I woke myself up the other night, shouting at a burglar. I was visiting my son and his family, and dreamed that someone was on the deck outside the room. I yelled, “Get off our deck!” Then I yelled it again.
In the dream, I could only see him from his chest to his boots as his upper body was above the window frame, but I could tell he was up to no good. I was at first angry, then frightened. He was not at all intimidated by my yelling, and he got closer and closer to the partially opened window.
Dreams are by their nature illogical, so it did not occur to me to wonder how this evil-doer managed to get up to the second floor balcony. Somehow, it was simultaneously at ground level.
When he leaned in to open the window wider, that’s when I yelled for help and woke myself up. I remember calling “Help!” several times, but I don’t know how many times I said it in my dream and how many times I said it out loud. It was only when I felt the vocal chords in my throat working that I woke up and tried to understand what was going on. The first thing I did was to look out of the window and see that there was no-one on the balcony. Then I closed the window.
In that in-between sleeping and waking moment, it was important to check on the burglar. I needed to reassure myself that he was not there. My awake mind needed conclusive proof that my dreaming mind was no longer in charge. Even then, I needed to close the window. That wasn’t just to keep out the street sounds; it was to keep out the burglar. Just to be on the safe side.
We pass through the permeable borders between fantasy, dreams, and reality almost imperceptibly. It’s only occasionally that we become aware of the transitions as I did when I shut out the imaginary burglar. It got me wondering about the things people do sometimes that would make sense in a dream, but are totally illogical to the conscious mind. This week, I read about two schoolgirls who stabbed one of their friends because they thought it would please the fictional Slenderman. Maybe they, too, were in that place on the periphery of wakefulness, where fantasy becomes reality and reality needs to be reassured. If only those girls could have woken up enough to close the window, they would have been able to tell the difference between the fictional and the real. It’s a good feeling when you know.