Trauma & Therapy
Trauma & Therapy
The Reality of Nightmares
The Reality of Nightmares
Old drawing of the Santa Monica freeway tunnel. Note the birds and ocean.
Another drawing of the tunnel. Note the lights in the tunnel. I forgot about that detail.
Today was the last Sunday for drawing. Apparently, the therapy was never meant to focus solely of painting. It was but one mean of delving into our dreams. And nightmares. Since I covered "dreams" in a previous update, I felt that I was reverting to old topics, but it was pointed out to me that all therapy is recycled, and its ultimate goal is to peel back the layers of denial that wall up our trauma.
Yeah, but Pajama Therapy??
Well, it was explained to me, it's not that cut and dried. This should really be called Design Therapy. It includes drawing and creative thinking. Since we all here in the group suffer from nightmares by night and paranoia by day, we are supposed to concentrate our sketches and ideas to "comfort clothing", that is, clothes that make up feel secure at night and during the day.
We brain-stormed several ideas and shared them with the group. For instance, I thought that a safari hat, you know, those hats that shield your face from the sun with a visor and protects the back of your neck with a drop-veil that shades the back of your head. I also mentioned that the drop-veil might roll out from a compartment where one could place an chemical ice-pack that fits around the back of the neck. Priest Horaguchi said, Good, and just what would this hat shield you from? I answered, It'll keep you cool in the heat. He continued, How would it reduce your paranoid thinking? I thought about it and said, It wouldn't. It'll keep you cool. He looked at me like I was trying to explain algebra with arithmetic.
So he went elsewhere. And that's when Norie brought up the pajamas. Good, and what would they shield you from? Horaguchi asked. From my nightmares. And they would just protect me; they'd protect everyone, because my nightmares affect all of us. Horaguchi nodded and said, Go on.
Norie nodded back and began: I have bad dreams. And when I wake up, I hear in the news echoes of my dreams. I dream of the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel, and the next day, the news reports that someone was attacked nearby the wheel or that something dead was pulled from the water underneath the pier, usually dead seagulls or cats. And I don't know why cats would be near water--they hate water. I'm sure they are dragged there. Or carried there. The aren't eaten. They're just dead. And all my dreams happen by the beach. Except for the first dream I had over and over when I returned home from the hospital. When the police were asking me questions about my disappearance, I thought it was important to tell them the dream. But they never wanted to note it down. They'd close their notebook when I started talking dreams.
That's when I started to share my dreams with Priest Horaguchi. It seemed I wasn't the only one who came to see our priest. Others came too with their own bad dreams. And that's when we started our therapy classes. It started with the dreams, then switched to various ways to understand why we were dreaming these things. Then the therapy changed, and changed again, as we tried to find a way to make the dreams mean something. But we just grew more and more frustrated. We lost some members. But then Professor Servante started his series on trauma, and we finally got him here. And it's been a group effort to try to keep him here. We see in him the frustrations we had early in our therapy. We started the Painting Therapy for him. But it's time to get back to dreams. I mean, no disrespect to the Professor, but that's why we're here. We're all being affected by bad dreams, and I don't think it's a coincidence that our communities are being affected too. Even the Professor saw the damage to the Petting Zoo after the storm. And he dreamed about it first.
So, let's get back to dreams. This is the first dream I had when I was returned to my home. I don't dream it anymore. They're worse now. But I want to start at the beginning. And then I'll talk about what I intend to do about it.
We're in a big cave with fires everywhere. There are lots of people moving around, their shadows stretching across the walls. There are groups of people moving in herds. There are shepherds guiding their groups around the fires. These shepherds are tall and faceless, more shadow than face. They have claws, long uncut nails, more knuckles than fingers. They have dirty cloaks that look like wings. They are wings. They float above their groups. They emerge from the black walls like bees from a honeycomb. They are all different. They pluck people from the groups. They fight with the shepherds. They are the shepherds. Their fighting is fierce but short, like two birds fighting over a scrap of food. I stand on a wide ledge. I can see the same scenes playing out on the ledge below, on the ledge above. Not so much on my ledge. There are many ledges. It is the same all the time. There is no day or night to measure weeks and months. This sameness is comforting. I don't get hungry. I am not scared. I stopped watching the fights. The moans and screams of the groups become background noise. It becomes normal. It is the moments of silence that are scary. In the last moment of silence, I saw Professor Servante emerge from the wall on my ledge. The walking and flying shepherds hide in the shadows. Then I see my father and Priest Horaguchi. I am confused. Familiar faces surround me. I am not alone on my ledge. We group together and follow the Professor. I fall asleep. I wake up.
If we had protection in the dream, we might be able to control it, or at least stop being afraid of it. What if we went to sleep wearing protective pajamas. In the Cactus Friends, they wear protective prickly suits to keep death, evil, and all bad things away, because whatever tries to touch them gets their finger picked by one of the needles on the cactus suit. My Manga characters, the Plumage Pvnks, wear bird suits so they can fly away from death, evil, and all bad things. I've been drawing bird pajama designs for my mom to sew together. I've got three suits so far. One for me, one for Suzie, and one for Bridget, my friend who is still in a coma. Suz and Bridge's parents already agreed to let the girls wear the pajamas.
