Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Dream of Nuclear Winter

The dream presented a perfect facsimile of reality.

It was a Sunday afternoon. There was a warning of imminent nuclear attack. Manhattan was the target. There was a chance to flee but it wasn't taken.

A siren went off. We gathered in the dining room to watch the world around us -- Amsterdam Avenue and the Columbia University campus -- disappear inside nuclear winter.

Opaque white air filled our vista. Little particles dotted the air.

I turned to my husband, speechless with panic. "Are we all going to die?"

And then, mercifully, I woke up.

It was early morning, too early for a Sunday, darkish, quiet, save for birdsong.

Beneath the down quilt, I had broken into a sweat. My throat burned with thirst and my eyes burned with fatigue. Next to me, HOBB slept peacefully. Tempted to curl into him for comfort, I resisted. We had come to bed very late the night before. We were guests at a benefit dinner where the wine was delicious. I had three glasses. Now, through half-opened eyes, I saw clothes scattered on the floor.

Despite my thirst, I fell back into troubled sleep, only to enter the dream again...through a different portal.

We were no longer in our apartment, having moved to the Upper East Side. It was shortly after the nuclear attack. Miraculously, we had survived. We were now cramped into a place with several other families. I was aware that we were refugees. I was sitting on a bed with Little Babe and Middle Babe, taking stock of the meager possessions we managed to take with us. From a large picture window, we watched warships sail right up to the FDR Drive, enormous robotic frogmen jump from the deck into the water, swim hurriedly to the shore, then turn into tank-like vehicles, barreling towards us along First Avenue.

Once again, I awoke out of the dream, this time prompted not by terror but by the ringing of my BlackBerry. It was 9:05 a.m. and my sister, visiting from Israel, wanted to make plans for the week.

The day began and the dream retreated, but not really. First, I told HOBB about it, curling into him for comfort as I recounted the terrifying narrative. Sharing it, I felt no lessening of the horror, indeed, found myself getting sucked back in. Rolling out of bed, I recovered my clothing, pulled on shorts and a sweatshirt, padded into the dining room. Turning on my computer, I searched the headlines for news of a nuclear attack, worried that my nightmare had, in fact, been a premonition.

In my family, I'm famous for foreshadowing dreams. There was, for instance, the tsunami dream, two nights before the terrible tsunami hit Southeast Asia. There was the dream encounter with my late mother-in-law, where she told me that I would give birth to a son...three weeks before I gave birth to Little Babe. There was the visitation by my late Grandma Dorothy in a dream, the giving of a quilt I had never seen before but which was given to me shortly thereafter by my mother.

Thankfully, I found nothing on the internet about a nuclear attack.

The day began. The cold was bracing, returning me to the reality of a Manhattan not currently under nuclear attack. I greeted Little Babe's cello teacher, then rode the subway down to the JCC, reading Moravia's The Woman of Rome on the way. I did several miles on the elliptical, pumped iron, worked on my abs, talked to friends, relaxed in the steamroom, showered, returned home, greeted Little Babe's Japanese teacher, ate the fresh cod prepared by HOBB and then we went to the Natural History Museum, where we wandered for hours before ending up at the Silk Road exhibition. Along the way, there were phone conversations and coffee breaks and a delicious banana bread pudding that we shared and a shopping excursion to West Side Market and walks along Columbus Avenue and a marvelous dinner at home with homemade cream of mushroom soup yet somehow, this terrible memory stayed with me -- the terror, the helplessness, the unthinkable, the swirling white, nuclear winter, the end of the world.

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