The Day I Could Not Get Home

I returned to bed, as I often do when I finish writing in the morning, to get an hour and a half more of sleep. Instead, I awoke 23 minutes later, literally shaking. Actually, 23 minutes had elapsed between the time I left my computer and the time when I reopened it. I remember my dream very well, almost the whole of it.

By way of explanation, I have an abnormal sleep pattern. I sleep fewer hours. When I wake up, I go from a deep sleep to a wide-awake state almost instantly. Between the time I am awake and the time I turn my computer on, perhaps a minute has lapsed. More if I pause for a pit stop.

My REM sleep comes at the beginning of a sleep cycle rather than at the end. Most people begin their sleeping with non-REM sleep. Excuse the technical babble, the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) part of sleep is when a person dreams. When I am at the sleep clinic overnight (I have been there three times and the doctor is scheduling a fourth, this time, for a 24-hour period rather than the usual overnight stay in the sleep clinic), I usually leave at about 3:30-4:00 a.m., though last time, at the request of the technician, I stayed until 6:00 a.m. Because of the positioning of my REM cycle, I rarely remember my dreams.  I don’t mind. I hate dreaming.

I am sure the following has plenty of scientific errors because I have not read up on the subject, but this is my impression of the science of sleep. I have based it on my talks with the sleep technician more than my medical sleep specialist. I used to say that I rarely dreamed. My REM portion of my sleep cycle tends to be shorter – usually 15 minutes compared to a normal period of about 30 (or even 45) minutes. When I am in REM sleep, the graph produced on the EEG machine, the electroencephalograms, shows small but much more frequent waves.

During the REM phase, I exhibit sleep apnea – a very short period when there are no waves at all. Usually, during my REM period, I have about 1 episode of sleep apnea per minute of sleeping.

When I am on a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine at night to ensure more regular breathing, these short sleep interruptions are reduced by 25%. The CPAP machine increases the air pressure in my throat to prevent the collapse of my airway when I breathe by feeding humidified air under pressure through a mask to my throat. It usually stops or reduces snoring. But I do not generally snore. I have stopped using the CPAP machine because the decrease in apnea is too little to offset the inconvenience and discomfort of putting on a sleep mask and taking care of the machine. In any case, my apnea is very mild. And it now seems unlikely, at least to me, that my apnea results from temporary closure of my airways, but is more likely strictly a neurological problem.

My NREM (non-REM) cycle is not abnormal, at least I have not been told it is abnormal, except, if I recall correctly, the deep sleep of the NREM cycle takes five-sixths of a full cycle rather than an average of about two-thirds. Further, I have fewer cycles per night before I wake up, only this is somewhat offset by the 2 or even 3 short naps I take during the day. To simplify, the two columns – and they really are a gross oversimplification – compare the two different NIGHT sleep patterns:

                                        Normal                            Mine

                                        (in minutes)                     (in minutes)

NREM Sleep                   60                                    75

REM sleep                       30 (vary in length)           15

Total sleep cycle (ave.)   90                                     90

Number of cycles/night    5 (or 4 = 7.5 hrs.)            3

Total night sleep          540 min. = 9 hours              270 min. = 4.5 hrs.

I think I have engaged in enough techno-babble in an effort to stall writing about the dream itself. The latter is so vivid in my memory, both in the details and in the emotional effect. I present a very much shortened version.

In the dream, I went out in the morning to explore different parts of the city – the Brickworks where there was an artisan’s market, the stores along Queen St. W., the new park under the Gardiner Expressway (which I have never seen so I am curious about how the real one compares with my imagined park), the ferry across to the island, Fort York. I even got out to the zoo. And other spots. All in a few morning hours. And I do not drive. That is one great advantage of dreams – you cover a great deal more territory than in real life.

The last spot was on Queen St, in Parkdale. Somehow, I had managed to gather a group of people to follow me. We were in a partying mood. I think this scene was influenced by the early scene of the series I started to watch last evening, When They See Us, about the Central Park Five wrongly accused and convicted of raping a female white jogger in 1989.

If you recall, Trump put full page ads in the newspapers advocating that those convicted be given capital punishment. He has never retracted that advocacy, even though the five were freed because the convictions were trumped up and the five teenagers were all exonerated.

In the early scene of the series, young Blacks and Latinos from Harlem in New York City gather together in a festive mood to go into Central Park in New York. I abandoned watching the film because it was too painful to watch the manipulation and threats to which the young boys were subjected by the police, the manipulation of the parents as well, the lies, etc. They had no legal representation when they were being bullied and questioned (lied to). It was torture for me to watch and I went to bed.

In my dream, I do not know how many people collected behind me – perhaps 15 or 20. We went from place to place. In our perambulations around the city, I ran into two medical doctors who had taught at UofT who were friends and they joined the pack. Suddenly, I decided we should all go back to my house for refreshments. As I led them up and down the street where I said I lived, I could not find my house. I was on Robert Street, just north of College. As I went up and down in my vain search, my followers dropped away. Eventually, only the two doctors were left. We were on College Street and I got down on my haunches and wept. I wailed. I cried. I was totally disconsolate. I could not find my home. It had disappeared.

Then I remembered my wife’s phone number. I would call her to ask what happened to our house. I borrowed a cell phone. I did call. She was at home. I said that I had been walking up and down Robert Street looking for our house. It had gone. It had disappeared. “But it is here,” she replied very frightened. “We live on 66 Wells Hill Avenue, not Robert Street.”

I woke up.

If I typed quickly as I usually do – I am a two-finger typist – I would often hit the wrong letter. I was making at least 3-4 mistakes per line. Sometimes I would conk out for a short few seconds and recognize that I had done so because the letter I was typing – say a “c” – would be typed right across the screen: ccccccccccccccccccccccccc. At other times, I would repeat the 3-5 word phrase. It was very hard to keep focused and to keep a moderate rather than my usual fast pace. Even then, sometimes I forgot where the letter was and I would have to quickly look for it. Or I would forget to type a letter. The above should have been written in 20-30 minutes at most. This piece has taken me two hours to write.


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