The first pair of pajamas is ready. I put them on and went to sleep. They were a bit too soft and smooth and I kind of slid around in them when I tossed in bed. It felt like the pjs could slide around when I moved in my sleep, so I had my mom use a tougher material for the insides. On the second try, the pjs stayed fixed to my skin. A bit itchy, but that's okay. That'll wash out, my mom tells me.
Let me now tell you about my other dreams. I saw a man get killed by a big man in a trench coat who was floating above him. The dead man's body washed up in the Montebello riverbed. The Professor covered this news article in his blog. The man apparently got caught in a flash flood up by Arcadia and was carried by the San Gabriel River down to Montebello. The news said he was already dead when the flash flood hit. He was covered with scratches. Probably from branches and rocks in the river, the police told reporters.
That's not the way it happened in my dream. He tried to run away from the thing flying over his homeless shelter in the river basin where the water usually doesn't reach, except for flash floods. But the flash flood came later. The thing knocked over his shanty, his cardboard house. He was calling for help, but most of the other shanty people had gone when the police ordered them out before the storm hit.
In my dream, I was there. As the thing flew over the shanty, I tried to see its face in the hoodie. It was wearing a hoodie with the trench coat. It made sense in the dream. It didn't seem to have feet, except for when it knocked over the shanty and the man ran. As he screamed for help, the thing turned its head at me for a full second, a long second. Then it swooped down on the running man.
I thought in that moment if I had a Plumage Pvnk outfit on in the dream that I could have flown like we do in dreams and saved the man. The thing wouldn't or couldn't have hurt me because my outfit protected me. That's what I thought. Then I woke up with the pajamas idea. What if we went to sleep with the outfits? We'd be ready for the them, those things. Oh, yes, there's more than one. That's what my other dreams are about. The other ones. The hooded thing seems to be their leader. He's the one I remember most when I'm awake. He's the faceless man in the cavern. He's the flying thing in the dream.
That's what we need protection from. First in dream, then in waking time. I don't know how I can protect myself with pajamas when I awake, but protecting myself in dream is a start. Suzie and I need to plan how we can meet in dream in full costume. We need to use dream power to use the suits. It makes sense. I read a lot of Manga. I know it'll work.
Norie sat down.
Deputy Evelyn stood and added that other bodies were washing up along the southernmost coastline where the tangle of rivers drained into the Pacific. Most of the victims were homeless men and women. Thanks to law enforcement from the City of Duarte, the City of Arcadia, Pasadena, San Gabriel, Santa Monica, whose Homeless Project is tracked by Priest Horaguchi, and Long Beach PD, all the dead have been identified. Half of the victims were reported in the local newspapers of the above cities. The other victims, although identified, were not reported based on requests from immediate family. A handful of the victims could not be identified. Remember, these bodies washed up after the storms that tore up the Southland last winter. But it wasn't just the flash floods and the freezing temperatures that took the lives of these poor souls. There's the matter of this large man in the trench coat. Luckily just about everyone has a camera on their cell phone so we got plenty of pictures of this man. But these pictures are usually blurred by the rain or fog. Still, we do have something to work with. The local newspapers and the city law enforcement are working on finding this person of interest. He may just be a spectator who saw these victims get washed away by the rain. We just want to find him and ask him a few questions.
Norie resumed talking after Evelyn sat down. Let's not forget that it's not just people who are dying. Remember that in the Professor's neighborhood, the animals in the petting zoo were all killed.
I said loudly, A wind storm did that.
Norie said coldly, Not according to my dreams. I saw the drawings of the group. The "owl man" looks like the "trenchcoat man" from my dreams. How many people here dream of this man?
Everyone raised their hand. I was surprised to see SaraH and Horaguchi raise their hands. I didn't raise my hand. I folded my arms across my chest.
Norie continued, I will be wearing the swan pajamas to bed next week. Then if and when I meet the Owl Man in my dream, I'll be protected by the pajamas.
I forced a laugh. Will we all be given pajamas to wear to bed?
No. Just Suz, me, and Bridget.
Damn. This isn't exactly therapy anymore, is it? When do we get back to painting?
Evelyn stood again. I got nervous chills. Cops!
