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Nightmares

For the past year and a half I have been having bad dreams.

Usually in the dreams I am young again, twelve, or fifteen, or whatever age needed to be under my parents' power once more.

There is only one emotion running powerfully through these dreams: anger. My parents' rage is the emotion that still, long after I threw them out of my life, continues to haunt me in my sleep.

I see my father's voice. An almost floral voice, lilted with a strong Asian accent, filled with venal authority and the capacity to wound ever present.

I see my mother's voice. It is a soft female voice, but the words it utters are anything but soft. Sharp as thorns, biting with sordid contempt, she lashes my passions and institutions.

It is guilt they command from me, guilt at not being good enough, for not being perfect, for not rendering the most yeoman service to them imaginable.

Shame for having forgotten to fold the laundry, anger at not picking him up on time, rage at having stayed late at school. Sometimes there is no reason, I see only the vision of their eyes, wide and glaring, as hostile as a guerrilla's.

Sometimes in the dreams I do what I never did as a teenager, I lash back at them. I fight them back, battling for survival, for the right to exist, the right to feel. I let the blood rise in my own veins and my own voice hears light. But victory is never mine. They continue to win. They have the emotional power, the financial power, the cynical disillusionment to press their point home.

I wake up in the morning, and my eyes take in a strange setting. Where am I? Only after a moment's reflection do I remember that have moved out, this is my own apartment, I am safe here, only memories have the power to wound. I have my own career now, my own home, my freedom and independence.

But the memory-dreams do not go away.

These dreams take their toll in more ways than one. They rob my sleep of its effectiveness and leave me drained and weary throughout the day. Medication helped control the dreams for a while, but is rapidly losing its power.

I live during the day, I go to work, I browse in bookstores or stroll down the streets, and I am happy, most of the time at least. Life is good here, solitary and lonely maybe but well-provided for.

But the night, the night is something else. The adult with the defense of his prosperity is gone and only the young, scared, guilty teenager is left.

Nothing is real.

S-youth, Sept. 10, 1997.