There is a herd of elephants in my living room. Sometimes there are so many elephants lolling about that there is hardly enough room for me to settle down, have a cup of tea and watch the Red Sox on a warm summer evening.
They are the elephants of my childhood. Snidely grinning elephants. Scary elephants. One pachyderm carries a belt. I know he’s going to beat me. Others smile sweetly. I don’t to trust those smiles. These are not real. The smiles are camouflage to hide an evil so deep it makes my blood turn watery.
For most of my life I had a recurring nightmare. I would be sitting in the middle of some particularly bucolic setting, a field, meadow or alongside babbling brook. The day would be perfect. Blue sky, puffy clouds and sunshine. I was happy. Content to sit and watch the birds, bunnies or butterflies. In the midst of this bucolic setting, the cute little creatures would transform into flying or crawling little monsters that would swarm over me. I’d wake up screaming, drenched in sweat.
The monsters were never the same twice. Sometimes they looked like spiders or snakes; other times, they resembled nothing in the real world. Perhaps they could have emerged from the primordial ooze or a sleazy horror movie.
Always there were many monsters attacking simultaneously. Escape was impossible and in any case, I was paralyzed with terror unable to run, barely able to scream. Only waking ended the attack. But not the fear. The fear stuck around.
The dream sometimes went away for a few months, but inevitably returned. And so it continued for more than forty years. Finally — a lifetime later — all the little monsters came together and formed a face. My father.
My eyes snapped open. I was fully awake and understood.
I never had the dream again.