Snakes have appeared in my dreams since I was a small child, exotic snakes that curl up against my skin, roll out from cracks in the walls, or appear on a lawn that I need desperately to cross. When I was a kid, I 'd wake up terrified and peer over the edge of the bed, fully expecting to see snakes on the bedroom floor.
But I was an adult when the lion began appearing in my dreams. He's a big African lion, a full-grown male, and like the snakes, he appears in unexpected places, almost always indoors. In my dream this week, I was packing up a house to move, with furniture and belongings piled about. China balanced on the tops of bookshelves, cups and saucers piled precariously in a way that made me think of a Dr. Seuss book. The lion padded quietly through the paths between the couches and boxes, moving gracefully and swiftly.
When my kid were little, I was often terrified that the dream lion would hurt them. I'd call to them to climb to the tops of the bookshelves, where we could look safely down at the lion. In one recurring dream, I'd carry my sleeping child into the bathroom, the only room with a door that locked, to keep him away from the lion. But then, I'd wake up in terror, realizing I had made a mistake and locked the lion in with my child.
My children, older now, don't appear in the dreams anymore. I was by myself as I watched the lion, as he brushed past over-stuffed chairs and old-fashioned lace curtains. He's familiar now, and his presence doesn't surprise me the way it used to. I admired the way his muscles moved as he put his paws on the kitchen counter, stretching his body up.
I'd been working for several minutes, packing dishes and sorting through boxes, listening to the lion pad through the house, when suddenly I had this realization: he's a lion. He's got claws and teeth.
He could kill me if he wanted to.
I stepped slowly from my task and turned to look at the lion, wondering what I should do. He dropped from counter to the linoleum floor in one easy move and ran swiftly through the boxes. I could hear the screen door as he pushed his way through. And then he was gone.