You know those dreams where you’re fall or trip, and the shock of that is enough to jolt you awake so you wind up really trying to catch your balance? Yeah, I’m pretty sure most of us have.
But have you ever hurt someone doing that?
Technically I did, when I was nine. I was travelling up to Oregon with my uncle, aunt, and two cousins. I was the runt while they were both teenagers, so I sat in the bucket seat. I had some sort of falling dream, woke up flailing, and smacked them both symmetrically in their respective groins. I still remember my cousin Kacy’s response, a remarkably calm, “Okay, man. You alright?”
<sigh> Good role model, that man.
But that’s not really the thrust of our anecdote here today. This one is goofy, not really something anyone should be proud of, but also one of my favorites. For it, we hearken back to circa 2012, Amanda and I are early-twenty-something’s that have just started dating, and after a month or two start regularly sharing a bed most nights.
When you start sleeping next to another body for the first time when you never in your young life have before, some funny things happen. All that rolling around you’re used to just doing without knowing you do it suddenly encounters obstacles, like odd elbows and knees. I’m a sturdy Stomach Sleeper, but more than once inside our first couple of weeks sleeping beside one another, we’d bumped foreheads and woken up from it.
Why do I bring this up? After all, these things happen.
So, I’m having this dream, right? I’m a counselor at some kind of summer camp for young tykes, and for unknown dream reasons, I get into a fight with another counselor. Obviously, it’s my dream, I’m on Home Turf, so I’m going to kick his ass. But our fight takes place next to a set of stairs, and I guess my subconscious was more accurately in-tune with my real world Dexterity Score than I am, because I go to throw a punch with my back to the stairs and my foot slips off that top step.
Cue muscle impulses to punch- oh, and now you’re falling.
So I wake up mid-punch.
Remember how I mentioned I’m a Stomach Sleeper? Well that means I sleep with one arm under my pillow to support my big-ass head, and this particular night, that happened to be my left arm. That left it perfectly cocked back when the Whoopsie Signal left my dreaming brain to punch poor Amanda squarely on the forehead, who was asleep facing me on my right.
Poor thing. She trusted me, and she never stood a chance.
Now, hear me out, I knew right away what I’d done. I was wide awake the instant my knuckles connected between her sweet, innocent eyes. But when she sniffed loudly, demonstrating she’d come to a bare, drowsy sort of consciousness, I absolutely squinted my eyes and strained my voice like I was in the same way.
“Oof, are you okay?” I half-chuckle, half-whisper. “I think we bumped heads,” I lie.
“Oom,” she replies sleepily. “Sorry. You okay?”
We trade tired yes’s and goodnight’s, and lay our heads back down on our pillows, me pretending to fall “back” asleep. But make no mistake, my eyes are wide open, fixed on her, watching her reaction. When she settles back into softly snoring, I doze off too, grateful to have gotten away with it scott free.
The next morning, I come clean. I ask if she remembers anything from last night and she sheepishly goes, “What’d I do?” because normally that’s how I would introduce telling her she snored or tooted or something. When I tell her that what she thought was a bump of heads was actually me punching her in the face, she – shockingly – was less than thrilled with it.
“You let me fall back asleep??” she chided. “I could have had a concussion.”
Weirdly, one of the best compliments I’ve been given, to think I’m strong enough to deliver a zero-wind-up knockout punch in my sleep.