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- look beneath the surface of an ideal future at what can go terribly wrong

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Dream State

/ by John Johnson /

I spend a lot of time in bed. Let's face it, I like to sleep. I'm tired most all the time, but that's only part of why I WANT to sleep. I'm an adult and I should be able to do what I want. It's not like I HAVE to do most other things, besides working to pay the bills. I live alone in an apartment. I don't have a car. I don't have a yard to mow. I don't have kids or dogs or cats or even a goldfish to feed. I get by without hardly any commitments. I don't get in other people's faces, and they don't get in mine. So, I don't see why anyone else should think I have a problem... but, they do. That's why I'm forced to write this stupid journal.

Here's my typical day:

  1. Get up in the morning by 8:05. (I have it timed so I can wait until the last minute, which I think is clever, because I'm worth more if I'm fully rested, right?)
  2. Shit. Shower. Shave.
  3. Take some Advil and a Sudafed. (This helps be be more alert, and function when I'm achy or when my hay fever is bothering me. Good idea, right? Of course, now I have to take these prescription pills as well, which I read could make me suicidal or sleepwalk in the nude in the middle of the night (which is frowned upon in my town). Thanks a lot doc!)
  4. Walk to work by 9:00. (I work at the public library, and that's when they open.)
  5. Work for my 8.5 hours and then punch out.
  6. Pick up dinner on the way home (usually).
  7. Change into something comfortable. Eat. Watch some TV. Go to bed

That's basically it. Sometimes I have to pick up another shift, but that's usually how workdays go. Nothing too exciting, but that's not a crime. I mean, I don't do a lot because it's just too fucking expensive. I have a low key life. Not everyone can live a rock star life.

Okay, I've written my "assignment". I'm going to bed now. It's my day off and I'm feeling burnt out from a long week of work. Maybe next time I'll write about how exciting (not) my job is. Anyway, I have more excitement in my dreams, so I'll see ya later.

.....

I had a really good dream just now and I wanted to write it down. Actually, I am supposed to write them down. My doctor things dreams are these mysterious things that will explain why I am so fucked up. Well, sometimes a cigar is just a fucking cigar.

So, in my dream, I was at work. It isn't all that unusual that I dream about work, but usually my dreams aren't as cool. Usually they are hard to remember when I wake up, but this one I still remember as clear as day. I had a shitload of books to return to the stacks, and I had just sorted them out when I heard some screaming at the circulation desk. I admit, working at the library is usually the most boring civil servant job a person could get, so this kind of shit could only happen in a dream. For some reason, there were three guys with guns. It was so vivid. I noticed all these little details. The main guy had five o'clock shadow, and he had a scar on his cheek. He was waiving around a 45 Magnum. The other two wore bandanas and they were holding bags and it occurred to me that they might have just robbed the bank next door. They probably figured there wouldn't be many people at the library, which is true, because most people just use the Internet and not too many hang out at the public library.

Instead of looking for a phone to dial for help, I was all confident, which is a change, and I used a library terminal to start print jobs on the printer behind where they stood, near the reference librarian's desk. Then, while they were distracted I popped up from behind a rolling cart of books and went Bruce Lee on them. It was crazy. I took them out, and then cops showed up in riot gear screaming for everyone to get down on the floor. I was like some kind of hero. It was so damn cool.

.....

My doctor doesn't think I'm writing as often as I should. He thinks I should pretend like I am talking to strangers and tell them more about who I am and what I like. Fine, I'll indulge the guy so we can stop these stupid sessions and I can get back to my normal life.

I grew up in the suburbs. My mother was a nurse and my father sold insurance. We lived in a lower-middle class neighborhood, in a split-level house that wasn't anything fancy. My parents were both workaholics. They always seemed to argue about bills, and they mostly ignored me and by the time they got home from work, I was usually locked in my bedroom in the basement so they never saw me and as long as I got C-grades or better they never felt the need to sit me down and lecture me on why I was such a disappointment. But, I am sure they felt that way. I was a model student in elementary school, like so many kids. But, by the time I was in high school, I was simply going through the motions and putting in minimal effort. I'm not stupid or anything, in fact I always tested a couple grades higher, when I cared enough to take the standardized tests, but as I got older, I lost my motivation and basically set cruise control.

My dad had a heart attack and died when I was in high school. My parents had me later in life, I was their mid-life surprise, so my father had just turned 61 when he keeled over one day at the office. He had always been the poster child for stress. I never knew a time when he wasn't taking pills for high blood pressure, high cholesterol or some stress-related ailment. He was a good father. He never hit my mother or paid a bill late, but he stressed out over everything. I think that might be one reason why I avoided conflict, and stress at all costs. Given that he was an insurance salesman, you'd have thought he'd have had a better life insurance policy than he did. What he left my mom was enough to keep paying the bills and making ends meet, but it wasn't enough to let her retire when she turned 65. She only works part-time now, and lives in "assisted living" apartments, but she still works as a nurse, stabbing small children with needles and taking blood pressure from fat old men.

