My Brain is a Jerk.

I’ve mentioned before how my dreams are annoyingly literal. I rarely have to spend any time pondering, “I wonder what that meant.” Yes, even REMpam is a Wonder Killer.

How literal? Well, to be extremely graphic, I once had a dream in college where a notoriously tough professor was butt-raping me in front of the entire class to prove a point about the importance of authenticity in acting technique.

LITERAL.

IT IS NOT FUN TO BE DREAM ME.

What appears to be happening now is that the ones that are slightly cryptic, or at least the most frustrating, anxiety-inducing dreams, are turning into recurring ones. Like my brain, which craves answers for all things at all times, will not let these dreams go until they’re rotated like Rubik’s Cubes in my head every other month or so. I’ve noticed they’ll stop recurring if I have the (extremely rare) lucid moment, that “Wait. I am dreaming!” realization that is the best feeling of all time. When you can look to your left and go, “Evil monster coming at my face, you are a dream! And huzzah, I am about to jump over you!” and then you do.

Before I dive into this next paragraph, I feel a warning is in order: this is kinda hokey. What I’m about to tell you, if you were telling me, I would be like, “You are full of shit and I now equate you with conspiracy theorists and that one relationship counselor I had who believed putting your hands on different colors would give you enough energy that you could heal your innards.”

I do not have great dreams. When I’m asleep, chances are I’m having some kind of nightmare. Maybe that’s too strong of a word for most of the dreams. Most of the dreams are horrible situations I’m in and can’t escape, or terribly anxious dreams that seemingly won’t end. So, at some point a psychology teacher in college (I think) suggested I try to teach myself how to lucid dream. And honestly, when you’re doing the actual “training” you feel like an idiot.

…Until that time I thought a monster was coming at me, when I suddenly realized there were no real monsters, and therefore I was dreaming, and therefore I got to decide what happened next. That was awesome, and I highly recommend it to all of you.

But back to the sticky brain teaser dreams. Maybe if I just list them out and answer them for myself, if I can see the answers next to the questions, like a study guide, my brain will let them go. Because there’s no real rest on the nights when these dreams happen.

1. I kiss a boy and then suddenly remember that I actually have a (very real) boyfriend.

My brain is such a dick. Why put REMpam through such a stupid situation? And it’s always this like, half-kiss, where suddenly we’re in a pool or someone’s car or something and I’m thinking, “Wait, does this guy like me?” and then there’s some excuse for someone to lean near someone else and then I’m kissing someone and I will immediately remember that I’m dating someone. This is horrible! There’s no going back but I wouldn’t have even gone there if I remembered that I had a boyfriend before I half-kissed someone in the back of a stranger’s car. This is a recurring theme: I had no way of escaping the situation I’m suddenly in because I wasn’t given enough information beforehand to have made the right choice.

I have decided that this dream is happening over and over again because of unresolved anger I have from high school, where I was repeatedly kissed by boys who would then “remember” why they weren’t supposed to kiss me. Everything from “we’re better as friends” to “I don’t remember kissing you; I must have been asleep” to, yes, actually, “Oh, shit. I just remembered I have a girlfriend.”

And — full-on pathetic confession here — all three of those things were said to me MORE THAN ONCE by MORE THAN ONE BOY — I’ve obviously spent some time wondering, “How?! How is that possible?! Why does this keep happening to me?! How many boys have Sleep Kissing Disorder?!”

If you were me in high school, a surprising number of boys had Sleep Kissing Disorder. It’s a terrible illness, that can surprisingly affect young men even during non-sleep hours, like three in the afternoon. If left untreated, it can develop into the even more destructive Sleep Dry-Humping Disorder. Which I don’t want to talk about.

2. Here’s the baby you suddenly own. Have fun, Pam.

I say “own” because rarely is there any kind of birth, and sometimes the child is clearly not mine in the slightest. Nevertheless, it is now very much my baby, and it’s my job to take care of it, even if that baby is missing all of its limbs and lives in a Christmas stocking. (Y’all shut up. That baby is a gift.)

My decision: this dream is because I don’t have a baby but part of my brain is like, “But you’re really kind of old to not have a baby. You sure? You sure you didn’t have a baby at some point that you just kind of forgot about? I mean, last night you suddenly remembered you had a boyfriend. Maybe there’s a baby, too.” Plus I worry about random babies all the time. If there’s a baby even slightly unattended in public, I’m zoned in on that baby. I had to stop going to this one coffee shop because the front door opened right onto an extremely busy intersection, and children would just go dashing toward the glass, hands up, trying to entice their parents into a fun game of “chase.” There were times when the parents didn’t make it over there before the door was open and all I could think was, “Five more seconds and that kid is dead.” It kind of ruins the latte.

