Mister Fish

published July 13, 2013

Every Wednesday I have the same dream.

I have a house of my own, a garden, and a pet fish. There’s an artificial creek that runs through the garden. It starts from a waterfall and collects into an old cast iron tub.  It’s more tasteful than I make it sound and doesn’t look strange at all.

The weird part is the fish. Its tail falls off all day. It’s constantly growing a new tail and as soon as it has one, it drops off into the water. This doesn’t prevent Mister Fish from swimming. The part of his withers where the tail falls off is tail shaped itself, so the falling tail is like a tin can tied to a newlywed’s car.

I have to clean the tails out of my fake little creek. They accumulate quickly and in the dream I’m always worried my fish will be smothered by them. The tails are very durable, like cabbage leaves, and if you hold them up to the light you can see lines of text on them, like fortune cookies. I know you’re not supposed to be able to read in dreams, but there are different sets of rules for people with narcolepsy. I can and do read my fish tails.

you shouldn’t worry so much-

-says one of Mister Fish’s falling tails. I agree, Mister Fish. Sometimes, I worry too much. If I still had a therapist I think the thought of my fish smothering under its own tails would be significant. But I don’t and it isn’t.

I don’t tell people I suffer from narcolepsy.

“Suffer” is a bullshit word to me. Although the sleep doctors tell me I’ve always had the condition, I’m 40 and was only diagnosed a few years ago. Before that I thought I had all kinds of other problems. Every narcoleptic has a unique set of triggers. Mine are mostly related to stress. If a particular situation involves lots of variables and possibilities for error my brain delivers the equivalent of a big hit of Valium. The greater the feelings of stress, the greater my desire for sleep.

The excessive need to sleep is a symptom of a lot of things, but most everyone and me thought it must be depression. I was only ever aware of my feelings of anxiety. The only depressing part was being sleepy when I needed to be most alert. The awareness of this tendency became a great source of anxiety itself, which made the problem worse.

I’m not a narcoleptic that just passes out.

We don’t all do that. It’s why they didn’t figure it out for so long. As soon as I was correctly diagnosed I started feeling a lot better and a lot less tired. If you know you have narcolepsy you know that the desire to sleep isn’t due to lack of sleep necessarily. Your brain tells you it’s bedtime even when it’s not. A quick nap of 20 minutes works most instances. Waiting it out awake also works. So I don’t like to say “suffer” all that much. Those guys that just pass out and can’t drive, that’s suffering to me.

Mister Fish is my friend.

The dreams keep me relaxed. It’s important. An average person spends 15% of their evening dreaming. A narcoleptic can spend upwards of half the night. Sometimes if my dreaming is very excited and involved I wake up exhausted. Mister Fish provides a calm and relaxing experience. A mundane experience even. Which means a restful night.

Mister Fish’s two little steering fins at either side are hand shaped. They’re as thin as normal fish fins, but they look like 2-D human hands inscribed on cabbage leaves.

It sounds very complicated, but it’s not. Nothing much happens in the dream. I’m always just cleaning up after him, enjoying my garden, and wondering what my house looks like inside.

I’ve never been inside my house.

Although I have the dream every week, I never get out of the garden. There’s nothing preventing me going inside. There’s a clearly visible sliding glass door and I know in that way we all know things in dreams that it’s unlocked. But I also know in that way we all know things in dreams that it’s very cold inside. The AC is blazing and outside it is always really nice.

It’s sunny, but there’s a lot of those big bushy clouds that share the light and keep it from being too bright. The clouds move at a rate that makes everything seem really alive with color. The kind of day I call crisp because I’ve heard it said and it seems to fit even when it makes me think of granny smith apples.

Next Wednesday I will go inside.

you must remember to dream a sweater.

Thank you Mister Fish.