Monday, June 6, 2005

Night terrors

I hear screaming in the night.

Zenella has night terrors. More and more often her sweet dreams are interrupted by a vivid phantasmagoria, usually consisting of giant insects, spiders with huge teeth and vague but unpleasant monsters. This night giant chickens are menacing her. Mrs Zen had some food poisoning after eating a cold cut of chicken. Zenella is suggestive. Her fantasy world is cut from the cloth of our daily life.

I bring her downstairs. I stroke her hair until she falls asleep. It doesn't take long.

I am a rock for her. It is the single most wonderful thing about my life. It is the most value I have.


Sometimes I hear screaming in the night. Girls, just girls playing. How will I know if it is one time someone who is not playing?

I will not know.

I used to have a fantasy when I was a young man. I pictured myself walking past an alleyway, witnessing an assault on a woman.

You hear about people walking by, pretending that they did not see.

I dreamed that I would not pretend, that I would step into the alley, pull the man from the girl. I could feel the knife in my stomach, hear the woman's heels on the road as she ran for her life. The soft touch of the paramedic's hand as I was taken to hospital. A hero. Someone who did not pretend.

I don't ask myself whether I am still man enough to risk everything for someone I do not know.


I hear screaming in the night. I have woken myself. I untwist my sheets and the doona and try to be calm.

When I was a child, some nights I was so scared of dying in my sleep that I would stay awake for hours until I passed out. I could ask myself why I want so much more life when I do so little with what I have, but I do not. There is nothing rational in a fear of death, and everything rational in it.

Sometimes, I listen to a piece of music and I cannot rid myself of an intense envy of those who will be able to listen to it when I am no longer here. That I will not be there!

How many moments will I have? Will my days be good or bad? I know they can be good. I know I have the power to make them that way. I know I can step into the alleyway of my own life. Or just pretend. Walk away and drift into oblivion, which awaits, I cannot pretend there is anything else.


If I could trade for eternal life for Zenella, I would give every one of those moments, every one of those days. I would not hesitate. But I cannot. It is the same for us all.