Most of you know by now that I just had surgery on both knees a month ago. You probably saw the ghastly picture I posted on Facebook while under the influence of some seriously yummy pain meds. Sorry about that. Lots of strange things happen under the influence of strong pain meds, including bizarre dreams. And the thing is that sometimes I wasn’t actually, really asleep … I don’t think. I remember plummeting slo-mo down a water slide in the sunshine, though my husband assures me I never left the hospital bed. I’ve always liked water slides.
In addition to the waking dreams, I had some very strange sleeping dreams as well. I dreamed of walking the Strip in Vegas with both my knees still wrapped and my hospital gown gaping at the back – a thing that fortunately no one noticed in dreams. Not that I’m sure anyone would notice in Vegas anyway. I certainly saw some pretty strange stuff when I was there last spring.
When I was there last spring I was way more jetlagged than I can ever remember being, and there were several occasions when I woke up in the middle of my bed not knowing where I was or how I got there. Of course the disorientation passed quickly and by the time I got to my sisters in Oregon five days later, I was back to sleeping normally. But I don’t recall ever being affected quite so strongly by jet lag.
Vegas is a strange place at the best of times, but seeing it through a haze of jet lag or dreaming it through a haze of pain meds makes it really hard to sort the reality from the dream. I’m bringing up Vegas now, almost a year after the fact because the drugged dreamscape kept taking me back there and kept reminding me of things that happened in my jetlagged state … or at least I think they happened. It’s like the meds sort of nudged me, jogged my memory, bringing back things that I honestly don’t remember. But it was all so clear from my drugged state. I recall every detail, the sun beating down, the smell of dust and sweat and rubbish, the push and shove of people on the strip. And I awoke in my hospital bed as though I had just been there.
One day while I was there, I succumbed to the double-decker bus tour. Not one of my wisest tourist choices. Honestly with the traffic in Vegas, I really do think I could probably have walked the tour route faster. It was still too early in the year to be hot yet, so I sat up in the open upper deck of the bus and listened to the tour guide yammer on about all the glitz and glam and all the misbehaving stars and the conspicuous consumerism while intermittently dozing as we sat in traffic waiting … and waiting. It was when we’d finished the tour of the Strip and were heading in past the wedding chapels to begin the downtown tour, crawling through traffic at a snail’s pace that I startled awake to find myself staring into a vacant lot. The houses all around were hard-done-by adobe, most well past their sell-by date. In another part of town where there was more money, they might have been renovated to be quaint and retro, but here they just looked tired. The empty lot was, no doubt, the garden and yard of such an adobe, with only a stoic adobe wall still fencing in the lot and serving as a bit of shade and shelter from the elements for a half a dozen homeless people.
While the tour guide answered questions about the filming of the reality television show Pawn Stars, which is filmed in Vegas, my attention was on the vacant lot and one homeless man in particular. Well actually my attention was on the dog that was with him – one of the biggest dogs I’ve ever seen. Surely he was a wolf dog mix, but wow, he was humungous. I noticed all the other people gave the dog and the man a wide berth. And with good reason. The man looked … well in all honesty, he gave me goose bumps. He was tall, broad shouldered. His hair was dark and, like everyone else’s, in need of a cut. He wore fatigues and what looked like biker boots, and I could swear both he and the dog were looking right at me, almost like they were challenging me. Then just as the bus crawled through the green light, he gave me a nod of his head and raised his fingers in what was either half a salute or an attempt at a wave. That I didn’t notice so much as I noticed his smile that made me feel like I was prey, like the dog had just bared his teeth at me. Then, I jerked awake and nearly fell of the seat just as we turned the corner and I craned my neck to see if I’d really seen what I thought I’d seen or if I’d just imagined it.
The tour went on forever. I finally got off and walked a good two miles back down from the north end of the strip and then over to my suite at the Elara. It was late afternoon when I got back to the room. I ordered a sandwich up from room service and sprawled on the bed thinking I’d read for awhile and then go down to do a bit of shopping on the Miracle Mile. I fell asleep almost instantly. It was dusk when I opened my eyes to discover that I couldn’t move. At first I thought room service had come to deliver my sandwich. You know those kinds of dreams where the doorbell rings and you’re on the bed and no matter how hard you try you can’t move. You know that it’s someone important, someone you need to let in and you try to call out to them, try to let them know that you hear them, but you can’t speak, can’t cry out, can’t move. Well that was me.
Finally the knocking at the door went away, and as I lay there in the gloom unable to move, I had that sudden feeling I wasn’t alone. I opened my eyes to find the man with the dog standing at the foot of my bed, but they weren’t alone, There was a woman with them, and though the room was in deep gloom by now, she wore a pair of sunglasses. The dog sniffed my hand, still clutching my Kindle to my chest. God he was a big dog! And I still couldn’t move, or cry out, and it was strange because for the moment at least, I was sure I was dreaming.
‘I don’t want her snooping about,’ the man said. His voice was a deep rumble I could feel down in my belly.
‘She won’t be snooping about. She won’t know the difference and neither will you,’ the woman replied. She had the most amazing hair. It was long and hung in waves and curls down her shoulders and back.
The dog was now licking my hand, and his muzzle was soft. He smelled like the desert.
‘I already know the difference,’ the man said. He snapped his fingers and the dog moved away from the bed back to stand next to him.
For a long time the woman was silent, then she sighed. ‘The choice is not yours to make Jon.’
‘But why me? Why now? Don’t think I don’t know what you did you did in England in the Lake District.’
‘I have my reasons. And I don’t care what you know.’ She came to the side of the bed, took the Kindle out of my hand and laid it on the nightstand. ‘I have my reasons,’ she said again. Than she leaned down and kissed me on the mouth, and her hair fell over my face like a veil, and I think I reached up to stroke it. It was so soft and heavy against my fingers.
When I woke up, it was four in the morning and I was starving. Surely what had happened had only been a dream. I made myself some toast and checked email. Then I worked on the manuscript I was editing. Finally I gave up trying to go back to sleep and went down to the gym for a workout. It was only after I’d showered and was dressing that I noticed a long strand of hair on my pillow. My hair’s long, and I would have thought nothing of it, but it was too long for my hair, and my hair’s straight. Besides the colour was wrong. The colour was like burnished bronze catching the light of the lamp on the bedside table. Surely it had to have belonged to one of the cleaning staff. Surely it had been there when I fell asleep, but I just didn’t notice it.
Thing is, I remembered only bits and pieces of that last trip to Vegas and that strange jet lagged stupor. I know that when a person’s sleep patterns are messed up, the results can be … well a bit crazy. A lot of what happened I didn’t remember at all until I was given the pain meds after my knee surgery. And now what I remember … well I’m not sure that I want to remember, actually.
I ask that as I share with you the events of that strange time in Vegas over the next few blog episodes that you don’t judge me, that you try to keep an open mind. Certainly I’m trying to. If it was just an interruption in my sleep patterns, then it’s something I hope I don’t experience again. But if it’s something more, then I feel like I really have to know, and frankly writing about it makes me feel a little less crazy and a little more in control. I kept the strand of hair. I don’t know why. And the dog … well I really liked the dog. The man, Jon, and the strange woman in the sunglasses though, they were really scary, even though they didn’t threaten me. I don’t even think they knew I was aware of their presence. Maybe best that way. God! And here’s me blogging about the whole incident. Maybe they won’t notice. Maybe it won’t matter.