I’m mostly pleased with my imagination; its power to entertain me when I’m bored could power a small yacht. Like most kids, I had the occasional super horrifying nightmare. One has stuck with me, popping into my head occasionally for no good reason.
I’m running away, but have run straight into a very narrow, dark alley. It’s perfectly clean. This is one of my very few black and white dreams. I back against the back wall of the alley, and squat down against the floor, attempting to become as small as possible. I shut my mouth so they won’t see my teeth, and I want to shut my eyes, but that way I won’t be able to see them coming. At the open end of the alley, the population walks by purposefully, going to work, going home, running errands. They are all identical (see picture). One of them stops and its head snaps toward me, and the panic sets in. He’s the one who’s been looking for me. He’s after me in a second and I have nowhere to run. I start to get up from my crouch, my hands touch the walls behind me, searching for an escape. I only have seconds, and I know I’m trapped. I wake up before he can reach me, feeling like a cornered animal.
Today I took La Cienega home, and reached a revelation. There was construction that forced three lanes down to one, allowing (forcing) me to appreciate the view, and there they were: pumpjacks (oil pumps).
I slow to a stop and gawk. My mouth hangs open as I stare out the open window of my tiny, shiny car at one of the worst nightmares from my childhood. My eyes drag across the landscape. There were more of them, dozens, peppered across the small dry hills I’d driven past hundreds (thousands?) of times. My dad used to take this exact route to drive my mom to LAX for business trips, and sometimes Sister and I came along for the ride. What else do children do but stare out the window? The memory comes back to me with enough force to stop my breath. I force myself to exhale and examine the rest of them.
They ignore me like they always have (I hope), and keep hard at work, bowing and saying, “Yes, very nice to meet you, thank you very much, yes indeed.” But for once my imagination is silent, and they say nothing at all. They are no longer amusing. I am frozen in my seat when the blue and yellow taxi that’s been tailgating me lets out an unhealthy blast from its horn. I let off the brake slowly, watching the machines at work, waiting for them to spring to life and finally catch me.