Old Dress Greens

I’m awakened by a noise I can’t identify. I lie in bed for a moment, in the darkness, then slip out, looking around. I cross the hall, seeing no one and nothing. I walk toward the bathroom.

When I turn around, suddenly there is an Army soldier there. Less than two feet away.

He is African-American and I would guess he’s in his late 20s or early 30s. He is wearing old style Army dress greens and standing with his hands at his sides. Staring at me.

No. Through me.

Stunned, I stare back. The sense of doom rises in me. Who is this? Why is he here? How did he get in? How did he suddenly appear there when he wasn’t there two seconds ago?

As my heart pounds and I reach for understanding, he softens slightly and begins to speak. “Ma’am, I’m here to tell you that your friend’s son, Jesse Green, was killed in action in Iraq.”

I’m baffled. Still wordless, I drop my eyes away, searching my memory. Jesse Green? I don’t know who that is. I roll the name over in my head. Jesse Green… Jesse Green… Then his identity dawns on me and I’m overcome by sadness for his parents. “Oh! Oh, God! Oh, no!” I softly bemoan their tragedy.

But why is this soldier here, telling me? I don’t understand.

The soldier breaks his stony expression and smiles a bit, bowing his head slightly. “I have a card, if you’d like it…”

As he extends his left hand, seemingly blank business card held out, I sense that I’m in grave danger. I look up from the card and see his right hand coming up, his index finger on the trigger of a .45.

I duck, turning to my left, low, with my arms coming up over my head.

And wake up.


Where the hell did that come from?

I look at the clock and find that it’s 6:00am. It’s not quite light outside, and I begin to drift back to sleep, and back into that dream. Struggling to the surface of consciousness, I fight to wake up completely and break away from the nightmare. It is a mighty fight. I slip away twice before I finally manage to really wake up and end the dream.

Heart pounding, eyes blinking, I repeat to myself, “It was just a dream. It was just a dream. It was just a dream. It was just a dream.”

I am not sure whether I only said those words in my head, or if I actually whispered them aloud.

I hear a click from another part of the apartment and shift my eyes to the bedroom doorway. Without contact lenses or glasses, in the pre-dawn gray light, I won’t see anything. But even the cat has been alerted to the sound, her ears perked up, her gaze fixed in the direction from which it came.

Another click. The cat gets up on her front paws.

Is someone trying to get in?

Now I can’t determine whether the dream was triggered by the sound or whether the sound is more frightening because of the dream.

Just a dream. Just a dream. Just a dream.

I breathe deeply, in and out, in and out, trying to grip the reality of the early morning and let go of the strange circuitry of the sleeping brain.


No one was trying to get into the apartment. I don’t know what the clicking was that the cat and I heard. But now, more than 30 hours after I woke up from the nightmare, I’m fascinated by it.

I was really terrified in that dream. Everything about it felt wrong. The house I was in was not a house in which I had ever lived, though the furniture in the bedroom seemed similar, at least, to my set. Perhaps it was a house in which I will live one day? I knew it was my home, and I liked it. I know that.

The soldier… what was it about him? I was astonished by a number of things. He was African-American. Why? (Why not?) He was wearing old-style dress greens. I can’t remember the last time I saw those. But I didn’t feel that I was in another era, like a past life, in that dream. I wondered in the dream, briefly, if he was a ghost, because he had appeared so suddenly in the hall where I had just walked. But I knew almost right away that he was not a ghost. And his expression… stone-faced. Not just disciplined away from expression. Cold. Heartless. Menacing.

When he softened and began to speak, my sense of dread for myself waned a bit as I thought about the tragedy of another family. I lowered my guard just slightly. And when I saw him raise that arm with the .45 in his hand, I knew somehow that making me lower my guard had been his intention.

How did I know it was a .45? I don’t know anything about guns. I hate guns.

But I know it was a .45.

I looked it up to be sure. And I was right.

I even remember it was silver and gold toned. Silver in the handpiece and the lower portion of the barrel. Gold on the top portion. Running along the length.

