Saturday, March 22, 2008

He Talks to Himself, Part 2

Dennis had more wild dreams that night, but couldn’t remember them very well. There were two steep mountain peaks involved. They were much steeper than any mountains he had seen before. Steeper than the Matterhorn. And he remembered thunder. A thunderstorm in the mountains? It was a lively, dynamic sort of dream, but all he could remember were loosely related snapshots. He wrote them down on his legal pad that was left on his nightstand next to his laptop computer and alarm clock, then swung his legs over the edge of the bed.

ka-THUD! What…? Dennis’s left leg had collapsed under his body weight and he had fallen before he could compensate. Oh no, oh no, was he paralyzed? Had he fried his right hemisphere last night with that little exercise? “Are you there?” he asked Right. His left leg feebly moved back under him as he pushed himself up. He walked on it gingerly. It must have been fatigued the whole day, because whenever Dennis wanted to get up to use the bathroom or step out of his car door, he had to test it, massage it, even slap or punch it before he felt it stiffen enough to support his weight. It was as though his left side (and right hemisphere?) were being lazy, sleeping on the job.

This had required Dennis to half drag himself around some of the time, so that by about 2:00 he was physically exhausted. Better take a nap. Sleeping on top of the covers on his bed, he dreamed about a whip. It was the kind that divided at the end into hundreds of fine threads. It thrashed around like a dragon’s tongue.

At his appointment later with Dr. Felstead, Dennis told about his experiment. "Interesting," she said, "I think you should keep doing it, and keep me updated if anything unusual happens. I'm interested to see where this leads." But it was not until Dennis talked about the dreams that she really seemed to become animated. He told her about the peaks and the thunder, as well as the whip from just that afternoon. She wrote notes, and then asked Dennis to sketch what he saw. He handed back his drawings. She looked at them, then rotated them and looked again, as though looking for something he couldn't see. "And thunder, you said?"


"Anything Else?"

"Not really", Dennis answered. "Well, it smelled like sand. Sand and dust and sage. And the thunder...I think it was sort of rhythmic."

"And the whip. Was it whipping anything?"

"No. It was just whipping around in the air."

Dr. Felstead suddenly lifted an index knuckle to her mouth. Dennis saw it. She was trying to hide sudden amusement. "What? What was that?"

"What was what?" She said. She lifted her hand again and coughed into it unproductively.

"Did you just figure it out? My dream. Did you just figure out my dream?"

"Let's talk about it next time. In the meantime, keep recording you dreams. I want to see how effectively your left hemisphere can figure out the content of the dream. Plus I don't want to taint your own interpretation of it if mine is incorrect."

Dennis was a little frustrated. "Don't you need my permission if you are going to use me to test your theories? If you know what's going on with me, I want to know about it."

"Dennis," she said, looking him in the eye, "I don't want to rob you of the experience of the moment where you figure it out for yourself. Do I have your permission to test my theories?"


"Thank you. Just to put you mind at ease, I only think I know some of the content of your dream, but not that it tells me anything about you or your personality. What I am interested in is how your left hemisphere interprets the sensory experience of the dreams, not what the dreams tell me about your personality. The content of dreams is usually meaningless. It's the relationships and situations and emotions of the dream that most people tend to find meaning in. Try writing those down, as well as the content."

Dennis sat on the edge of his bed with his laptop computer. The long chain of Wikipedia articles he had been reading had ended at last on the article about vicinals, so he took out the yellow pad of paper again. "How are you doing?". "Good Tired", the left hand wrote. Dennis thought for a moment. What should I say, he thought. He decided to just wait for the Right to talk on its own. After about two minutes, his right hemisphere either understood or grew bored and wrote "I want paint." 'I' was capitalized, and there was even a period at the end of the sentence. But just as striking as the quickly improving grammar was what it expressed. "Like, to paint with?" Of course to paint with. He rephrased his question, "what kind of paint?" "Any kind", the hand wrote.

That night Dennis dreamed something about a sea of rich, brown velvet. It would gather into mounds in one area, then slacken to gather in another area. He wrote it down in the morning. The dream had the same feeling as when his friends had talked him into jumping from the highest platform at the pool once. He never would have done it on his own, but it was thrilling and made him feel alive. He wrote down on his paper: Sea of velvet. Freedom. Terror. Satisfaction.

He reached to turn on his laptop computer to look up the address of the nearest art supply store. It was already on. That wasn't like him, to leave his computer on like that. Turning it off was part of his going-to-bed ritual. He would have never fallen asleep with the little green light on. But then again, who knows how the accident and surgery might have affected his nighttime routine. After all, now his two hemispheres were independent and...

A ridiculous thought occurred to him. Totally ridiculous. He would have laughed out loud if it weren't so disturbing. Could that really be possible, though? Could his right hemisphere have awakened and turned on the computer for some reason? What would it have been doing? He shuddered. But again, ridiculous. He would have awakened, too, right?

Part 3 to be posted on 3/26/08

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