not unnatural…civilizations are built on restraints. But those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained; he told himself, whenever he held back from what might bore him, eventually. In life, you must choose between boredom and suffering. Otherwise, you’ll be old and you never lived, and you kind of feel silly to lie down and die and to have never lived. We are always getting ready to live but never living. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

Fortune favors the brave, but the facts speak for themselves. The devil is God’s ape. And the gorilla that sat on Lucky’s back was getting hungrier by the day. Nothing in excess, was easy to say, if you didn’t know the tale of this journey. Sometimes, the road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom. But this road looked like it ended in a place called nowhere. He had to find a way. A chance to change direction.

For, except our own thoughts, there is absolutely nothing in our power. Burning is no answer. I accuse, he said, whirling forward and throwing the monkey off his back. To want to be free is to be free, and there is nothing to fear but fear. Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth, and right now, Lucky was having a vision. Beware when the great God lets loose a thinker on this planet. Then all things are at risk. The education of the will is the object of our existence and knowledge is the antidote to fear. Victory is a thing of the will; a man could stand up!

But he was going someplace with this, wasn’t he? Didn’t he, after all, have an agenda, a date, an appointment in time? He had to be off. He was late, overdue. He the extrovert, had become a thinker, a poet, a writer, a mime, a discoverer of the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.

The voices wouldn’t stop in his head. A poem that is hard to get rid of is a voice that is hard to get rid of. And a voice that is hard to get rid of is a man. It is part of the tradition. Tradition does not mean that the living are dead; it means that the dead are living. Living in our head.

Only a cheap curiosity could desire personal immortality. Man is immortal, but not men. We swim in the ocean that runs through time. All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream.

Lucky drank. He drank from the waters of his ancestors’ thought. He said: “Who then are the true philosophers? Those …who are the lovers of the vision of truth. Art is the communication of ecstasy, and as all things change, yet nothing perishes. And once a thing is written down, it will not be unwritten … once the word is written.