Bedtime Stories

Yesterday, I had dinner at the home of some close friends. At some point, the conversation turned to what we see in our brains.

Do you see pictures like a movie or nothing at all? Do you have a voice that speaks to you, sort of like a running commentary–a second self to bounce ideas off of? What does your brain do when it is idle? I was surprised to learn one of my friends does math equations, and the other arranges gradients of color. When idle or stressed, my brain makes up stories. I call them bedtime stories, and surprise, I usually tell them to myself as I’m falling asleep.

It’s my way of not churning or ruminating on all real the things I could. There are whole little worlds full of whole people running around my brain, and I just tune in every night. And when the real world is a bit too much, I sometimes write down some of these stories from these worlds, and these people. This helps me work through problems and explore concepts that I don’t really understand — power dynamics between different types of people, politics, particular literary devices, and tropes (Ex: the time I wrote a whole novel employing reversals for each character as per Aristotle), and sometimes a little smut gets in there, too!

This week was a tough one, so while I did work on my project story, I spent more time writing bedtime stories about basically good and moral people trying to stay centered in themselves and committed to one another in a dark and chaotic world–a planet going through reconstruction after the end of slavery (a time that could have ended in civil war, but didn’t, and still might). Sometimes I wonder if those characters go to bed at night and tell themselves really chilling tales about a planet where the climate is crumbling, income inequality is out of control, people who defeated fascism nearly a century before suddenly run back to its embrace, and where a giant balloon coasting high up in the stratosphere is all anyone can talk about?

Here’s a little snippet of my bedtime story, for accountability’s sake.

“I don’t understand at all what it’s like to want to just be alone with only the earth under my feet and the sun on my face not talking to another person all day. I understand it so little that I have to take your word that it’s true and that it’s not just that you have been treated poorly by people who should have been obliged to love and respect you and now you prefer the company of plants.” As he spoke, C gathered P’s fine wedding clothes from the floor and hung them on the rack next to his Southern-style robes. Before he turned back to him, he smoothed the cloth tenderly. He took a long deep breath and stared at his hands as they moved along the weave. “Probably, it’s something in between. But there is no equation that adds up to you being a simple person. I wasn’t laughing at you; I was laughing at how absolutely absurd that entire idea is.”

Featured image credit:,Kirchspiel,_Dernekamp,_Getreide_bei_Sonnenaufgang2021–_8812.jpg

Sarah R. Rodlund

Sarah is a writer and traveler.


  • One speaker doesn’t understand how the other could truly want to be alone and isn’t just traumatized by mistreatment. The other, the one who wants to be alone, has dropped his wedding clothes on the floor. Intriguing! This sounds like the consummation of an arranged marriage and one of the newly-weds did not particularly want to go through with it, I’m thinking.

    It’s funny that you make up stories in your ind before you sleep. I only make up stories when I’m writing them down, otherwise I just forget them and they drift around before I can catch their meanings or where they might have been headed.

    I love the little thread of dialog in this.

  • Maybe like dreams the uncertainty should stand, such as P’s reaction or placement not being here. And then, I think C is the speaker. The pronouns could be changed for the P or for the C. It’s super post modern or maybe that’s the way I think when I see scripted dreams. Or, I’m blinded by my crush for Samuel Beckett. Please do not tell me he was an asshole. He was into blondes, so poof to me.

    A subjective exchange.

    Those questions you ask: when I was a kid to lay down to sleep at night, before I could do that, I would re-see my day including what was on television in a kind of film reel, frame for frame a different wee movie of a hey I saw that earlier. And as a kid I thought I could select my dream from the reel.

    • I love Samuel Beckett, too. No judgment!

      For pronouns ~ they both identify as men, so they will stand, but English is a weird language that makes it tricky to describe two bodies in space only using pronouns. I guess a lot of languages do.

      Also, what a lovely thought — RE the dream reel.

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