The first hot days have come and they’ve been mostly ugly. Ohio can’t even warm into summer prettily. The season here is mostly defined by hot, cloudy days. These clouds are boiled up over the lake, and cover the sky from edge to edge. All day they’re evenly bright, lit up from behind from the smothered sun. It’s a leering kind of weather, it feels feverish and cruel.
But now, it looks ready to storm. This would be the first big storm of the year – at least, I think it would be the first. But time and the tiny demarcations of minor events are all muddled right now, and maybe there was a storm before this – and maybe this storm won’t even happen; I saw the clouds looming up like thugs, bruised-colored from the water they held, and it’s darker outside than it should be, and you can hear the thunder rumbling, heavy and high up, like a stack of books tumbling over in the church’s attic; but the storm hasn’t broke yet. It might move on without staging its drama here.
Back in the era of my fear of tornadoes, these near-misses with storms were frustrating. I conceptualized any bad weather day as an exchange: my time and attention for safety through the storm. And if there wasn’t a storm to watch, I hadn’t earned my safe passage through the day. I understand there’s a paradox there, of being afraid of dying in a storm when it happens, and then being afraid of dying in a storm when the storm doesn’t happen. The demonic lore of obsessive thought is full of koans like these.
There was a brief time when I found a suitable way to ignore storms when they did happen, though.
I’d go into my mom’s bedroom and put on her big stereo headphones and put in one of her CDs and turn up the volume to hide the storm sounds. I kept my eyes closed but all the lights on in the room, so that I wouldn’t see through the thin lid-skin the light in the room alter with flashes of lightning.
(If you ever have a doubt as to where the core of your being is, just listen to loud music loudly with heavy powerful headphones on. They don’t have to be good headphones, just ones capable of raucous loud sounds. Turn off the lights. Close your eyes. With the titanic wash of noise coming at your brain from both sides, can’t you feel the little ghost of you in your head dissolving into individual bobbing atoms in the massive snarling cascade, like when you rub sand between your fingers until all the grains have disappeared?)
Or sometimes I would go take a shower, and put the fan on, so that the reverberating racket would drown out the sounds that way. It would have to be a long shower, to make sure that it outlasted the duration of the storm.
Eventually these techniques of avoidance became no longer valid. I say ‘valid’ and can’t be any more specific than that. Sometimes mandates came down, disallowing something perfectly legal the day before. I had no choice but to obey them. I was being forced, or convincing myself I was being forced, to watch the storms as they came and went, and that meant experiencing the weird anguish when the thing I feared didn’t come to pass, but passed off to elsewhere, unresolved, like a threat not followed up on but not forgotten either, or transmuted into other potentialities.
I remember my earliest nightmare, and I don’t know if it’s because it was my first or because something about it particularly scarred me.
The nightmare takes place in my neighborhood in Omaha. It’s summer, the weather is bright and hot, the sky is high and white, unblue and unrelieved. Aliens have invaded the neighborhood. I don’t know what they look like because they never leave their space ships, which are the classic spinning saucer-type UFOs. Their ships are small – maybe the size of like a bulky mid-size CRT television set. They fly into peoples’ houses and hover over their heads and let down a yellow beam of light from the bottom of the craft. It’s unclear what this light does specifically. It’s understood that it’s not an abduction in the standard sense, but it is taking something: all it leaves behind of the person is a loose, full body suit, like a diving suit but covering the whole head and face. This suit is in the abducted person’s exact dimensions. It’s also understood these suits aren’t made, but are the residue of a human being after the light takes whatever it takes from one. The suit is rubbery and bright purple and completely featureless, with no zippers or buttons or anything.
I’m walking up the staircase in my house. It or my proportions are off; some steps feel big, almost so big that I have to climb to the next one. As I get to the top I sense a flash of light coming from the landing. When I get there, there’s one of the rubber people suits lying on the carpet, neatly folded, as if someone had worn it and then put it away.
Someone approaches from one of the rooms on this floor, which is not the upper floor of my own house, but that of my best friend’s. It’s my best friend’s older sister. She’s dressed in an outdated crinoline (?) dress, but her hair is tangled and frizzy. She’s smiling maliciously. She shows me, either by transmitting the image into my mind or by unclasping her hands and holding the thing up to me (it’s hard to tell which of these happened in the muddled atmosphere of the dream), something small, ragged, and soiled.