Johnny panic and the bible of dreams


Every day from nine to five I sit at my desk facing the door of the office and type up other people’s dreams. Not just dreams. That wouldn’t be practical enough for my bosses. I type up also people’s daytime complaints: trouble with mother, trouble with father, trouble with the bottle, the bed, the headache that bangs home and blacks out the sweet world for no known reason. Nobody comes to our office unless they have troubles. Troubles that can’t be pinpointed by Wassermanns or Wechsler-Bellvues alone.

Maybe a mouse gets to thinking pretty early on how the whole world is run by these enormous feet. Well, from where I sit, I figure the world is run by one thing and this one thing only. Panic with a dog-face, devil-face, hag-face, whore-face, panic in capital letters with no face at all-it’s the same Johnny Panic, awake or asleep.

When people ask me where I work, I tell them I’m Assistant to the Secretary in one of the Out-Patient Departments of the Clinics’ Building of the City Hospital. This sounds so be-all end-all they seldom get around to asking me more than what I do, and what I do is mainly type up records. On my own hook though, and completely under cover, I am pursuing a vocation that would set these doctors on their ears. In the privacy of my one-room apartment I call myself secretary to none other than Johnny Panic himself.

Dream by dream I am educating myself to become that rare character, rarer, in truth, than any member of the Psycho-analytic Institute, a dream connoisseur. Not a dream-stopper, a dream-explainer, an exploiter of dreams for the crass practical ends of health and happiness, but an unsordid collector of dreams for themselves alone. A lover of dreams for Johnny Panic’s sake, the Maker of them all.

There isn’t a dream I’ve typed up in our record books that I don’t know by heart. There isn’t a dream I haven’t copied out at home into Johnny Panic’s Bible of Dreams.

This is my real calling.

Excerpt from Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams by poet and author Sylvia Plath. Plath suffered from severe depression throughout her life, and this piece was based upon her experiences of being in a psychiatric hospital.

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