There are certain nightmares that zero in so precisely on our fear of helplessness that even when we wake up we can’t shake ourselves free of the terror. Some seem to be common to the human race as a whole: forgetting to study for an important test, falling out of a speeding roller coaster, murdering someone and having to live with the gnawing guilt. Others are more random but feel just as gut wrenching.
I once had a nightmare where I was the passenger in a car being driven by Andy Dick. We were in downtown New Delhi, and he was going out of his way to hit every water buffalo in the street. My arms were frozen and useless at my side so I couldn’t grab the wheel from him, but I remember screaming over and over, “At least use hand signals!” Finally, he pulled to the side of the road, ran out and jumped down a manhole. He popped back with two bottles of 7-Up, and then proposed marriage to me. I told my then-boyfriend Steve about the nightmare the next morning, and he didn’t give my any sympathy at all. He just sneered and said, “Yeah, Andy Dick marries you. That’s one way to get people to feel sorry for him.”
Whenever I’m unemployed, I always have the same nightmare. I open a letter from the Electric Company and it says I owe them hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are so many zeroes that they don’t all fit in the little printed box. The words “Final Notice!” and “Service Discontinued!” scream at me in giant diagonal red letters. I curl up into a ball in the corner and wail, overwhelmed with shame and guilt and the embarrassing stigma of financial failure. It happened again just last week, and I woke up in a cold sweat. I jumped out of bed and ran to find Michael, hoping he could calm me down.
“It really freaked me out!” I told him.
“I’ll bet,” he answered. He nodded, but just a little and it might have qualified as more of a head wobble, something that one does to recover from a minor sneeze. He didn’t even look over at me. He was tossing sunflower seeds and millet at the finches gathering around the birdbath for their breakfast in the yard.
“Could you imagine ever getting a bill like that?” I pleaded.
“Nope,” he said
“I mean… that would wipe me out completely!”
“Yes it would,” he said. His hand continued flinging seed, unbroken in its rhythm.
It was apparent that he’d heard me recount this dream one too many times in the past, and all the dramatic tricks in the world would not be enough to pry out of him any sympathy or a pep talk about how the next job was just around the corner. But instead of surrendering, I made up additional details that hadn’t actually happened in the dream, hoping to win him over.
“And then all the numbers jumped off the page and landed on my face and started sucking it off like an octopus!”
“I’ll say! And I started to cry but I didn’t have any eyes left because the octopus had sucked them off, so my head filled up like a water balloon and exploded all over the living room!”
Michael sighed and finally turned and looked me straight in the eyes. “You’ve been out of work one day,” he said. “You’re not gonna go broke anytime soon. Go inside and watch The Price is Right.”
I looked down at the finches. They were even less concerned. It’s difficult to admit that all the sympathy and concern God has poured into my boyfriend to sustain him his entire life, I’ve managed to completely suck out of him in the nine years we’ve been together.
Michael is much more patient than I am. If we were ever asked to pick out motivational t-shirts, his would read, “Go with the flow!” while mine would read, “Get this fucking river out of my way before I punch you in the nuts.”
That isn’t to say I won’t sit and watch game shows all day when I’m unemployed. Because I sure shit will. I’ll just feel mountains of pounding Catholic guilt about it afterwards. And poor Michael has to hear about it. And as the days of unemployment progress, it only gets worse for him. It won’t be long before my idle producer brain starts feeling the itch to solve problems that are no longer being presented to me on a Monday-through-Friday basis. And from there, it’s a quick jump before I start suggesting to Michael better ways for him to accomplish things he can already do perfectly well on his own.
This morning, as Michael was packing the cookies I made him to take to work, I found myself lecturing him on the proper transportation of baked goods. “Don’t put the cookie caddy on the passenger seat,” I warned. “Set it gently on the floor in front of the passenger seat so it won’t slide around. And be sure to put your name on BOTH the top and the bottom pieces of the cookie caddy. We don’t want them to get separated! But in the event they do, we want to make sure we get both pieces back. You should use masking tape and a sharpie pen. Sometimes a ballpoint pen isn’t thick enough. Sharpie is definitely the way to go.”
I sounded like a mother detailing for her four-year-old the extensive dangers of improperly using school paste. Why I didn’t end up with a chocolate macadamia smack-print on my cheek is a testament to Michael’s saintly level of patience, and my ability to clearly read whenever his face, silent and idle, is nevertheless telling me in no uncertain terms, “Go into the other room and watch The fucking Price is Right.”
Andy Dick really dodged a bullet.
Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate, 4 ounces coarsely chopped, 4 ounces cut into 1/4-inch chunks
- 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup powdered (confectioners) sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
- 2 cups dark chocolate chips.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F˚.
Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.
Melt chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl.
Add sugar, eggs, and vanilla to the chocolate-butter mixture and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low and slowly mix in the dry ingredients from above.
Fold in chocolate chunks and macadamia nuts.
Scoop batter with a teaspoon onto baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake approximately 12 minutes, rotating pans mid-way through. Cookies should still be soft to the touch but formed and cohesive when you remove them from the oven. Cool on a wire cooling rack