The immediate problem that presented itself to me upon waking was how to remove the spider from my nostril. That, in the cold light of consciousness, there was no such arachnid resident lodged in my proboscis was of little consequence, as my attempts to remove the phantom araneae – the trumpet-call of my nose blowing – did all that it could to attract the attention of every elephant in the neighbourhood. (How many? I live on the East coast of England: guess.) Until I found something else to worry about, my conviction remained completely undimmed by obvious fact. I could feel it moving. Possibly building a tiny nasal web for its many octopedal offspring. Anyway, having woken with the conviction that I had become some kind of creepy-crawly condominium overnight, nothing short of a tiny eight-legged corpse was going to convince me otherwise. Nor was I pacified by the almost certain knowledge that, in this particular scenario, I could more or less be assured that I would never be troubled by intra-nare bluebottles. It is a very dark cloud indeed, that has such a silver lining.
I seldom awake with a coherent overview of my dreams, but I do often carry little bits of them with me into the day: a sudden and irrational fear of aubergine; the conviction that Piers Morgan is a Cyborg*, the certain knowledge that I have woken up with somebody else’s legs. It is disconcerting: like the moment you try to analyze the way that you walk, and you realise that you can no longer do it. How can thinking about something make it unattainable? I’ve tried to recall what circumstance contrived to deposit the imaginary tiny tarantula up my somnambulant snitch, but to no avail.
I won’t lie to you. My nose is definitely big enough to house a spider. There’s quite a bit of room up there. A little bit damp for my taste, but it could, for all I know, equate to spider heaven. Anyway, although I seldom recall them in detail, I know what dreams are like. It could just as well have been an octopus I was trying to dislodge. Where nasal residences are concerned, size is not of the essence. Threading a camel through the eye of a needle is perfectly feasible, dependent on the size of the camel, the size of the needle and the nature of what you had to eat before you went to sleep.
Are dreams really just life with the brakes off: reality without reason, or are they simply the synapses enjoying playtime? Maybe reality is just a dream with a cold – all sensation wrapped in cotton wool, all possibilities snot-bound. Life in the waking hours is certainly more dull, more predictable than that which we experience during sleep. Definitely less precarious. How often is it possible to be chased by a masked pursuer, to fall off a cliff, to find oneself stark naked in a public place, without suffering serious harm or humiliation? The logic of progression is scattered in dreams, but never questioned. Nobody ever queries the fact that they are falling from a tall building again, when only a millisec earlier they were eluding capture by a long-extinct raptor in the humid, but definitely low-rise, setting of a Jurassic forest.
Yet, all of this could be endured so much more comfortably if the borders between these two conflicting states of consciousness were not quite so porous: if it was not so easy to carry pieces out from the twilight dreamworld and into this new normal nightmare world of non-contact and distanced communication that we now inhabit, where the fear of death is greater than the threat of loneliness, where the logic of action and reaction bears no level of scrutiny, where a paper mask worn to protect others becomes a threat to personal liberty, where wealth is counted in toilet rolls and gin is turned into sanitizer (although I still get told off for drinking it).
One day we will return to a world where wakefulness is not more confusing than dreams and a spider up the nose really is the worst of my problems – well, that and the elephant in the room, which is answering, presumably, my trumpet call…
*Actually, that is probably true.
‘…no longer afraid of the dark
or midday shadows
nothing so ridiculously teenage and desperate
nothing so childish
at a better pace
slower and more calculated
no chance of escape
concerned (but powerless)…’ ‘Fitter, happier, more productive.’ Radiohead.
Don’t always listen to the loudest voice. It probably just comes from the biggest mouth. Me.