Bobby couldn’t sleep. Two nights running, thoughts crept into his head and set up camp. His mind buzzed with ideas, thoughts, plans, problems and anxieties screaming for attention. It was like trying to sleep in the middle of a carnival.
His new wife was no help. He could hear Barbra’s soft, even breaths over the hum of the HEPA air filter. Jealousy is an ugly thing in a marriage, especially when you are only a couple of months in. ‘She can sleep anywhere, anytime,’ he thought. ‘I’d love to do that. I’m in my own house and can’t sleep and she could doze off at a bus stop with sirens blaring. Sleep? Hell,’ he turned. ‘I go to visit her folks and I can’t even crap much less sleep.’
The clock read one forty five in angry red numbers. He was starting to get desperate.
Somewhere else, three figures dressed in black lurked, keeping watch over the train wreck of Bobby’s mind.
One spoke with perfect diction. “Perhaps we should implant the suggestion? The one we had discussed?”
“Yeah, Yeah! Maybe this time! Let’s do it. Can I do it?” another chimed in.
The third one tilted his head in thought. “Sure, go ahead. Let it loose.”
In Bobby’s mind, a new thought drifted in and soared above the chaos. His best friend, Ernesto, had suggested that he try meditating. Ernesto bought into all that new age crap that Bobby considered himself far too enlightened to fall for. Yet, for all the seeming ridiculousness, Ernesto always looked rested.
Tossing and turning, he tried hard to drift off to sleep, but the harder he tried the more frustrated he became. If ever there was a time to try Ernesto’s crazy idea, this was it.
‘No more crazy than sitting here awake for the third night in a row,’ he thought. ‘I can’t go on like this. Today was brutal. Need SLEEP!’
He rocked back over onto his back and stretched out with his legs straight and his arms relaxed. The rhythmic sound of his wife’s breathing filled his ears as he dismissed any thought that came to him. Work problems inundated him and were dismissed. Life plans were put on hold for the time being. The financial books in his mind closed and background music faded away. Unpaid bills and parking tickets, random facts about breweries and bands found themselves directed to the land of dead thoughts. All of the nagging thoughts of things left uncompleted were ignored and silenced.
The whole of Bobby’s mind began to unwind. It stretched out into an open plane of dreams as his body gave into the fatigue of sleepless days. Tense muscles relaxed and he felt like he was retreating into himself. He let go of his thoughts and finally went with the flow.
Soon he was flying across the quiet landscape of his mind. He noticed things that occupied his normal waking life as he passed by their representations, but he did not focus on them – the branching machine that was the computer program he worked on, the cartoon like structure of a game, the tables and racks of probabilities that made up the rules of cribbage. He passed them all by and idly floated within his consciousness, feeling better than he had in days.
Up ahead, in this veritable forest of thoughts, skills and knowledge, floated a dark void. He headed for it, hoping it was an even deeper level of sleep.
As he went closer to this place that wasn’t, free of all cares, he found himself being drawn into it. Drunk on the novel whimsy of throwing away all his worries, he now wondered if going into this blackness was a good idea. Too late, he realized that it wasn’t.
In his bedroom, Bobby’s body tensed. His unseeing eyes bolted open. His conscious self was sucked down into the blackened abyss.
And three figures smiled in triumph.
# # #
Bobby sat in a white leather recliner. His white button-down shirt was undone at the collar with sleeves rolled up, as usual. Across a white room that appeared to have no walls and no end, stood three men who all looked a bit like him.
One of them was unkempt, in black shorts and a tee shirt. Waving his hand, he said, “Hi Bob! Ooo! I just heard ‘Hi Bob!’ Like the game ‘Hi Bob!’ Gota drink!” A shot of Tequila appeared in his hand and he drank it down.
“Sorry to bring you down here, Bobby, but things have gotten out of balance,” another said. Bobby thought he was looking at a mirror when he saw this one, except his clothes were black and not white.
The third one dressed in an all black suit and tie and said, “We’ve come to help you set things right.”
A moment passed as the three looked at him.
“Yeah,” Bobby droned out while thinking. “OK, well… this is all very weird.”
“Perhaps introductions are in order.” Bobby’s twin stepped forward. “You see, I’m Ego.”
The man in the shorts said “Id!” while pulling apart a pizza that appeared out of nowhere.
The man in the suit gave a stiff bow. “I am Super Ego, otherwise known as your better self. We’ve noticed your recent trouble with control in the consciousness and feel compelled to… lend a hand.”
“What do you mean? ‘Trouble controlling the consciousness?’ I’ve just been… a little out of sorts… and not sleeping well” As Bobby got up from his recliner, it disappeared like an unneeded thought.