She said, As long as I've been reading your blog and your Facebook page, you've been hopping in and out of therapy, doctor offices, and social media shoulders to cry on. Now you can do something concrete. Even if we're just spinning our wheels, this group will be helping three young girls, and in so doing, we'll be helping ourselves. We won't be taking on the Owl Man. That's a matter for the police. We'll be facing the Owl Man of our dreams. It just seems like a big coincidence that this Owl Man or Trench Coat man is the one thing we all have in common. If he's in our dreams, that means there's a real memory of a real person behind such dreams. If we can help the girls defeat him in their dreams, then we can awaken the real memory of this man. Isn't that why you're here? To remember what you've been blocking since last August 2018? What are you afraid of? Remembering? All the doctors, drugs, and therapy have led you here. It's time to try the latest therapy. Pajama Therapy. We going to chase the Owl Man out of our dreams and bring him into our waking world where the Law can take care of him. I firmly believe this man is responsible for the abductions of these girls. We've all been traumatized by the abduction of these girls. If we want closure, we need to help the girls, and the girls need to wear the pajamas. It's a tool, a security blanket. When we run into this beast in our dreams, we run away, we wake up, we avoid confronting him. Now's our chance to confront the bastard. I think I speak for everyone here.
Everyone looked at me. I unfolded my arms and shrugged my shoulders. I spoke my piece:
When I was about ten years old, a child molester tricked me into his car. It was late evening, dark. I was walking home from the movies. I was about a block away from my front door. It was a Saturday. I remember because I knew everyone, my dad, my older brother, my younger brother, would be listening to the Dodgers game on the radio in the kitchen while eating dinner or drinking sodas. The man told me that he was lost and was looking for a street. I told him where it was. He acted confused and asked me to show him. He opened the door and beckoned me in. Don't worry, he said, I'm a cop. He showed me a badge, but his thumb was covering the photo and name side of the holder. I can't see your picture I said. He lowered his thumb till his picture showed, but he kept his thumb over his name. It looked like a real Sheriff's Deputy badge. I grew up in East LA. I knew what a police badge looked like. So I got in. The street he wanted was only two blocks away.
He did a U-turn, away from my front door, and drove toward the street I directed him to. He told me that he got a new magazine, that it's on the floor in front of me, that I can look at it. It was a Porno mag. First time I ever saw such graphic sex. At that very moment I knew I made a big mistake. He told me that I should come to his house something, that there are boys my age there that I could play with. I said yes, hoping he'd set and date and let me out, but he grew more brazened. Let's go now, he said. Can't, I said. Unless one of my brothers goes with me. We can go pick him up. Do you have a swimming pool? Sure do, he said, eagerness in his voice. Where do you live? Right where you picked me up.
He did another U-turn and took me right back to the exact location. I live right behind that house, I lied. Then I stepped out of the car with the magazine in hand. That's when I made my second mistake. I said, I have to show the magazine to my brother so he'll want to come with us. I saw on his face that he knew I was lying. In a stern voice, he told me to put the magazine back on the seat. I did. He told me to close the door. I did. He drove off with the headlights off so I couldn't see the license number. He didn't stop at the stop sign and made a right turn at the next corner. That's when I saw his headlights go on.
As I expected, I found my dad and brothers listening to the game. I didn't tell them anything. What was to tell? I walked into the living room and turned on the TV.
Although nothing happened to me that night, my dreams tell me otherwise. In dream, I am at his house. And it's a house right out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's the house from Night of the Living Dead. I never get hurt in the dreams, but there's always the apprehension that something bad is about to happen. Many times it happens to the unseen boys who are usually there. One Asian. One Black. One Latino. One White. Always four different races. Always four boys. I never count myself as one of them, but I'm there too. The cop from the car is never there, not in the room with us anyway; he's always in another room. And I know he's probably molesting some child. Sometimes there's screams that we all ignore. Sometimes there's crying, and that worries us. We seem to understand the screams but the tears are terrifying. Pain causes screams. What causes tears?
When the door knob turns, the boys turn to the door. I look at the boys. They sometimes scream. They sometimes weep. And I always wake up before the door opens because I know he's coming for one of us, and I know we'll see what just happened to the child in that room. And I don't want to know.
That's how dreams work, I tell the group. They protect us. They hide the source of the screams; they buffer the source of the tears. We're adults here, most of us. We know what happens in that room. How is a bird costume going to protect us from our own fears? The dreams are us. They're not out there, over there, in a place where we go. They're inside us.
Norie stood and said, But we're not alone inside anymore. The child molester is your Owl Man. Get rid of him and the dream becomes some boys in a room without danger. It's not about pajamas, Professor. It's about facing the thing behind the door. Let the door open. See what comes out. Deal with it. Safely. With confidence that it cannot harm you.
She sat. I sat.
Priest Horaguchi said that that will be all for today. At the next meeting, we'd hear how the trial flight of the Plumage Pvnk fared. And the meeting was adjourned.
Note: I didn't go to the next meeting as I stood home and watched football. But after talking with SaraH at the Starbucks the other day, I decided to attend the next meeting, if only to hear about the Plumage Pvnk trial. I will begin to wrap up the Trauma & Therapy series with these Plumage Pvnk tests. I long to move on with the blog. Maybe I'm feeling better; maybe it's just more evasion and denial. But good therapy is always about "fight or flight", face your fears OR avoid them and move on. It's time for me to decide. Either way, I'll definitely move on.