I moved out after high school, and decided to work for a while instead of going to college. It was a mistake, but now I'm 23 and don't see myself going back to school. I'm just another guy with a high school diploma, working in a dead-end job that pays minimum wage. I make ends meet, and pay the bills, but I don't have much of a life beyond that. For a couple years, I played a lot of online games, but over the past year my allergies have gotten worse and I think that makes me more tired. For the lack of anything better to do, I admit I do sleep a lot, but I enjoy it. People have all sorts of hobbies... I guess mine is oversleeping.

I've always been good at sleeping. I mean, if it was an Olympic sport, I'd be a gold medal winner. My dreams are lucid and broadcast in vivid technicolor. In my dreams, I don't have stress or guilt, and I don't have people judging me. I make them turn out in my favor. They always have happy endings, as opposed to real life. That doesn't make me anti-social or sick, but it makes some people (Mom) worry, and thus my bi-weekly office visits with the shrink. That, and the incident.

I really think people should worry less about blaming me and more about doing their own jobs. We have a new manager at work. He came in from another branch, and decided to make changes that nobody thinks are needed. Stupid things, like painting a reading room light blue so people would be "happier" when they read their books. It seems like a waste of money to me, but I didn't say anything. That is, until his assistant caught me taking a quick catnap on the job. I was really just resting my head. My allergies were acting up and I didn't have my pills. I thought it was reasonable, but he hauled me into his office and read me the riot act. It was crazy. I didn't react well. I told him what I thought of him and his stupid ideas, and, I was fully expecting him to fire me on the spot. I deserved it. I'm not the best employee, and if I had to find another job it wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. Nobody there really respects me. They all think of me as a loser and talk behind my back, I'm sure of it. Of course, that is partially my fault for not being very motivated, but i know if I wanted to, I could do any of their jobs. I'd probably be more motivated if they paid me more. Geesh! So, instead of firing me, they force me to see a shrink. Something about the city's non-discrimination policy.

.....

It's a strange thing, but I am having dreams about work more often now. They are just as real and boring as my actual job. That's depressing, huh? Maybe I should watch some more TV. I can't afford many channels, and I hate watching news. I can probably snag the cable from the lady upstairs, and plug it into my TV socket at the cable TV box. She goes to bed early and won't notice. I'll just have to remember to swap it back tomorrow. I'm not a suicidal person, but my life sucks. I don't know how much more boring and pointless it can get.

.....

My doctor wants me to write about something I like. Something that makes me feel good, and I'm not supposed to say sleeping. I don't have a lot that motivates me. I don't have a car (which is my excuse for not visiting Mom more often). Even in high school I didn't have many people I'd call friends. I guess there's not much in this reality that turns me on, but I'll try to answer his question.

I guess I like the feel of fresh, crisp linen bed sheets. I like to come home after a long day of tedious meaningless work and open the door to my bedroom and see a clean, neatly made bed. I have my bedroom set up like a hotel room. Everything is in its place, and you'd think a maid just cleaned the room and turned down the bed sheets. There it is, beckoning me to crawl in naked and feel the erotic high-thread count sheets against my tired, aching body. It is as close as I will probably ever get to a truly orgasmic experience. Aren't you sad for me? Well, don't be. If you don't know what it is like to be exhausted and take a hot shower and crawl into a fresh made bed naked, letting the touch of the cool linen wash over you, causing your nerves to tingle and your muscles to gently relax as you close your eyes and drift off into slumber, you don't know what you're missing. I work hard to make sure that is what I experience most every night. That is the one place I have indulged, in setting up my room and in buying the perfect mattress on which to sleep for hours and hours, uninterrupted. I don't toss and turn like most of you, I am cradled in the soft embrace of my pillow-top, comfort plus, well manicured bed. White and clean and pressed and soft enough that you sink in, but not so forgiving that you wake up eight hours later with a backache. Even if a schmuck like me could get a girlfriend, I wouldn't sully this experience by inviting someone else into my bed. This is my lover. This is my lust. This is my love.

.....

I had a rotten day again at work today. It wasn't anything in particular, but I could hear people saying things about me when I passed by. The furtive glances and hushed laughing behind my back was all too blatant. Maybe I should just quit and find another job. If I can put some money aside, maybe I will, because I know it will take a couple weeks to find something with a regular schedule that is as "low impact" as this job is. I'll sleep on it.

.....

Over the weekend i did nothing. No one required anything of me, and I didn't need groceries so I slept in. I got up to pee around noon on Saturday, and after a big bowl of cereal, I went back for a nap that took me to 8pm. I was really feeling exhausted, and the more I slept, the more tired I grew until I could hardly move. On Sunday, the phone rang once, but I ignored it and couldn't think of a good reason to get out of bed. I relished every minute of my sleep, and made love to the bed over and over. In my dreams, my job even seemed interesting, and I slept for so long that I dreamed of talking to my shrink and writing in my journal (he hates when I refer to him as a shrink). The world passed by, oblivious to my situation and I couldn't have cared less.