Putting down his pizza, Id said. “Dude, you aren’t out of sorts, you are letting your demons run you. It’s getting crazy out there! Now, I might like crazy, but I also like sleep.”
Ego stepped in. “I’m afraid Id is right, Bobby. You have a problem with balance. Not getting enough sleep is just a symptom of the issue. The fact is things are just stacking up and not being addressed.”
Bobby got worried, and then started to smile. “Hey! This is one of those crazy dreams. I bet if I wanted, I could do the flying thing or make like I’m having sex with Britney Spears or something.”
Id perked up. “Dude, forget that. There are much better looking chicks than her. What about that English teacher you had in tenth grade. Mrs. Wortz. Damn, she made my balls hurt!”
Super Ego slid over to where Id was materializing a bucket of fried chicken. “Good god. Must you be so foul?”
Around a face full of drumstick Id smiled and said, “It’s my job, man, and I do it well!”
“We’re still not getting to the point here, and please don’t encourage … It.” Ego waved his hands in the direction of Id who had regressed to wearing a black thong. “The fact is, Bobby, if you don’t get your head in order here, you aren’t going to live a normal life again. Is that what you want?”
“What I want is some sleep,” Bobby replied without a second thought. “You’re saying I need to psychoanalyze myself in order to get it? Fine. Let’s get to it.”
Super Ego said, “Yes, Let’s,” and turned to a screen rising from the floor.
As the lights dimmed in the white, wall-less room, Ego looked at Bobby and smiled. “I’m glad you are taking this so well. We’re only here to help.”
“Since you are me, I would hope so. By the way, exactly which one of you is me?”
At the same time all three of them said “I am.”
“Well that clears it right up.”
Ego walked over to the screen hovering in the air and said, “You don’t sound totally convinced. Since we are you, we anticipated that.” He tapped on the screen and a blob with a squiggly line drawn through the top came up.
Looking for a seat in front of the screen, Bobby said, “What’s that? It looks like a blob, or a map of Barbados.”
“It’s an ice berg, for illustration.”
Bob scrunched up his face trying to make out the ice berg in the picture. He hadn’t recalled sitting but suddenly realized that he was sitting on a white leather couch between Id and Super Ego. He’d thought that the screen was missing a couch big enough for all of them to sit on, and here he was, as if by magic. Or maybe it was all in his head. He looked up and focused on the task at hand.
Id was suddenly interested and hopped up to sit on the back of the couch. “Ego! You cut out Rum? How could you, man?”
Super Ego slid over to Bobby and said, “I wanted to do this with snazzy graphics, but Ego said it was a frivolous use of the visual cortex.”
Putting his hands up, Ego said, “This doesn’t have anything to do with Rum, computer graphics are frivolous and you…” He pointed at Bobby. “I’m you. You suck at drawing. This is an iceberg!”
Bobby crossed his arms. “Fine.”
Mimicking Bobby’s mannerisms, Ego combed back his hair with his fingers. “So the iceberg is your total mind. You are the conscious mind or the part controlling the day to day, represented by the part above the water. Below the water, is where Id and Super Ego duke it out over topics of the day. Sometimes Super Ego wins out and you are more conscientious and civic minded, moral and upstanding. But, when the Id wins, you eat fried food and watch porn.”
Bobby took a quick, evil look over his shoulder at Id who was still eating fried skin from the bucket of chicken. Id just shrugged his shoulders.
Turning back to the screen, Bobby asked, “So what do you do?”
“Ah, I’m the messenger and the arbitrator. I’m all over. Id and Super Ego give me constant feedback and what comes to you as the consciousness is the most persuasive argument at the time. So really, your job is to translate my direction into actions. I coordinate between the bickering factions of the subconscious and relay them to you as the voice in your head.”
Pointing his finger, Bobby leaned forward. “So you are the bastard responsible for getting songs stuck in my ear! You are a sadistic fucker, you know that?”
“Actually, that’s mostly Id, with the music.”
From around a piece of food, Id said, “What can I say? I like show tunes.”
Turning once again to Ego, Bobby said, “So wait. Isn’t this a dream?”
“I’m afraid not.”
Id continued to eat and said, “You are in here with us until this gets resolved.”
Super Ego stepped up to explain. “You see, you fell, rather unceremoniously I might add, into the hole in your life. Climbing out and sealing it up is not an option. And the reason that the hole is there, is that balance has been lost.”
“Cutting to the chase,” Id broke in, “one of us has to go!”
“What?” Bobby’s head whipped around in surprise.
