What are you afraid of?

Written in response to: Write a story about a character who interprets people’s dreams.... view prompt

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Drama Fiction Romance

“I see an endless green pasture, with the green of the grass blurring out in the blue of the bright and clear sky. She is running just a few steps ahead of me but no matter how fast I follow her, she seems to be getting away. I can’t see her face, but I know it's her. Who else could it be? She stops at a distance and turns around as she waves her hand. I see her beautiful smile, beckoning me closer to her. I am still running, trying to catch up to her but eventually, she starts fading into the background and just ….. disappears.”

Tears start rolling down his cheek even in his hypnotic state as one of my very recent patients narrates his recurring dream to me. He recently lost his wife to an accident, they were married just a few months ago. Since then, he had gone into a downward spiral of drinking, gambling and just about every other form of self-sabotage you could imagine. So one fine day, one of his dear friends brought him to me and in his fifth session, he finally opened up to me about his fears.

“She has not disappeared Jacob. She waved goodbye to you because she has to move on from this world and you have to move on from her”, I whispered in the lightest voice possible.

“But, how can I? She was the light of my life, I am nothing without her”, replied a frantic Jacob from the couch where he was currently lying down.

I leaned a little forward in my chair toward my distraught patient and said, “Moving on doesn’t mean forgetting her Jacob. It means living a life that she would want for you and would be proud of. You need to let her go because her memories will on with you, forever.”

By now, he was openly crying but slowly composed himself upon hearing my words and nodded slightly. He closed his fists as he steeled himself and said loudly, ”I am sorry I let you down Jennifer, but no more. I will fulfil everything which we had dreamt of doing together. And I will always remember you.”

I smiled a little, for this was going to be a turning point in his life. He has a long road of recovery ahead of him, but he was going to be fine.

I slowly brought him back to his conscious state and passed him some tissues. He sat up gingerly as he wiped his face. It took him full 5 minutes before he started speaking again.

“Thank you so much. I feel like an elephant has taken its foot off my chest.”, he said with a hint of a smile.

“I am happy too that we made such good progress. You are doing very good Jacob, let’s aim to continue this progress”, I replied as I got up to shake his hand.

My assistant Lily came in to fetch Jacob to complete the formalities and schedule the next appointment. As they went out I sat alone with my thoughts for a few minutes, which were mostly around my work. Since I won an award last year for one of the best hypnotherapists in the country, I have been approached by a flurry of patients and numerous agencies for collaboration on research works.

“Hey Boss, it was the last one for the day, so you can go home”, informed Lily, breaking my cloud of thoughts.

“Why don’t you carry on and I will lock up and leave”, I said, with my head still staring at the ceiling, refusing to come out of my reverie.

“That dream is still going to be there, you know? It doesn’t matter where you sleep”, she said almost in a motherly voice.

Yes, I knew that. For all the advice that I gave to my patients, it seemed like a cruel joke of destiny that lately, a dream has been keeping me awake. Dreams are my specialty, but it seemed as if a custom-made problem was tossed into my basket because the cherry on the top of this cake was, I could never remember this dream.

I had consulted with almost every other competent colleague of mine in this area, but the result was always the same. No one could trance me into a state where I could recollect my dream, no matter how hard they tried. Lily even joked once that only I was capable enough to resolve the level of complexity my case had.

“You carry on Lily, I will see you tomorrow”, I replied, my adamant streak taking over.

Lily let out a sigh of frustration, as she knew that there is no changing my mind. She gently closed my office door as she backed out and I shifted myself to the couch, which I knew would ultimately be my bed for the night.

It's not just that I did not want to go home because of that dream. Going from a small room where I was all alone to a bigger room with the same circumstances just did not make sense to me. It wasn’t that I had any lack of feminine company, I was a good-looking and well-to-do doctor in a big city. But no matter how many dates I went on, I just never clicked with anyone.

I had long ago self-diagnosed an abandonment and commitment issue with myself, because of my parents leaving me on the doorsteps of an orphanage when I was 2 weeks old. Yeah, I know, not the best parents. I had a tough time growing up but eventually, I got so used to being alone that now it seems weird even to think otherwise.

