I mostly blame it on her college roommates. A conspiracy to steal my greatest commodity. A simple warning would have been nice. Tiffanni and I had only been married a week the first time it happened. I was jarred from a deep REM cycle by a piercing whisper. The kind that cuts through silence and has more in common with a scream than a hush. We were in our brand new apartment, middle of the night, sound asleep. Or so I thought. “Someone is in our room,” She breathed into my ear. “Someone is here.” That statement could kill a coma.
“What?! Where?!” A panic surged up my spine. I hate being scared. I was never a horror movie guy. Some of my friends loved to be frightened out of their minds- Halloween, Jason, Freddy, Steven King books at night- that was never me. I got talked into watching The Exorcist when I was in High School with a bunch of friends. I don’t speak to any of them anymore.
“Right there, in the shower, just behind the curtain. Go get him.” Unfortunately, the age of feminism hadn’t reached the dirty South yet, so it was my duty to do something. “Do something, you’re the man,” she reminded me. I tiptoed to the bathroom and threw back the shower curtain. Nothing. I turned to see what Tiffanni was doing and she was passed out. Jerk. We talked about it the next day and she didn’t remember a thing. One of the scariest moments of my life, she just concocted and then slept right through. “Yeah, Candy (her roommate) told me that I talked in my sleep a lot. Like every night.”
“And no one thought that was pertinent to our ‘for better or for worse’?” Over the years I figured out how to play with her in her sleep. I figured that I owed her. Once I even followed her to the kitchen pantry. She was digging in the bottom of the closet where we kept a bag of potatoes. “Whatcha doing?”
“I’m looking for my pants.”
“Did you hide them in the potatoes?” And with that she stuck her tongue out at me and went and got back into the bed. We’ve had entire conversations in her sleep. And she remembers nothing. Regrettably, all of this before the age of one-button-video cell phones.
But a few nights ago, she woke me again. This time it was different. “There’s someone in the corner. I felt his hand on my leg. Do something.” I tried to reason with her. Begged her to go back to sleep. But she was adamant. So, once again I got back up and turned on the lights, looked under the bed, searched the closet, the corners, the entire room and bathroom. And nothing. She didn’t go back to sleep. For the rest of the night, she woke me every few minutes to check again.
“I have. There is no one here. No one is going to be here.” She just couldn’t rationalize. The dream was too real and sadly, this disease has affected the all too important area of logic. The next morning, with the lucidity of the daylight I told her about what happened. “You talked in your sleep all through the night. It was miserable. You were scared and confused. You kept thinking that you saw someone in our room.”
“I know, there was someone there. I saw him.”
This disease doesn’t just stay in the realm of the real. It inserts itself into the reprieve of the dreams. An uninvited spoiler to the only respite either of us have some days. There was a time that we laughed about her midnight sleep-walking and sleep-talking, the moments of suspended logic when she collaged the day’s random events into an incoherent delusion. Now there is no boundary between the two. If Huntington’s affects cognition, it eliminates the buffer that separates the two worlds of reason and imagination. The beauty of dreams become another event that is absorbed into the memory, which is fine when they are beautiful. It’s miserable when they aren’t as pleasant.
It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to live in two worlds simultaneously. Unable to separate the land of the real and the land of the distorted. The place where all that you love and all that you fear coexist. The place where your memories are born and the place that those same memories are corrupted. It’s hard to imagine living there.
Well, maybe not.