Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Italian Night Terrors

So Chiara has a lot of nightmares. Incubi, in Italian.

The fun part about her nightmares is that she’s also one of those hilarious people who talk in their sleep occasionally; a somniloquist.

If you are the other person in the bed, it is a little like an old radio program, dimly received and tuned into in the middle of the plot. I often lie awake, propped on an elbow, debating whether to wake her and soothe her, or to wait it out and see if anything funny happens.

I usually wait it out. Funny things often do happen.

Once, I awoke to her mewling and twitching beside me and was about to wake her with comforting words, when she began speaking.

“Dracula!” she cried in what seemed to be real terror, “Dracula!

She often has nightmares about Dracula. How adorable is that? It is like having nightmares about Frankenstein’s monster or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It’s ridiculous. What could be less genuinely frightening than Dracula? Bigfoot, maybe?

I let that dream run on until she just fell back into a calmer sleep of her own accord.

Another time, I came to bed much later than her and my final preparations for sleep must have stirred her up somehow. She sat up like a bolt and began berating me in Italian. She wagged her finger and furrowed her brows and yelled and prattled in a rush of vowels and consonants that I was completely unable to translate at that speed.

Her eyes were open. I assumed she was awake. I asked her repeatedly to slow down. I reminded her that I don’t speak Italian well enough for this and that I couldn’t understand her.

Eventually, after it ran its course, she just flopped back down onto the bed and slept.

That was the first moment at which I realized she had never been awake. In the morning she had no recollection of any of this. I still have no idea what she was so mad about.

Usually her nightmares only manifest themselves as a kind of faint whining sound and the occasional full body spasm. She frequently has dreams where shadowy figures (often Dracula) are suspended directly above her or are following her through dark spaces and drawing ever closer to her. She tries to scream and finds she is paralyzed or rendered mute. The noises I hear are the sounds of her trying so hard to scream inside her head that it leaks out a bit.

It sounds horrible, I know. But the things she wants to scream about!

Lately she is managing to actually cry out - loudly - in the middle of a nightmare. The other day it was because she was in her childhood home and there were people in it that she didn’t recognize.

Alright. That's creepy I suppose. But last night the topper:

I wake up with a start; Chiara is shrilly screaming. I hold her and softly repeat to her that everything is okay, that it is only a dream, that I am here - the usual ameliorative things one says in these circumstances.

I ask her, after a long moment of peace, what her dream was about. She tells me she’ll talk about it in the morning. So this morning I ask.

Here, in her own words, in its entirety, is Chiara’s description of her terrifying dream:

“There was thees table . . . and behind eet . . . I saw the top of a bald head!

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