I could never be a SAHM, but on days when your boss’s boss cuts out of the big event early to go to her kid’s Open House and you end up stuck at work 90 minutes past when you were supposed to be and find yourself sitting in a hotel parking lot in tears looking at pictures from your own kids’ event, working outside your home (and not being your own boss) really kind of sucks.
I surrendered a good chunk of my childhood subconscious to fever dreams of nuclear war. I couldn’t tell you where the fascination-slash-fear came from. I was born in the mid-late ’70s and while my early elementary school years were dotted with the occasional disaster drill Mutually Assured Destruction had already embedded itself so firmly within our national psyche that no one I knew growing up ever really believed in the possibility of a nuclear war.
I still had nightmares, though.
I’ve mentioned it before, the first and second grade Peace Club, writing letters to President Reagan advocating disarmament, marathon viewings of Amazing Grace and Chuck, all the papercuts from hundreds of paper cranes. My mother, who was the one who bore the brunt of my night terrors and already world-weary questioning, was concerned. My father was proud of my precociousness.
I was a freshman in high school when Generation X came out, dancing around the edge of great loss and desperate for connection.When I found it in the school library I got so caught up I missed a class. There’s a section, roughly midway through, where Dag announces to Andy and Claire that he’s got an end of the world story.
"That’s when the sirens begin, the worst sound in the world, and the sound you’ve dreaded all your life. It’s here: the soundtrack to hell - wailing, flaring, warbling, and unreal - collapsing and confusing both time and space the way an ex-smoker collapses time and space at night when they dream in horror that they find themselves smoking. But here the ex-smoker wakes up to find a lit cigarette in his hand and the horror is complete.”
I remember sitting in the school library covered in goosebumps, the hair on the back of my neck standing up and it’s not great writing, though it felt like it, but it was that moment where you realize your nightmares are shared, and you aren’t as alone in your head as you once thought you were.
A decade later I sat on the front stoop of the Glover Park rowhouse I shared with five other people in Washington, D.C., nursing a beer with a roommate and making big plans about changing the world. Out of nowhere, there was this boom, followed by a bright flash of light. Car alarms started going off, the phone rang. I tipped my face up toward the sky, holding my breath, and he slid his hand into mine and then the world righted itself again. Just thunder and lightning.
In Dag’s end of the world story, the scene closes with two friends standing in a supermarket checkout line as everything melts away, one reaching over to kiss the other because, well. He always wanted to.
"In the silent rush of hot wind, like the opening of a trillion oven doors that you’ve been imagining since you were six, it’s all over: kind of scary, kind of sexy, and tainted by regret. A lot like life, wouldn’t you say?"
Tl;dr: I’ve been dreaming about the end of the world a lot lately. I’d really rather just get more sleep.