On Being Haunted

Last night, for the first time in years, I dreamed about my grandfather.

Some people might enjoy or feel grateful for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of their long-dead grandfather while they sleep.

Not I.

I actually dream about him all the time, only, it’s never really him. I’ll feel his presence close behind me, run from his shadow, black and bulbous on the wall. I’ll see him in the snarling dog that is snapping at my calves, the monster with the phallic arms that tries to grab my feet from beneath the floorboards. I smell him while I take a stroll through an abandoned village or sneak through a dilapidated building.

But last night, it was him.

I was myself, as I am now. A grown woman, but I was small. Much smaller than him. Like a child. I followed him as he limped and lumbered through the streets trying to avoid the husbands and grown companions of the women he had ruined while he was truly alive. I carried his belt, encased in glass, so heavy that I was hunched over from the weight of it.

I considered throwing it, making it shatter, ruining it while he stood outside the doors of a shop, peering in at a man he didn’t want to come face to face with. Yet, as I lifted it up, I saw that it wasn’t glass that the belt was inside of, but an ancient, thick type of resin that I knew would be unbreakable. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the belt was not a belt at all, but a snake. An Ouroboros! A snake, eating its own tail. Its eye was the deep blue stone that was once set in the large U.S. Army ring he wore.

This could mean a million things.

I still think the most fascinating part of the dream is the fact that he was whole. Solid. Alive. Again, it’s been years since I’ve dreamed of him this way, in this form. I could hear his wheezing breath and the way he would begin to gurgle before he’d need to cough to clear his lungs. I could smell his cigarettes. His Brut. I saw his faded green tattoos and his glazed over eyes. He wouldn’t look at me.

I haven’t been sleeping.

I’ve been trying, maybe a little too hard. But it’s too hot, too bright, too loud, no matter where I go or how I lie down. I take my benzodiazepines. I started having a drink or two to help them along. It doesn’t work. I can’t get to sleep until early morning when my body no longer feels like a tightly stretched rubber band, but more like a human being ready to rest. I wake up only a couple hours later with my children, knowing that I had nightmares, but being unable to recall them.

Maybe it was leading up to that.

Maybe he made an appearance because I’m having such a hard time with my youngest daughter, suddenly. Being triggered by her to the point that I feel I’m insane. She is, after all, about that age. The age that my eldest daughter was when I suddenly couldn’t touch her or hold her or be affectionate with her, when rage replaced motherliness. About the same age that I was when the abuse put me in the hospital. I thought that all the hard work I had done the last few years while this was an issue with my oldest would stop it from happening with my youngest, but it didn’t. I feel like I should have known that. I feel like I should have expected it.

Maybe it’s because in two short weeks I’ll be thirty years old. The age that I thought I would have my shit together by.

All these things that feel like failure. The demons long-fought that only reared back up as if I hadn’t been beating them down for years with all of the strength I could muster. And I wake up after having the first contact in years with the man who sexually abused me as an infant, toddler, and child — who has been dead for twenty-four years, and stare, in a detached sort of way, at the ginger cat asleep in the chair beside my bed, listening to my daughters sneak around the house as they dress for school. I send them off, take the hottest shower I can bear, and then what do I do..?

No, really. What do I do?