I must have dozed off as I woke up with a jolt and took me a while to gather my wits and realize where I was. It was that dream again, I was sure of it. I had the same feeling like every other time: Despair, that feeling you get when everything falls apart and you are left with nothing. It was more like an absence than a presence. But like every other time, I could not remember a single thing from my dream. Even thinking about it just seemed like a futile exercise to me now. I adjusted my pillow and just tried to go back to sleep.

I must have drifted off again sometime later in the night because I was woken up rudely with the annoyed voice of my assistant.

“No No No, absolutely NOT!”, screamed Lily, into her phone, making me feel sorry for whoever was on the other end of the line.

“You are staying with me and I will have no more discussion on this topic. See you in the evening!”, she said in one breath as she clicked off the call and finally noticed me and immediately gave a disapproving look.

“Would you believe me if I said that I just got here?”, I said sheepishly as I rubbed my eyes and sat up straight.

“Normally I would break out into a 10-minute lecture but I don’t want to spoil my good mood”, she said, almost gleefully.

“Never saw you this happy in a long while Lily, please tell me the secret. I will even pay you”, I teased her.

“Hmph! Like you could afford me. I am happy because my college roommate is coming back to the city. That is why I was arguing with her to at least stay a couple of days with me before going back to her parents’ house”, replied Lily as she checked my schedule for the day.

“Does sound like good news to me too Lily”, I said as I stood up and stretched my arms, “but with your kind permission, I would now like to start with our day please”.

I had a full day of patients, with a variety of issues, and as usual, I tried my best to help them and hoped that they left with something to make their life better. I didn’t even realize when it was 5 PM already and Lily strolled into my office. I knew she was going to meet her old friend so I expected a big smile on her face. But the lack of it, made me worry a little.

“What happened? Your friend cancelled on you?”, I asked her. She went to one of the easy chairs and took a seat before replying, “I wish that were the case. You know I have been trying to get a date with that cute guy from the café across the street right?”

I had no such recollection but I simply nodded so as to not hurt her feelings. She then continued, “Well he finally agreed to one for tonight. I don’t want to cancel on him and seem like I am trying to blow him off and I can’t cancel on my friend as well. I am really in a pickle here.”

“That’s really unfortunate Lily, I wish I could help you out”, I said, not knowing that I would be regretting my casual offer of help in a minute.

“Well, that’s just it, you CAN help me out”, she said, trying to maintain a poker face, “you can join us on a double date. That way, no one gets left out.”

It took me a minute to register her request and I tried to get some words out, “But… I…… it's not…… you know…..”, but suddenly there was a knock on the door and Lily said, “That’s my friend, thank you so much for playing along!” and just like that, my fate was sealed.

I was thinking of nice things Lily has done for me in the past so that this betrayal stings a little less, but it all became a moot point when her friend walked in the door.

With an angelic face, wavy black hair and a slender body, she was a sight to behold. But the first thing I noticed was her bewitching smile and the twinkling eyes. I think I must have been staring a little too hard because Lily coughed and said, “Back to earth Boss, this is my friend Susan.”

“Hi! It's so nice to meet you”, she said, the words pouring out of her lips like little drops of honey.

I managed to mumble back some kind of greeting as Lily said, “Let’s get going, I have made reservations for all of us.”

A cab ride full of chattering old friends was enough time for me to gather my wits and behave like a normal human being on the date. Lily and her cute coffee guy were so into each other that I believe they even forgot they were on a ‘double’ date, which was fine by me because I wanted to know Susan better.

Susan had this personality of putting anyone at ease and by the end of the date, we were talking like old pals. We talked about our work, college, and even families, or lack thereof in my case. She told me all about her family, which I tried to keep up with but honestly, her face was a huge distraction. I was disappointed when Lily said that they should head back now. I too went back to my house, almost in a daze of that angelic beauty.

I woke up from my alarm, still smiling dreamily from last night, and almost on auto-pilot started getting ready for the day. It wasn’t until I took the third sip of my coffee I realized it. I did not have that dream last night. I almost started dancing from joy at that realization. Could it be because of Susan? Could it be that angel really had healing capabilities?

I dressed up as fast as I could and scurried back to the office to find Lily. She was sitting on her chair outside my office and immediately brightened up.

