A preface to dreaming: Meager have been my attempts to help the fleeing – friends, distant family, strangers overwhelming all my apps; to devise the escape routes from the bombed and crumbling Ukrainian cities, from places that used to hold my memories. This frantic effort ate away most of my waking time during the first weeks of war. I became news-wary, war-saturated to the brim. If I could vomit, I would vomit war.
When the burnout moved in, I refused to recognize it, to reconcile with it, saying to myself, “Wars don’t take days off,” “This is my punishment for being on the fringe of war,” and “Helping won’t hurt me.” And then, there were dreams.
The Bomb in the Next Seat
I am one of the bombs in the cluster. The bomb next to me looks like the metal version of Humpty-Dumpty, with its blotched face of unhealthy yellowish white, with the transparent puffiness of predetermined doom. I sit in my tight bomb compartment like a passenger of the international flight, almost expecting a flight attendant to offer drinks in accordance with my economy class ticket without extra leg room. I do nothing. I am a nothing-to-do kind of a bomb. Like all my neighbor bombs whose flat faces I see in the row behind and in the row ahead. If I find it in me to break out of the dream-state, I can change the course, I can detonate the bomb in the next compartment – or do something else as pointless, as suicidal. Yet I do nothing. The bomber draws a circle in the invisible sky. We the bombs oblige.
Dreaming of Bags Signifies an Unexpected Parcel Delivered to You
I am inside the MRI machine. The machine is old and squeaky. Close your eyes, says the digitized voice. I close my eyes just to see a shabby cosmetic case, the color and shape of a rotting eggplant. It rotates in the air, speeds towards me in some sort of suspended, gravity-defying rotation. I try to catch the thing as it slightly opens to uncover the tasteless neon color of its lining. It brushes against my hand, its ink-stained, worn, cheesy body fully unzips – into an explosion. I try to get out of the machine, but the narrow tunnel pulls me inside, chewing me up, slicing me into slides.
Without waking up I think, what unexpected parcel did my people receive right now? What could’ve broken into their windows or walls? Who did I just lose there, on the ground?
I nurse an adult, a strange woman who’s wearing a babushka kerchief. She is biting my breast, chewing off my nipples. I look down to see if I’m bleeding. Instead, I see a long line of people, mostly women and children of all ages, waiting to latch on, spreading on the floor, getting lost in the perspective, stretched beyond the walls of my room.
What do I make of it? What do I make of the assault on my ability to give, to produce milk of caring,
of the mismatch of demands,
of the complacency,
of the boundaries of burnout
while caring for those who went into the childlike state, who had lost their industry, their autonomy, and have only one basic need, to stay alive?
And how do I keep alive my spirit, ever guilty of not being bombed like them?