Category Archives: Where You Go When She Sleeps

T.R. Hummer: Where You Go When She Sleeps

Hummer is the only author other than Tolstoy who describes dreaming as it really feels like. Tolstoy, in War and Peace, does it numerous times (Book 14, Chapter 10: Petya the night before the battle – before he dies, and Book 11, Chapter 32: Andrei as he imagines Crystal threads hanging over his head that collapse and reform – and he’s dying, too).

In both cases, Hummer and Tolstoy, dreaming is related to death, in fact both involve the death of a boy of roughly the same age (12-ish to 14-ish). And both have an in-between before the dream itself (or death) where what is imagined to totally unreal: Hummer with the metals color that seems to have just come into existence, and Tolstoy with the crystalline threads of air.

Here, though, is far more descriptive. We literally get lost and swallowed up in this image, we drown in the oats, we suffocate, we are pulled under. There is a fullness here, but also, like the oats slipping through our fingers, we can’t quite grasp onto it, there’s nothing solid in this world. Love is like that – it’s real,but we can’t hold it, we can only hold the one we love. And we fall into it, are filled up by it, are in a way killed by it because love is a sort of of the death of the self and the birth of two together.

And he draws an interesting parallel between the father’s tears falling on both their faces (as if the dead boy is still somehow alive, or we can feel the father wishing life back into the boy), and the sense of being so in love with someone that you want to cry. He holds her head just as the father holds his son. And it’s all fleeting because love can end just as life – and both can end suddenly.

He sets this up beautifully with the word “jerk”, it’s an odd word to use here, but it reminds me of those shudders you get when you almost fall asleep then jerk awake. You can feel the dreaming coming on, the body is fighting something, like someone drowning.

There is also a mystery here because her dream is her own, it does not include you. Her love is her own, her life is her own, even if she has placed complete trust in you to fall asleep in your lap.

We then get “falling” and “dragging” and “fell” and “leaning” and then he uses the words “wings” to describe his weak, helpless arms. We’ve fallen with him and we are too weak to climb out.

The end, like death itself, love will not let you go Even if you die, or are separated, it’s still there.  And it’s like a dream, unreal, unique to each person, perhaps even unknowable for someone to explain to you (like a dream), but strong and forever.