3. Dead body in the trunk. Someone tells me that I killed it.

You can see the recurring theme, here. This is clearly my fear of being in trouble. This is the classic Honor Roll dream. If I could stop this one, I’d be so happy, because it’s the kind that’s so real that when I wake up my first thought is, “I’m on the lam. Where’s my gun?”

I hate this one because it always seems so plausible. REMpam always believes, every time, that she must have blacked out at some point and went on a killing spree.

One of my friends says her enemy is injustice, that nothing gets her more upset than that. I think I have a fear of injustice, that it’s just so easy to get in trouble for something you didn’t do. They make a lot of movies about that very premise! I’m always worried it’s about to be my turn.

4. I can never get to the floor of the building I need to get to, no matter how hard I try.

Oh, this one is the worst! I take the stairs, somehow they skipped the floor I needed. I take the elevator, it only goes down. I climb over balconies, there’s no way in. Just… nope. Can’t get there. Giant meeting I’m missing, my life is ruined.

And this building with the Escher design, I keep going there. I’ve been to this building in about ten dreams. I know because one of the floors (that I can’t get to) has the stage where I’m often supposed to be performing in a show that I don’t know or haven’t done in fifteen years.

5. Dad never died. He was just “away” for a few years.

This is the most infuriating, heartbreaking recurring dream. Dad will just waltz into the house or my apartment or my office or something and I’ll be like, “Are you kidding me? We mourned you!” Usually Dad’s pretty apathetic about the whole thing. Saying, “I didn’t know,” like that’s some kind of excuse to go missing for eight years. I guess this one isn’t that cryptic, really. I’m hoping he’s just somewhere else and is coming back, and then my literal brain treats that wish how it would really go, that my dad would shrug and say, “Oh. Well, I’m not dead. Ta-da.” And then ask me to hand him the remote and get him a glass of ice water.

6. I’m suddenly enormous, and apparently I’m the only one who didn’t know I’d gained two hundred pounds.

This dream I hate because it’s so uncomfortable. I mean physically, it doesn’t feel good to dream this weight on top of me. I only know that it’s hard to move, and it’s not until I look into a mirror that I’m like, “When did THIS happen?!” And someone will say, “Oh, thank god you finally noticed. We didn’t know how to bring it up. You’re so sensitive. But yeah, you’re huge.”

Literal REMpam is probably hanging onto fears that I could gain back a large amount of weight I once lost. I remember when I’d gotten that heavy (see: Dad died), I had no idea it was that bad until a doctor said, “Let me know if you want to discuss some weight loss techniques, on account of you being morbidly obese.”

I remember being so outraged. That night, as I shoved egg rolls and martinis into my face, I wailed to my friend, “Can you believe that guy?! How could he say that to me! Do you think I’m morbidly obese?!”

And my sweet friend took his time before saying, gently, lovingly, “Of course not.”

In all honesty, I don’t think I’d actually reached morbidly obese levels. I’ve seen pictures from that time, and at no point was someone in my real life going, “I am worried her heart can’t handle those stairs.” I never was the size of REMpam in those big-girl dreams. But everybody on my dad’s side of the family once was, and I guess it’s in there, living in my brain, always letting me know, “This could be you, at any time.”

And as I sit here in my hotel room in Washington DC, sort of nervous to step outside and wander because Honor Roll is worried she’ll get lost and end up late to her signing — which is preposterous because I carry a GPS at all times called an iPhone, and I do believe this hotel is a fifteen-minute walk from the bookstore, and a half-hour walk from the White House, so someone could probably help me out — I realize that all those dreams are probably my anxieties about not accomplishing enough. About not doing everything I hope to do with my life. About not being the person I want to be. That I’m missing out on some knowledge, some experience, somebody.

I can’t wake up in the middle of those dreams and take control because there’s nothing to control. I can’t change the reality in those dreams, nor can I change who I am in those dreams. There’s no monster to jump, no burning building to fly far away from. It’s just me and my worries. And sometimes a gun. But if the gun’s there, I know that means it’s only going to get worse.

So maybe I keep having those dreams to keep my real life in check. That if the worst happens to me when I’m asleep, then my real life has all this room for the good stuff. At least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for years, because these nightmares don’t seem to be going anywhere, no matter how many times I tell myself, “It was only a dream.”