And what about the name? Jesse Green. I don’t know a Jesse Green. Truth be told, in the dream, Green’s father was exactly the person who may have been struck by the last name while reading this. But I know he doesn’t have a son named Jesse. And he shouldn’t be concerned. The only thing about the dream that I’ve been able to figure out is that the reference to his last name was my brain’s way of connecting my dream to “reality.” In fact, as soon as I woke up, I thought, “I should write a blog post about this.”

There is a Jesse Green who served in the Army in Iraq. He’s alive, and lives in Ohio. I used to live in Ohio, but not since before 9/11, and I have no idea who he is.

The details I’ve described are those that I know must matter to the dream. They must matter to my psyche, or I wouldn’t remember them so clearly and absolutely. They must hold keys to the interpretation. And yet, I have no idea where this nightmare came from.

I have a friend whose fiance’ was critically wounded a few weeks ago, but in Afghanistan, not Iraq. He is African-American – is that why the soldier in my dream was? Normally, when I can’t figure out a dream, if I find a connection somehow, I know it’s the right one by how it resonates with me consciously. If it’s an “Oh!” moment, I know that must be it. I haven’t had any of those moments about this dream.

I think that’s what scares me the most.

It was not the most frightening dream I’ve ever had, but for a dream that seems to hold no connection to anything I know in waking life, it was terrifying. I can’t shake it even a day later.

Have you ever had a dream that shook you without making any sense at all?


12 thoughts on “Old Dress Greens

  1. This is really interesting. I have an extremely active dream life, and do a lot of “work” in my dreams. I know exactly what you mean about that sense of resonance when a meaning or symbol or connection that came in a dream clicks – you just know you are right. Keep holding it in your “backbrain”, and perhaps it will come to you. And yes, I too have had those dreams that shook me without making sense.

    • I find I go through phases of having lots of dreams I remember and having none I remember. I guess that’s related to phases in life and psychological workouts while we sleep… though I still haven’t figured this one out!

  2. I have night terrors periodically. Interestingly they have lessened since I left my husband, but I still get them. They come with a generally horrible, scary, unsettling dream and I can never make sense of them, even though I think about it for days and try to make some connection. What amazes me is the dreams that leave me the most unsettled are the dreams I remember the tiniest detail.

  3. Just having a chance to comment, but your dream has been on my mind too! It was scary just reading about it.

    I do think that we have dreams that mean nothing. Or, rather, they have no real significance regarding anything that’s going on in our lives at the time, nothing we’re worried about, etc. I just think our minds are always working and being creative, and this creativity sometimes manifests itself in our dream world. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for our ability to be creative.

    I’ve had plenty of dreams that were perplexing to me because I couldn’t figure out where they came from. Some involved me and some were more like movies running in my head. I’ve dreamed up landscapes and buildings, inside and out. I’ve found myself in rooms I’ve never seen before. I’ve encountered people I’ve never met, and I wonder if this is just someone I saw on the street somewhere or in a commercial I don’t remember. Or maybe my mind just concocted this face – a composite of some of the thousands upon thousands of faces I’ve seen in my lifetime.

    In any case, I don’t think your dream needs to mean anything specific. It might. But it might not, either.

    • Yeah, maybe it doesn’t mean anything. I just have a hard time with a dream that’s so rich in detail being so meaningless. I’ve wondered the same thing about where people I don’t know come from in my dreams.

  4. Wow, I loved reading this. It’s odd, how sometimes we remember these dreams in such great detail yet can’t seem to get the right-feeling meaning from them. I’ve had them too. Sometimes meaning comes later and sometimes it doesn’t really. I have a couple dreams even from childhood that I still remember in great detail.

    • Thanks. It’s still unsettling to think of that dream. I still haven’t had any Ahas about it… I can’t recall any other dreams so disturbing that I couldn’t somehow figure out. But I had to write about it!

  5. I love dreams in which you know things that you didn’t know while awake. Until that moment.The 45. You are wiser than you think. This I see as a good thing. Try not to fear what you do know. Leave that to what you do not. Another winning post.

    • Thanks. I was just thinking about this dream the other day, but mostly in that “huh” way you think of things you can’t figure but don’t care much about in the end. Boy did it haunt me at first!

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