“Good morning Boss! Thank you so much for playing along last night, I had a lot of fun”, she said, beaming with joy.

“Uh.. no worries Lily. Umm… actually could I get the number of Susan?”, I asked meekly.

Her smile got even wider at that, as she handed me a slip of paper and said, “Funny you should ask that Boss, as someone else asked me for your number as well”.

The next couple of months went by in a blur as Susan and I went out every chance we got. Never before had I been steady with someone for this long and not a single occurrence of the nightmare this entire time.

On our 2 month anniversary, we went out for dinner in one of the most romantic restaurants in the city. I noticed that Susan was just picking at her food so I asked her if she wanted something else.

“No, it's not that”, she replied, “Actually, my family has been wanting to meet you for a while now. My grandmother has invited you for lunch tomorrow.”

I had mixed feelings about this information. I knew that with things becoming serious between us, she would want me to meet her family sometime soon. But at the same time, I was apprehensive because it was something I had never done before.

“Of course I would love to meet them, Susan. Although, I must admit that navigating familial relationships is not my forte”, I replied, a little unsure.

“Don’t worry about it, they will all love you. And I will ensure that there is minimal grilling of you”, she teased me to lighten my mood.

The rest of the dinner went smoothly and I dropped her off before going home. That night, sleep didn’t come easy as I thought about the impending lunch the next day. Eventually, I managed to catch some ZZZs before meeting my old nemesis once again.

I woke up with a lot of sweat and checked my bedside clock to read 4 AM. For the first time since my double date with Susan, I had this nightmare again. And it was almost ten folds in intensity this time. It almost felt like I was physically hurt and my heart was still pounding in my chest and sleep eluded me the rest of the night.

Eventually, I got up and started to get ready. My mind was still reeling from the residual feelings of my nightmare. I had thought Susan was finally the answer to my problem and my prayers, but now I wasn’t so sure. I wasn’t even sure I should go meet her family.

My phone buzzed with a text from Susan.

Hi, babe! Can’t wait to show you off, don’t be late 😉’

That text seemed to bring me back to my senses. Susan was the best thing that had happened to me in a long time and this meet with her family was a big deal to her. I got up and started getting dressed.

I reached her parents’ place right on time. Susan opened the door and hugged me. She then took me inside to meet her parents and paternal grandparents. All my doubts evaporated soon as I realized that they were the nicest people I had met in a very long time. I realized that Susan’s personality of putting people at ease was indeed hereditary. It was the first time I was experiencing a family meal but it seemed like, haven’t I been doing this my whole life? We had a lovely lunch as I realized that Susan’s mother was an amazing cook. Her father kept trying to push more food onto my plate, citing that shyness has no place on a dining table. Her grandfather was an army veteran and he told some amazing and unbelievable stories from his time and her grandmother was a lovely woman who was telling me all the childhood gossip of Susan.

Soon it was time to leave and I said my goodbyes to everyone. Her grandmother insisted on hugging me and I was happy to oblige. As she hugged me, she whispered in my ears, “Welcome to the family” and everything just fell apart.

It was as if a trigger word was activated and it all came flooding back to me. I could now recall the nightmare which I have been having for an eternity now. I also realized why I could not remember it, it was because there was nothing to remember.

The dream was just me, and only me, in a pool of nothingness. There was nothing around me, not a thing and definitely not a soul, and this was something I was able to decipher on the spot.

I was afraid of being alone. Just because I have spent my life doing that, doesn’t mean it is something I got used to. It was always me and just me. And I was deathly afraid that this is how my life is going to be. Meeting Susan had somehow elated this fear and that is why I had no nightmares for a long time. But this feeling of finally coming to face with my actual fear was liberating.

I did not realize that while these thoughts were going through my mind, my body felt the similar weight being lifted as Jacob felt that day. Tears were silently dropping off my face and Susan’s grandmother realized it. But instead of asking me anything or letting me go, she just held me tighter.

I stopped after a while and mumbled an apology to my comforter.

“No apology needed son. Sometimes, we all need a little support from family ”, she said lovingly.

I looked at Susan who stood just beside me, with tears of her own, and said to her, “Don’t get me wrong, but I think I like your grandmother more than you.”

September 26, 2021 18:34

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