....

Doc wants me to talk about something else I care about. Lately, I've been eating more cereal. It is nutritious, tasty and easy to make. Plus, it's cheap, so dear ol' dad would approve. I have always loved cereal, but lately I have elevated cereal eating to an art form.

I have rules for eating my cereal, it has to be the right flavor and texture, and that involves using the right milk and allowing it to sit just long enough, but not too long.

I have several different cereals that are my favorites. Sometimes I am in the mood for flakes; maple flavored or the sugary frosted kind. Other times I want a honey-flavored puff cereal. Yet again, I might want loops: Fruit loops or Apple Jacks are good. Life cereal hits the spots sometimes, and it gets denser in milk, so I can pack more onto my spoon when I am particularly hungry. lately, I have been buying Cookie Crisp, because of the obvious crispness, and the chocolate flavor. The milk is always cold skim milk, poured on the top. This is when the clock starts ticking. If I bite into a big tablespoon-full of Cookie Crisp or a similar "crisp" cereal, I cut the roof of my mouth, so I must wait for it to start to soften. If I let it sit for a few minutes and come back later, it will be soggy and limp. So, I usually wait about a minute and then quickly work through a full bowl of cereal. I don't drink all the milk, instead leaving it for a refill of the bowl with cereal. That makes the milk more strongly flavored, when I finally get down to upending the bowl and slurping down the last pieces of cereal and sugary milk. In one meal I have eaten, drank and gotten a good sugar high. You can't beat that experience with a reheated burrito!

.....

I continue to go to therapy sessions, and I continue to be told that I must make an effort at having a more eventful life. I will try. I still think it's all pointless, but I enjoy proving my "shrink" wrong.

My shrink thinks I am not taking this seriously enough, because I wrote about how much I like cereal. But, I really DO like cereal a lot!

.....

I have been having more dreams that parallel my real life. Unlike most people, when I dream it is very realistic and real to me. It isn't just fleeting moments that quickly fade when i wake up, these are long and often boring stories that aren't much different from my boring daily life. Last night, I dreamt that I got off shift and went grocery shopping for 45 minutes. I literally dreamt of going up and down every aisle, as if I were awake. I found myself dreaming of picking out cereal and feeling melons, for god's sake.

Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe I can make some real life friends, and not feel as tired and addicted to the sleep when I come home. Maybe the doc is right.

.....

I've been putting in an effort to come out of my shell, and it's paying off. Damn that doctor for being right. I stopped by the store on the way home yesterday after work, and met a girl. She smiled at me. Now I can distinguish between the dreams and reality, I really have a girl who might like me!

.....

Things are going better in real life. People are being more friendly at work, since I am more confident, and I am more confident because I've been talking to the girl at the store. She agreed to go out this weekend. I guess I will leave the house after all.

.....

I've stopped taking my pills. All of them. I don't think I need them. I didn't ask the doctor, but I'm sure he'd agree that I've changed a lot the past few weeks, just through willpower alone. It is amazing how much of a change you can make if you just act on your impulses.

My dreams still involve all the things I used to think were mundane and boring about my life, but I dream less now. I sleep less now. I leave the house more often to meet friends. I have a girlfriend. I am motivated. It's ironic, I feel like I am living a dream life. LOL. The smells and colors every day are becoming more brilliant, and all the things that bored me are becoming faded and fleeting and less frequent. In my dreams, I am performing worse at work, showing up late, this close to being fired. All I do is eat cereal and go to directly to bed after coming home. I don't have any friends and nobody says anything nice to my face. I am gaining weight and getting depressed. Yet, when I "go to sleep" in my dream, I awaken in real life and feel great. I get to work early, I even think I am impressing the boss enough to get a raise.

.....

I seldom sleep these days, beyond the regular eight hours, and when I dream, the dreams are so lackluster that I quickly forget them. What I can remember of the dreams is that they are usually still about a pathetic guy who struggles at his job, and collapses, exhausted on his bed as soon as he returns home. While that version of me has his life falling apart, my real life couldn't be more the total opposite. The dreaming that used to be so important is now just perfunctory and in the background. I've stopped seeing the doctor, so this is probably my last journal entry. I have a steady girlfriend that I love, and I think I'm going to ask her to marry me. With my raise, I bought a car last week, and I make a point of visiting my mother every weekend, which I always felt guilty about. I am even getting a promotion at work. Everyone started to like me a lot more after I helped the cops catch those criminals who hid out in the library. In fact, last week there was a small fire at work, and I put it out single handedly. By the end of the year, I might be running things. My new friends at work have been trying to convince me to run for city council. Who needs dreams when you've got an actual life that is as vivid and exciting as this?

 

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