And then I screamed, begging for it to be over, I wrote furtively in my notebook. After being shaken awake from a nightmare, I had gone straight to my dream journal to document it. My groggy boyfriend watched me curiously.
“Did you finish writing your nightmare, Sarah?” he mumbled sleepily.
“Yep, just about done,” I told him. “Just one more sentence.” Jordan was sitting upright now, his warm chest pressed against my arm as he looked over my shoulder into my notebook. “Why are you so interested in my nightmare?” I laughed, smiling through tired eyes at his sleepy yet intrigued face.
“Same reason you are, I assume,” he told me. “They’re fascinating to dissect. What do they mean, what do those thoughts represent? What do they say about your unconscious mind, how do they explain our social cognition and behavioral parasomnias?”
I giggled, putting my pen back into the notebook and snapping it shut.
“No, that’s not why I like them,” I informed him. “But I’m glad my psychology nerd was able to find himself a job, one where he can ramble to people that actually understand what he’s saying.” I punctuated my statement with a peck on his cheek. He beamed as we both lay back down in bed and threw the comforter back over us. It was silent for a time, and I felt myself sinking back into the warm lull of sleep before I was yanked out of it by a question.
“If you don't dissect your dreams for symbolism, why do you write them down?”
I was silent for a time, as I was hesitant to tell him my reasoning. I was afraid of what he’d think, how he’d respond… but I pushed such thoughts from my head, knowing Jordan would be nothing but supportive.
“Because… every night, the dreams are special, they're unique. It’s a little fantasy movie I can watch to take a break from the monotony of it all. I live for my dreams… because they give me a break from the tedium of my life.”
Jordan was silent. The rise and fall of his chest remained constant against my arm, his heartbeat never quickening. He wasn't nervous, just thinking. Eventually, he admitted the obvious.
“I really don't know what to say.”
“I know what you should say,” I told him, beginning to feel the sadness rising from the depths of Hell and worming its way easily into my heart.
“What should I say, then?” Jordan asked.
“You’re thinking ‘Thank God this psycho is going to therapy later today, she definitely needs it,’” I said, mimicking his deep voice as best I could. He laughed, having enjoyed the impression.
“You’re not a psycho,” he said as his laughter subsided.
“Are you sure…” I squeaked, holding back tears.
“Hey, hey hey!” he consoled, leaning over and placing a gentle hand on my shoulder.
“I’m scared, Jordan,” I whispered. “I don't want to tell all of my problems to some strange man that's going to berate me with questions and analyze my brain...”
“You’ve got the complete wrong idea,” Jordan told me. “Did I ever tell you about when I went to therapy as a kid?” he asked. I shook my head, fearing that words would produce tears. “Well, I did. And it was great. I sat around, played with toys, and we didn't even talk. After a couple of weeks, we began to talk more and more, and before I knew it, I wasn't telling a therapist about my issues, I was telling a friend.”
I was silent as I thought this over. It made sense, which comforted me, but something still felt off. I thanked Jordan and spun to kiss him again before pulling the covers up to my chin. The heat circulated around my body, warmth running through the space under the blankets, clinging to my legs and making me feel droopy and relaxed.
“What was your dream?” my boyfriend asked. I sighed, wanting nothing more than just a couple more seconds of blissful, wonderful, beautiful sleep.
“It felt so real. It involved me going to work, but when I get to my building I went into an alleyway, I kind of forget why. Then there was some creepy man in there, and he chased me around and cornered me and then I screamed and screamed until I woke up.”
“That's a pretty creepy dream,” Jordan told me. “Speaking of work, when do you have to leave?”
I sat up and glanced at the alarm clock on our bureau.
“Right nowww!” I grumbled, throwing off the covers and getting out of bed. “You’re so lucky you get to stay in and sleep,” I told him. “Mr. Gets-Summers-Off-Of-Work.”
I trudged my way through the same morning I had lived through for an innumerable amount of years since getting this job. Brush teeth, get dressed, put on makeup, and so on, and so forth. Everything went by in a blur, not due to how quickly I completed my tasks, but because of how each action blended together in my mind. Time seemed to pull me from one location to another faster than my brain could process, moving my limbs without my input.
Before my mind was awake enough to create a coherent thought of its own, I was pulling into the parking lot. I situated my car in between the two white prison bars painted on the pavement that would hold my vehicle for the remaining 8 hours of my day. I stepped out of the car and went to grab my bag, but stopped when I noticed something strange. There were men working in the front lobby, and bright yellow warnings were strung up across the doorway, prohibiting me from entering through the door. I sighed as understanding sunk down into the pit of my stomach. I’d have to go around the long way, through the creepy alleyway, in through the back door.
I followed my feet with my eyes, watching them guide me around the entrance and around to the side of the building. I finally glanced up to look down the foreboding pathway. People without a home, a job, or food were littered about the alley, forgotten by society like the garbage on the ground by which they were surrounded. I pushed onward, keeping my eyes away and my head down. I heard mumbles of ‘spare any change’ and a couple of wolf-whistles, but I kept moving. I trekked onward until I struck into a large shape, bouncing back and stumbling, fighting to retain my balance. Looking up to see who it was, I found myself backing slowly away in fear, as if there were a dangerous animal staring me down with hunger in its eyes.
“Excuse me,” I mumbled softly. The tall suited man looked down to pierce my soul with eyes darker than the suffocating depths of the deepest ocean. He smiled, showing his perfectly white teeth.
“No problem, ma’am,” he said, but his eyes and his smile told a different story. I nodded curtly and progressed toward the end of the tunnel, but his arm caught me at the stomach and stopped me. “Well, actually, there’s something I forgot to tell you,” he informed me devilishly. I could not ask what it was, fear had bound my lips shut and stripped me of my voice. My quivering gaze must have only empowered him as saliva dripped from his wickedly sharp animalistic grin. He reached to his pocket, and I spun and sprinted away before I could figure out what it was.
I dashed around the corner, past the ragged men leaning against the wall, either oblivious or denying my panic and the existence of the man chasing me. I fumbled for my purse, only to notice it was not with me. And my keys, which I previously held in my hand for the comfort of having a knife attached, were suddenly missing. I spun and saw the man, standing on the other side of my car, purse in one hand, my car keys in the other. I yelped and ran off again, throwing myself forward with as much acceleration as I could manage. I kicked off my heels in a matter of seconds and ran barefoot, my feet slapping the concrete as I aimed toward the street. I could hardly feel the pebbles digging into my feet, adrenaline pushing the idea of pain from my body. Without a second thought or even a glance, I ran across the road. I heard the screeching of brakes and the honking of horns but I burst onto the other side without injury. I turned, and there stood the man, who had exerted no energy stalking me. He stood, forcing me to press back into the corner of a building, his knife glinting in the morning sun. I cried out for Jordan, begging for him to shake me awake from this dream. I struck myself across the face, pinched at my skin vigorously, and all the while I was screaming and screaming to myself that I needed to wake up from this nightmare. The man smiled at me.
“This isn't a dream, sweetie,” he said knowingly. Then the villainous man grabbed me by my shoulders and shook me. My head was thrown around like a bobblehead, and it felt like someone were tossing me about to rouse me from my sleep.