Homicidal Ideation

Close your eyes and imagine this:

  • You’re at a playground next to a dog run.
  • Your two-year old daughter is between you and the playground gate that someone’s left open. (This being a big city, most of our playgrounds are surrounded by low fences.)
  • You suddenly hear the sounds of dogs fighting in the dog run.

That was the situation yesterday. No actual danger arose, but in my zealous parent’s imagination, the story continued:

A snarling and unleashed pit bull burst through the gate, its predatory instinct homing in on my daughter, who stood between me and the danger. (Sorry about the anti-pit bull prejudice, but hey, it’s my dark fantasy.)

I drop my coffee cup. (My daymares are full of oddly specific details like this.) Within five seconds I reach Boo and pry the dog’s jaws off her leg.

And then (in my imagination, remember) I kill the dog.

As it’s biting and clawing at me, I slam it viciously against playground equipment over and over. I break its neck and toss its body down the hill. I have no regrets.

Finally, dog dead, my mental flight fades and returns me to the actual present, standing in our safe and dogless playground.

I was disturbed by the violence my brain had just conjured — I’m not a physical guy and besides that, I love dogs. And yesterday wasn’t the first time I’ve been visited by such dark thoughts: it happens all the time, with imagined threats like strangers at the grocery store or reckless drivers. And every time, I, Mr. Pacifist, kick some serious ass.

It’s not hard to surmise what these mean dreams mean: I’m (sort of) an alpha male now, charged with protecting a family. Primal instinct is a bitch.

And, of course, just like nighttime dreams, these silent plays have a lesson for me, too. Back in reality, I walked calmly to the playground gate and closed it.

Paranoia? Sure. But closing the gate keeps the invisible put bulls out. And it’s better to be (imaginarily) safe than (pretend) sorry.