“I’m afraid so,” Ego said. “One of us has gotten too powerful and no longer listens to the others. Now things are out of balance and the cracks are starting to show. Not being able to sleep is just an outward sign. So are the recent arguments with Barbra. The uptick in drinking…”
Bobby stood up from the couch, which faded like the screen once it outlived its use. “Now wait a second. If one of you go, wouldn’t things get out of balance in the opposite direction?”
Super Ego, who was sitting on the couch with Bobby and now sat in a high-backed chair, laced his fingers together. “Actually, no. At least not in the long run. The troublesome aspect would reestablish itself fairly quickly, but in the meantime, the remaining aspects will strengthen themselves so that a more appropriate balance is restored.”
“It’s like a lizard.” Id came forward and wiped the crumbs off of his black tee shirt. “You cut off the tail, but it knows that it needs a tail, so it grows back” He looked off into the distance and mumbled, “Damn, lizards are so cool.”
“So,” Bobby clapped his hands together. “It’s a mystery! Someone is out of balance. Well, I’m anxious to get started so I can get some rest, so I’ll start by interviewing you individually. Together you all bicker too much.”
“That is our function, but I do fear that it’s made worse by the imbalance.” Ego put out his arms and seemed to draw in the other two.
“Yes, OK, all fine and good, but if I’m to get to the bottom of this, I’ll need to talk to Id and Super Ego myself. I’ve already realized that you aren’t the one out of whack, so I’ll talk to you last.”
The three looked at one another, somewhat astonished, and then Ego turned back to Bobby. “Feel free to take all the time you want. I’ll consult with you at the end.” He smiled and added, “Then we will get some sleep.”
Bobby clapped his hands together. “Sounds great! So who’s first?”
Id jumped in front of Bobby and wheeled him around to a desk forming out of the mist. “I hate waiting. Let’s get this party started.”
# # #
Bobby went around to the business side of the desk and took the plush white office chair. Id sat in the not quite so plush guest chair on the other side. Pens and paper found their way to the desk as soon as they were looked for, as did a picture of Bobby’s wife. Feeling at home, he checked the roll on his white shirt sleeves and laced his fingers. “Okay, so what do you do?”
“What do I do? Yer kiddin’ right?”
Bobby was once again impressed with how much the Id looked like him, though much more animated and sloppy.
“I’m the one who made you stick at it until you got into Mary O’Conner’s pants all through college! I’m the guy who persuaded you to throw that killer party for Halloween two years ago! That’s who I am.”
“Mary O’Conner.” Bobby leaned back in the chair and let the name dredge up fond memories. “You are a good man with that one, but what have you done recently?”
Id thought for a second, stroking his temples. His fingers snapped and he exclaimed, “I got you to buy season tickets for hockey!”
“But that was for ‘bonding time’ with Barbra!” Bobby protested.
“You think?” Id leaned back and smiled. “Ego is really good at spinning stuff.”
Bobby picked up the picture of his wife, and she started to look kind of pissed. “So what else?”
“Other things, big and small. To be quite honest, you ain’t been listening too much lately.”
“What can I say? I’ve been busy trying to build a life, now that I’m married.” He put the picture down. “I can’t exactly just do whatever I want any more.”
Waving his hands to emphasize points, Id said, “Do you really think that’s all I do? I’m some kind of animal?”
“Yeah. You are my impulses and baser desires, right?”
Bobby’s sloppy twin kicked back in his chair, but kept a cautious eye on the man in white. “You’ve got me cold. But it’s not all fun and games. I let you be comfortable. What do you think about that new couch you got a few months ago?”
“I love that couch.”
“You see, that’s me working. Without me, you wouldn’t enjoy stuff. I’m the thing that lets you laugh and make jokes, especially the crude ones. I invite you to have a beer after a hard day and unwind with a good action move. I drive you to cuddle and *ahem* other things with Barbra.”
Straightening up in his chair, Bobby waved his finger. “Careful, this is my wife you are talking about here. I love Barbra!”
“Hey! I’m in charge of that too. Heard about being ‘madly in love?’ Just call me cupid”
Bobby looked at his desk and found the notes he would have taken about the conversation, had he taken notes. “So without you, I wouldn’t be motivated by emotions and sensations?”
“Exactly.” Id smiled wide. “I gotta say, though, things have been pretty tough out there lately. Imbalance and all that. Cupid isn’t exactly able to get though all the stress and brewers droop. You gotta throw us all a bone and let up.”
“I don’t get it,” Bobby said.
“Don’t I know it. You’re trying too hard. Even trying too hard to have fun, which takes all the fun out of it. That couch is awesome, you need to decide to turn your crap off and sog into it more often.”
