I thought I knew what bad dreams were. I would occasionally wake tangled in remnants of a vague dread, or heavy with an ethereal sorrow. Sometimes in my dreams, I am so angry I lose my voice from rage. In the worst of my dreams, I scream at my children and make them cry and don't care. But I only thought I knew what bad dreams were.
My husband has bad dreams. Dreams that cause him to cry out in his sleep. Dreams that slam him awake, heart racing. Dreams that make him get up and check the doors and windows. Dreams I have learned not to ask about, lest I lie awake the rest of the night, too afraid to sleep.
In most of these dreams, he is not the one in danger. Instead, he is rendered helpless while those he loves are attacked, tortured, lost, injured. In one dream, Middle Daughter falls out of the car door and is drug along the pavement while he tries desperately to pull her back in. In another, aliens attack while he is at work, and he rushes home to find me dead and The Boy dying of radiation poisoning. He spends the rest of the dream carrying The Boy's bleeding body through the streets, begging for help but unable to find a doctor.
When I was pregnant, his nightmares multiplied. I was worried at first, because I thought it was the house. I finally realized it wasn't the house, but worry over my pregnancy that was the cause. Once The Boy was safely here, the nightmares left.
I love him for these dreams, though I pity him. He has these dreams because he takes his responsibility towards us so seriously. He wants to care for us, protect us, keep us safe. His biggest fear is losing us. It is humbling.