I’ve had this reoccurring dream since childhood. I grew up on the water, with an expansive back yard lined by a seawall and a view of a mangrove-lined nature preserve. It looked a little like something out of Tarzan or Jurrasic Park. Some of my earliest nightmares involved dinosaurs ambling out of the marshes.
But this one dream, the one I have every few months, always involves escape. It’s night, and I have to get away. I run through the yard and jump into the water and swim as far as I can under the murky surface. When I come up for air, I float on my back and swim as silently as I can.
As I swim away, I think about where I’ll go, where I’ll climb up onto land, where I’ll live as a fugitive. Sometimes people are shooting guns or arrows and I have to stay under and paw my way along the bottom.
(I know exactly what the sand feels like (fuzzy and soft) because I dove for pieces of concrete and hid at the bottom when we played hide and seek across four yards and a canal.)
Last night I woke up at 4 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. Instead of escaping on my own, I’d been swimming away with my son. I’d held his hand and jumped off the seawall and floated on my back like an otter, cradling his back against my chest.
I don’t remember what we were running from or why we were in danger or why we had to be in the water in the dark at night like that.
For the first time, when I woke I remembered how often I have the same dream.