I had a distressing dream a few nights ago. I dreamt that I was a Pez dispenser. People were clicking my little head and colorful chalky candies popped out of my mouth for their enjoyment. Uncertainty in regards to the amount of candy left in my dispenser led to the terrifying possibility that a hand would click my head and there wouldn’t be any Pez left to distribute. Then what? The process of loading Pez into the dispenser is a long and tedious process, and it seemed to me that in the event my stores ran dry, I would be disposed of in favor of a candy distribution system that doesn’t require as much work.
In a panic, I immediately rang my father to tell him about the dream. His initial response was to demand “What the fuck are you calling me about a Pez dispenser for at three in the morning?” I felt badly about that phone call because once you’re exposed to a nightmare like that, how can you fall back to sleep? I bet he didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. Every time he closed his eyelids he would imagine himself as a Pez dispenser… click, click, click… more Pez to distribute, or maybe not… click, click, click.
Later he was more amenable to discussion. I drove to his house around noon and the sun was shining overhead so I had nothing to fear. It was a Saturday and he was working at his desk. This was common and I felt he was judging me for not working as well. He questioned me about the dream, asking me how this was different from a joke I told him last week about another dream where a hamburger was eating me. I told him the hamburger thing was actually a bit from a Seinfeld episode where Jerry was razzing Elaine about her strange dreams, and judging from his confused reaction I’m guessing he hasn’t seen the episode.
My father said he didn’t understand why I was losing sleep over this nightmare. What greater nightmare is there, I asked, then to be a Pez dispenser? As we were talking, I fell into an even greater depression because I realized I didn’t know what flavor I was. Watermelon sounded familiar, though I was pink in the dream. But that could be a number of flavors, especially as Pez pushes the boundary for unacceptable tastes to make up for the fact that it is perhaps the most useless candy ever concocted. My father asked me if I was adjusting well to work. I looked at him blankly and asked what Pez dispenser he knows worries about work? At this comment, my father put his glasses on and turned back to his computer. I don’t have time for this, he said. I would have to find solace elsewhere.
At times of real duress, when my parents cannot find it within themselves to discuss my “everyday problems,” I go see a therapist. He’s a nice man in his forties with a plush beard and a soft couch and some of the most wonderful smelling candles. My therapist asked how life at work was treating me and I rolled my eyes. Always about work, this therapist. You try to pull your hair out from being overworked one time and suddenly even a dream about Pez dispenser must be subconscious signalling for my career.
I told him work was demanding but fine, the kind of work that my parents wanted for me, so what more could I ask for? He mentioned the hamburger dream and I audibly sighed. Why couldn’t my dreams be easy to interpret, I asked aloud, like the dream in Annie Hall when Annie tells Woody Allen that she dreamed about Frank Sinatra dressed in big glasses trying to suffocate her. A dream like that every once in awhile would be nice. She doesn’t want to fuck you Woody! It’s an open and shut case. Unlike this Pez dispenser dream, whose coded meanings continue to elude me.
After an hour it was clear my therapist and I were getting nowhere. I left him a poor review on Yelp from his bathroom and then left, watching the sunset from the parking lot and feeling glum due to being no closer to solving this Pez puzzle. Compounding my negativity was the inescapable knowledge that soon I would return to bed, either to face the nightmare again or toss and turn as I sheltered from my subconscious behind a miserable barricade of insomnia. I was in between a rock and a Pez dispenser.
I checked my phone on the way back from the therapist – five emails from my boss, each marked urgent and asking that I go into the office Sunday morning. I’d already worked eighty hours during the week. The fuzzy, freshly grown hairs on my head shivered as I took a deep breath. Maybe I should have talked about my job with the therapist. Maybe I shouldn’t have left him such a bad review.
Not knowing what else to do, I stopped at the local drugstore and bought a Pez dispenser. It was one of the cheaper ones – a smiling poop emoji. I brought it home and loaded the candies up one at a time. Oh, the time required to load a Pez dispenser! My fingers were sore once I had finally crammed it to capacity. I stared at the loaded poop emoji. He looked so happy, so fully loaded with Pez, ready to distribute to whomever pressed his brown head. I pressed down and he dispensed his first candy, which I ate. Grape flavored, and tastier than I remembered. The sensation filled me with a joy that matched the static, unwavering happiness of the dispenser, whose own prime directive was fulfilled each time I clicked his little head.
And so I continued to click and click, one Pez after another. They were so delicious and you really felt as though you had worked for their flavor. There is something distinctly Pavlovian to the madness, click, click. But then, at the orgasmic peak of this give and take, I clicked his head and no Pez was distributed. My ultimate fear had come to pass – he was empty, expended.
But he was still smiling. I yelled at him to stop, to wipe that mindless grin off his face. I demanded to know how he could possibly appear so jovial despite having become hollow. I grew angry at the dispenser, and tried to break him in half, but the plastic was too thick for even my best efforts. I threw him against the wall, then slammed him against the table, screaming bloody hell. He kept smiling, unperturbed by or oblivious to my behavior.
After some time, sweat pouring down my forehead, I conceded defeat. He could not be destroyed. His smile could not be destroyed. I wondered why I could not smile like that. I wondered why I was unable to accept my own hollowing with such unflinching cheer. Distraught, I flung him into the trash, wondering if maybe his facade would crack as soon as I wasn’t looking, his tragedy having finally reached critical mass, and that somewhere in the aluminum can he was sandwiched between a banana peel and some coffee grounds, pulling his hair out.
I walked into my room and laid on top of the bed. I stared at the fan, then looked over at my phone. I saw the red light of the Blackberry blinking every few seconds. More emails, more demands, more work over the weekend… click, click, click. But no Pez came out.