Paging Dr. Freud. Paging Dr. Freud. Your assistance is requested in the F Wing…
Last night I dreamed I was watching a football game on TV.
So anyway, I was watching this football game being played in Wisconsin during the dead of winter, so I suppose it would be safe to assume it was a Packer game. The field was covered in ice and several feet of packing snow, and was surrounded by tens of thousands of spectators filling the stands while two balding announcers in outdated neckties commented on every last detail from their overhead vantage point in their special booth.
I was ready to “change channels” on this waste of a dream when the announcers began shouting excitedly about a football player who, upon being run out of bounds during a play, had fallen into a frozen pit at the edge of the field. Overhead cameras zoomed in, filming straight down into the abyss. The pit went down a good thirty feet before curving slightly, keeping the floor of the hole just out of view. There was a flimsy red, metal ladder hanging down into the hole, but it only reached down ten feet or so. Beyond that, anyone in that hole would be on their own.
Cheers erupted suddenly from the crowd as the football player, using nothing but adrenaline and pure strength, climbed up out of the pit and ran right back into the game. That is a person who knows the terrain. That is a person who belongs there. That, friends, is a hero we can count on.
Cue the National Anthem.
I had begun wondering what the point of this dream was when the announcers started snickering into their lapel mics, laughing and joking as the crowd pointed and hooted, rolling their eyes. It seems another man, a man working in some capacity along the sidelines, a man whose other job was as some sort of art teacher, had also slipped into the pit of snow and ice after being told by one of his superiors to jump across it.
“He’ll never get out of there!” The first announcer’s tone was shocked but gleeful.
“You’ve got that right,” responded the second. “So ah- what would you say those temperatures are like down in the pit there?”
“Oh I’d say it’s gotta be at least below zero, eh?”
“Oh you betcha. At least below zero. Maybe even less than that, eh?”
“Oh yeah. Yeah, at least. Or more. Yeah?”
“Yeah. Probably more. I just hope he can get out in time!”
“Yeah, I hope so too. ‘Cause there’s no way they can get a rescue crew down there fast enough to save him before he dies from that cold. He’ll die down there in that ice pit, wouldn’cha say?”
“Oh yeah. Definitely. He’ll definitely die if he stays down in that snow too long. And all that ice? Yeah. I’d say he’ll probably be trapped down there too long and there’ll be no saving him.”
I wanted to wake up. It was all too uncomfortable and my brain was getting all squirmy. But I couldn’t. Not yet. I had to know if the man would ever escape the ice pit, so I carried on dreaming, refusing to let things go lucid and shuttering my conscious mind from whatever my subconscious mind was trying to work through.
Though God only knows that by this point I was pretty sure I had a lock on that “great mystery”…
The crowd was beginning to give up on the man in the ice pit, the man who was a mind finding its way in a world of muscle in an attempt to make ends meet, trapped in ice and snow so foreign and so lethal that it was already taken as a given he would not- could not- survive. The cameras were zooming out, and retreating. The players were lining back up to resume the game. The announcers were laughing their way back to more interesting banter about subjects like how far someone had thrown a thing, or how someone else had failed to catch it.
And then we saw him. Me, the crowd, the announcers– we saw an arm from the man in the pit as it clawed its way into view before the last camera finished moving away. The crowd held its breath. The man’s other arm inched higher up the wall of the narrow pit. He swung a leg out as he gained on the narrowest part of the pit near the top, pushing his back against one side and his feet against the other. Rescuers could have helped him at that point, but they didn’t even try. He had been as good as dead in their eyes. All this was just a bonus, just something to watch, his struggle mere filler before a commercial break during which he would be forgotten.
His hand flew up over the top of the pit, ice melting under his fingers before refreezing to his skin. Another moment’s struggle and he was free. Above ground. Safe.
But the crowd did not respond.
I wanted to tell the man to run, to get away from the pit, from the field, from that world where he did not belong, but of course I couldn’t. I was just a spectator myself, as guiltily silent as the tens of thousands watching these events take place in person. Maybe the people in the stands were holding back because they, too, felt powerless in their position as spectators? Or was it because for them it was all simply something unexpected they were only casually trying to figure out?
Whatever the reason it soon didn’t matter, because just as I reached that moment of wanting to warn the man to leave, someone on the sidelines pushed him back into the pit. The announcers resumed their babbling. The crowd returned their attention to the field. The players locked their eyes back on the ball.
He would be forgotten.
But not by me. Not even after I woke up.
Incidentally, when Googling the phrase “ice pit” the first result was for a place in Wisconsin where one can intentionally climb ice…