catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 18 :: 2010.10.08 — 2010.10.21


Naked dreams

I am sitting in class, trying to appear composed and attentive, all the while desperately trying to figure out why no one has noticed that I am completely naked from the waist up.  What is the best thing to do in this situation?  Should I cross my arms over my chest to cover my bare breasts, or should I lean back, relax, and behave as though this is completely normal?  Glancing around the room, I see that no one else is naked — just me.  What is going on here?  Was I the only person who remembered that today was “No Shirt Day?”  The teacher asks the class a question.  I know the answer.  I want to raise my hand, but then, will people look at me and figure out that I’m not wearing any clothes?  Can I make my backpack into a makeshift shirt?  Or what about this book?  Maybe someone is bringing me clothes to put on after class.  Is it possible that I’m right and everyone else is wrong?

The girl sitting in front of me has three angry red zits on the back of her neck.  They must be bothering her because she keeps reaching back and picking at them, rubbing her skin and smoothing the tendrils of hair that have escaped her bun.  Her hair is an uninteresting shade of muddy brown, faintly greasy and limp.  She turns her head and I notice her glasses, unflattering and unfashionable, her sharp nose, her thin mouth.  She is thin, with a shape like a fence post, all hard lines and plain angles, her clothes hanging on her like an afterthought.  I see her chipped green nail polish, her rhinestone-studded sandals, the small hole starting to unravel on the left elbow of her sweater.

I am walking to class.  I think.  Only I can’t quite remember what class or where it is.  Come to think of it, have I even been to this class this semester?  Somehow it dawns on me that I’ve forgotten to go at all.  And I think that I have a test today.  Is it too late to drop the class?  I think probably it is, based on the fact that the test today is the semester final and my whole grade depends on it.  But that means I’m going to fail.  I am going to get an actual “F” on my report card. A feeling of dread curls in my stomach.  Wait.  Maybe I should pick up my mail on my way to class.  But where is my mailbox?  Have I forgotten that, too?  Oh, here it is.   I insert my key in the lock and see piles and piles and piles of paper — important messages, bills due, notices of meetings that I’ve missed.  I can’t carry all this.  Can I just shut the door and forget it’s here?  That feeling of dread is quietly morphing into panic.  Wait.  Who’s watching my kids right now?    

I see her at the park, sitting on a bench, busily punching buttons on a cell phone.  Her two thumbs are the only parts of her body in motion; the rest of her is slumped and still.  Next to her are two open soda cans, some scattered potato chip crumbs and a half-eaten Twinkie.  Occasionally she glances up at the two children running and screaming at each other on the playground, pretending to shoot each other with plastic water guns.  The kids have dirty faces and matted hair, holes in their sweat pants, stains on their Transformers t-shirts.  “Mom!” one of them calls, “Watch me!”  She doesn’t look up.  “MOM!” he calls again.  “MOMMOMMOM!  Watch!”  Finally her head snaps up and she yells “WHAT?”  “Mom, watch this!” he calls and then flings himself down the longest slide on the playground.  She has looked down again before he reaches the bottom.  “Did you see me?” he yells.  “Yes” she calls back, her eyes on her phone.   

I am standing in front of my class discussing tragedy in Hamlet or is it the proper use of semi-colons, and I look at the white board and realize I have no idea how to read any of the words written there.  Anxiety prickles my skin as I flounder for a few minutes, trying to put the pieces together when suddenly a door opens and that parent walks in, followed by the principal and the president of the school board.  Before they even speak, I am afraid.  “I’m sorry, Mrs. Monroe,” says my boss, “we’ve had quite a few complaints about you recently and so I’ve been reviewing your file and it seems that we accidentally hired the wrong person.  It turns out that you aren’t qualified to teach English at all.  You are, actually, a fraud and we’re going to have to ask you to leave.”  I hang my head in shame and slowly make my way out the door.

There are no good sermons and no bad sermons, only short sermons and long sermons, and this one has been dragging on for what seems like hours now, with no signs of stopping any time soon.  Has this man even read today’s text before this morning?  Does he even have the smallest clue what he is talking about?  It’s not just that this is boring.  Boring isn’t the worst thing, but this sermon has surpassed the boundary of boring and is bordering on the criminally incompetent, the way he is completely butchering the entire passage.  There he goes, side-stepping the critical issues that might actually cause some people to think and instead reading a touchy-feely story that he found at  This man might have a degree from a school of higher theological education and he might have 10 years of experience as a pastor, but he is absolutely unqualified to preach to me.    

I have to get there, and I have to get there now.  In fact, I need to run, but for some reason my legs and feet don’t move like they’re supposed to.  I feel like I’m running in slow motion, my whole body is heavy and weighted like it’s made of stone.  The world around me blurs and I can only see the tops of my shoes.  I can only hear the sound of my own heavy breathing.  I’ve been doing this for hours and I’ve only moved a few feet.  But I have to get there.  Fear sprouts and grows inside of me until it feels like it’s wrapped around my windpipe like a morning glory vine, clogging my throat and making it hard to breathe.  I have to get there, but I just can’t.  Something terrible is about to happen and I’m not going to be able to stop it, but I have to try.  I have to try to get there.

I take a deep breath and try, like a good friend, to focus on what she is saying.  Her life is falling apart, again.  Nothing ever seems to go right, no matter what she does.  Her husband, her kids, her job, everything is just so hard.  And now there’s this struggle with depression.  Depression.  Did people in first-century Palestine get depressed?  Did people in the Middle Ages fight with self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy?  Isn’t this something we moderns have just made up so that we can claim everyone’s sympathy?  We all get sad sometimes, we just have to push through it, and pray, and maybe get a little                  counseling.  I suppose you can take drugs for that kind of thing, but I don’t know what I think about that.  Isn’t using a drug just masking a problem that you ought to be able to solve yourself? 

I am lying on a couch, staring up at the ceiling.  Seated next to me is a small man with a dark, pointed beard and round glasses.  He is scribbling on a pad of paper and keeps making non-committal noises like “Um hmmm. . . yes. . . interesting. . .”.  I am talking: “So, it seems like in all of my dreams I’m either late or lost or alone or afraid. I wish that just once I could dream something cool, like that I magically know kung fu or that I can fly.  Or maybe just plain strange dreams would be a nice change, you know, like dreaming that a pink elephant is stuck in my bathroom or that my bed is made out of marshmallows.”  I turn my head and see that the man has changed into a lion, wearing a dark suit, with the same glasses and beard.  This does not seem strange at all, considering that we are in the middle of the jungle.  The lion nods his head and says in his thick German accent, “Tell me more.”  “Well,” I begin, “It’s not like the danger that threatens me in my dreams is valid, like I’m fighting off bad guys or something.  Most of the time it’s just about what people will think.  I’m always afraid of messing up or of being found out, being exposed.  But I should know better than that, shouldn’t I?  I should know that it doesn’t matter what people think about me.  And anyway, most people are way nicer than that; they wouldn’t think less of me, just because I make some mistakes, would they?”  The glasses-wearing peacock sitting next to me arches its neck and then looks at me with an unblinking eye.  “So,” it says, mercilessly, “it seems that what you are afraid of is that everyone else is exactly like you.”

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