“I can’t. I’ve got things to do!” Bobby protested.
“Then do ’em. Or not. Ether way quit stressing out about it, man. You’re not acting as much as you are acting out and on anxious idle. Shit like that keeps you up all night!”
“OK.” He reached out his hand and Id shook it gleefully. “I’m all done here. Can you get Super Ego for me?”
“Sure thing dude! Nice knowing you!”
# # #
Super Ego came to the door of the dream office and walked into the room.
“Hi, Super Ego. Have a seat.”
The stiff version of himself laid down a three page resume on the desk. “I come prepared.”
Bobby read over the resume until he came to a line. “Hm. You were the one that kept me from marrying Mary O’Conner right out of college. Good man. She was a nightmare.”
Super Ego sat there, looking pleased.
“Is there anything else, or is it all here?”
“Well, I’m much more about keeping you from doing detrimental things. I’d like to point out that anything that takes more than a day or so to plan is controlled by me as well.”
With a kidding grin, Bobby said, “Well, my ability to focus is crap, so thanks a lot”
“Certainly no fault of mine. You treat your body like a garbage dump.”
“Well, aren’t you also the part of me that drives me to the gym?”
“To be honest, that’s one of the points where the Id and I agree, though for differing reasons. I propose that you need to take better care of yourself, lose weight and tone up your cardiovascular system. The Id just likes the runner’s high and the fact that it improves your sexual performance. And, he tends to like places where women walk around in tight clothing.”
“And you aren’t in on that?”
“I’m ambivalent. It’s not my job. My job is to keep you from trying to start anything with those tramps at the gym. I keep you doing your job, until it’s time to go. I get you up in the morning and make you go to bed at a decent hour. I keep you from breaking laws and your word. In other words, I am your higher self and steer you toward noble goals.” He folded his hands in his lap and stood straight and still in the chair.
Bobby was impressed with this guy, but he had to find out if he had taken too much power away from the other two. “So, lately, what is a major accomplishment that you can point to as being mostly your own.”
The stiff twin shifted in his chair and looked Bobby straight in the eye. “That question shows a lack of understanding of the predicament in which we find ourselves. Nothing gets accomplished without the input of the other aspects. Everything is tempered, run through justifications and finally filtered through the personality, you, to actualize in the physical world. So, I can rightly claim nothing to be my accomplishment.”
Silence greeted this answer, as Bobby considered it. “Okay, let me rephrase. What timely action, taken by all of us, was most driven by you? There must be something that you initiated. I’m sure you weren’t the initiator of the Hockey tickets.”
“Oh the Hockey tickets.” He rolled his eyes. “I spent a long time at the insistence of the Ego coming up with justifications for that. Truthfully, ever since you got married, it’s been harder and harder to get anything done around here. I get you checking your check book and going to work, but even that is a struggle.”
“Is that because of the imbalance?”
“Yes.” His eyes grew wide in alarm and he seemed to somehow grow while staying the same size. “The imbalance makes it difficult to properly align with expected norms of behavior. What results is only minimally acceptable, triggering coping mechanisms. Your lack of sleep, for instance, is every undone thing shouting at you, both the required and the desired. These things don’t just go away if you ignore them.”
“Well I really haven’t been able to focus on any of that stuff.” Bobby waved a hand as he replied. “I’ve been busy, you know…”
“NO!” Super Ego insisted. His fist came down on the white table top of the desk, momentarily turning it black.
Behind SuperEgo, the white room darkened. The figure in the chair became more clearly defined, somehow more there than he had been before. His face froze into a hard, lecturing stare. “You do not get to give yourself a pass on this one. The way you are acting, taking on every problem and resolving none, taking up every distraction and vice without care or enjoyment, you are acting as a barbaric fool. No wonder Barbra argues with you. You drink, you eat like crap, you avoid her, you avoid your job, you avoid the gym. Your logic wants to think that behaving like an animal will make you happier, but still you can’t let go enough to enjoy your antisocial behavior.”
“Hey!” Bobby squeaked in protest, “Quit stepping on my dick, jackass.”
“I would like to, but you keep presenting it to be trod upon and keeping you on the straight and narrow is my job. As part of that job, I have to tell you that you, as you are now are a loathsome creature. And to top it all off, you don’t even have the common decency to be ashamed of yourself. You must… put an end to the imbalance… or we are all lost.”
“You done?” Bobby crossed his arms and rocked back in the white office chair. “You done, or would you like to sit there and shit talk me… us… a little more?”
