Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Nightmare

Inspired by the writer I previously posted about, I decided to end my work day today with a little reward to myself. I think this will be therapeutic, if not at least a much better way to spend the last 30 minutes of my day than working. You see, I've been feeling nostalgic lately, and every time I pass by a playground or I coach a game, or I ask my kids "what did you do today?", I catch myself fantasizing about the carefree nature of childhood, and missing those responsibility-free days of laughter and laziness. Then, just a couple of minutes ago, I was getting to the next of Allie's blog posts when it occurred to me that it wasn't always so easy as a kid. No, in fact, there was a significant period of my childhood...the night time hours, at least...that were dominated by a particular recurring nightmare.

A Giant Gorilla Chases Me Around the Apartment Complex at NIGHT!

Who knows what actually triggers these things in the supple and sponge-like mind of a young child, but if I had to guess, my parents were likely watching some old version of the movie King Kong, and I must have caught a glimpse of him at just the right moment.  The reason I guess that is because as memory serves, the image of the gorilla that ruthlessly chased me around the complex in the nightmare that haunted me for years looked a lot like this dude:

Comical in a Frosty the Snowman sort of way? To you, maybe. But to my 2-3 and probably 4 and 5 year old brain, this gorilla was a relentless, mean-spirited, evil hide-and-seeker with a sixth sense about which stairway I would take refuge in. He could smell me out even from behind the big green dumpster that I would hide behind. The same dumpster I had crashed my first bike head first into the day I dropped the training wheels. He was good, because he was BAD. I think a part of me would never run back into my own apartment, because I was always afraid I would lead him back to my quiet, peaceful sleeping family. I couldn't do that to them. I was responsible. I was accountable. 

I was probably about 4, but that's really how I always used to think back then. Childhood for me, it seems, had a more contemplative and thoughtful structure to it than for those kids I knew. I loved my autonomy, loved being free to ride my bike as far as it could take me, and I even enjoyed the sovereignty that watching my 3 younger siblings afforded me from a very young age. But I just couldn't seem to get away from that damn giant gorilla. 

And I mean he was a little over 2 stories tall. He would crouch down slightly behind the south side of the far building that my parents managed when I was but a youth. His black fur was hidden only by the night and the tan stucco exterior of those Idlewild Garden Apartments. I could feel him creeping on me, and then he would reveal himself and I would run, frantic, full of a terror so powerful I only experienced it in my worst dreams. It was the worst kind of never-ending nightmare, and I would often wake myself just before hitting the ground from a leap off of the 2nd floor stairwell, no doubt jumping to elude his final stretch to grab me squish my tiny body. 

I'm not sure how I ever stopped having that dream, to be honest, but I know it did finally stop. Part of me seems to remember taking a stand...perhaps ending in my demise or simply the end of the idea that was always subtext to the dream itself. And maybe I'm just too far removed from my childhood to really know what happened. Maybe that big hairy ape will show up again tonight trying to rattle my cage again...trying to send me back on that hamster wheel of fear and pain. Well, the joke is on him this time...I'm definitely up for a nightmare tussle with an oversized asshole, because when I wake up in the morning, I have a much more terrifying hamster wheel to get back on. This gorilla, it turns out, has been my way off of that wheel tonight and with that being said, I'm outta here. 

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