In my dreams, I can never throw a punch. My arms move slowly and stop before connecting. Maybe everything in dreams is slowed down. Last night I dreamt I was shaving and cut open my chest, and inside the wound, I saw my heart beating. Either I need a new razor, or I’m trying to get something out.
My school bus ride as a kid was short in the morning, since they picked us up after doing a loop along the river, but nearly an hour going home. I could walk the three miles in less time, and certainly less hassle. My brother was already a marked target for mild abuse, and so they had it in for me on my first day of middle school. One day I was hit on the back of my head with a hammer. A steel hammer, to the head. If everyone on the bus was hit once with the hammer, I might not have taken it personally. I later took my revenge on the bus seats, slashing them open with a knife.
Children’s fights are an inevitable part of their development, but usually there’s an adult around soon enough to break it up. My mom encouraged me one day, after I complained about getting picked on, to just hit the kid. So I did; a sucker punch to the thorax. It was like starting a barn fire. I’d gotten away, having stunned the boy, but by the next day I would have to free up the rest of my week for the ceremonial parries and fistfights that were planned for us by the bigger kids.
I was sick with fear and yet emboldened by all the hubbub we’d created around this upcoming fight. I didn’t take last-minute boxing lessons as did Peter on The Brady Bunch, I just lobbed my arms around in my opponent’s direction. I wanted to win; I felt like dying. It started to rain; it got messy. I bloodied his nose somehow, I ended up taking a few punches, then giving up and running away crying. My brother was there, and while I didn’t assume he’d fight my battle for me, he was just another one in the small mob of spectators giving passive assent to this confusing episode.
In my dreams, I always lose the fight. If chased, I’m usually caught, or I wake up. My attackers do exactly what I feared -- I’m trapped, I’m outnumbered, I’m afraid and they are not. Also, I memorably never aggressively go for or get the girl in my erotic dreams. I’ve heard that you can “steer” your dreams, which sounds like a good idea.
My earliest memories are of my parents fighting. It sticks in the mind, like getting your first electrical shock or having the wind knocked out of you. Not long after my fight in the yard, my mom and stepdad got into a fight outside the house on Thanksgiving day, an embarrassing display of violence that left the family stunned and myself in detached denial.
As an adult, I like to think that my fighting days are limited to my self-defense in some unforeseen attack while walking in a city. However, that hasn’t been the case. I have been stared down, pushed, and punched while at work. I’ve been the soundman for bands in a bar, which can be an unpredictable environment with emotionally hyped performers and altered minds.
Being the victim — or at the mercy — of someone else’s unhappiness and anger is a tough one for me to reconcile. I find myself wrapped up in fantasies of rage and revenge that make my head spin, but then I come back down to earth. I’d more easily digest a random robbery.
In my dreams, I can fly. I am completely adept in all floating maneuvers on the ground and high in the sky. Mostly I am concerned with colliding with tree branches and electrical lines, passing a few birds. But that’s only for the first few moments of ascent, then I really get flying. I soar willfully at great velocity. Descending is a joyful feeling, and I allow myself to skid along the ground when I safely land.