Super Ego straightened and feigned distraction by inspecting his sleeve for lint. “I believe I’ve said my peace, Bobby. I’d apologize for the unfiltered nature of my comments if I didn’t believe that they were one hundred percent justified. I fear that even with this admonition, you will continue on your current course. And as usual, I will have your best interest at heart and will attempt to guide you down a path of piety.”
“Uh, thanks, I guess…”
A pencil eraser tapped nervously in Bobby’s hand, rapping against a notepad. He looked at the notes that appeared on the pad as he thought them up then addressed Super Ego. “OK. I need to think about this. If you can let the others know that I’ll be out in a bit.”
The stiff entity stood up and left the office, leaving Bobby to ponder his subconscious.
# # #
“How did the interviews go?” Ego was so exactly like Bobby that he was a touch stunned at seeing him again. It was as if the mirror suddenly started talking.
“Fine. Just don’t tell me that you really are Mary O’Conner.”
“No. Actually, I’ve got some regrets about that girl. She was quite the troubled soul.”
“Yeah, she was. Hot though…” Bobby nodded at the ground for a moment then raised an eyebrow at his twin. “I’m having a hard time. Both Super Ego and Id have elements that seem over the top and out of control. But I’m thinking that the Id has grown too crazy. His appetite for fun and games seems to be a problem.”
Ego shook his head. “I was afraid you’d say that.” The man in the black placed a hand on bobby’s shoulder. “You see, Bobby, It’s you, the personality, the consciousness. You are the problem.”
“How can I be the problem? I’m the one who is actually Bobby!”
“Not without us, you’re not, and that’s the problem. You have suppressed your subconscious to the point where your waking mind must do all the analysis and make all the decisions. You haven’t done what you wanted to do, because you thought it would be indulgent. You haven’t done what you should do because you resent always having to be responsible. In the end, the tools that are given to your conscious mind are overtaxed and running out of control, causing you stress and sleeplessness. The waking mind can’t sleep because you have given it so much work to do that it needs to run well into the night to catch up.”
Bobby stuck his hand up and turned away from Ego. “That’s a bunch of crap. All I’m doing here is talking to myself. This is just another weird dream, though I guess I should be thankful. At least it means I’m sleeping.”
“See? You aren’t paying attention. This is no dream.” Ego charged at Bobby with his finger in the air.
“But I’m keeping myself together as best I can for my wife, my job and my future!”
“Your wife and your job would be better served if you let your whole self address the issues in front of you. She fell in love with you as a whole person and the problems that come up between you two are partly because you changed. As for your future? Well, you can’t keep your current state up very long. Eventually your conscious decision making process will crack and you will start screwing up or going mad. You already can’t sleep, so who’s to say you won’t have a costly nervous breakdown.”
The Personality of Bobby clenched his fists. “I won’t let myself have a nervous breakdown!”
“Now there, you are more right than you know.” Id and Super Ego flanked Ego and all three were looking at him. “You, Bobby’s personality and waking mind, you are the one who has to go.”
“Whoa, wait a second! Then what was all that interviewing and such about? You said one of you all must go.”
“I said one of ‘Us’ must go. Knowing that you were the one of ‘Us’ that was on the way out, none of the rest of us thought that there was any harm in letting you have your fun. Besides, you might have learned something and made this unnecessary. As it is, further self reflection will have to be handled by your successor. Good bye.”
“Wait! Hold on! What are you…” Bobby’s personality slowly disappeared into the vague whiteness of the room’s boundaries, as if it had been a piece of forgotten furniture.
Out in the real world, Bobby’s whole body sighed and the cleansing chaos of dreams flooded his mind. It swirled and danced with the pieces of computer program, making them play cribbage to thirty one. Worlds unfolded and evaporated to give rise to strange beings as gravity bubbled up and explored the ceiling. All of the trouble in life mixed with this chaos and new connections were tried with the crazy logic of dreams. The magic work of the subconscious raced through the sleeping mind.
At the center of the storm, in the endless white room, Id, Ego and Super Ego looked at an image of the sleeping Bobby on a screen flaked by the dream images. A separate screen showed the progress of Bobby’s brain and body descending into a deep sleep.
Super Ego leaned in to talk to Ego. “Are you sure that was wise?”
“No.” Ego turned and faced the straight laced, subconscious personification. “But it was necessary. He’ll sleep past his alarm in the morning, giving us ample time to create a new personality from his memories and experiences, his thoughts and dreams. It will be him – us – but without all that willful control nonsense that was causing so much trouble and angst.” Ego looked once again at Bobby finally at peace, healing and resting. “When Bobby wakes up, he’ll feel like a whole new man.”