I've never considered myself to be special. I'm not extraordinary in any way. I wake up everyday, go through the same routine over and over, take care of my family the best I can, and end my day by losing myself in a good mystery book. The only notable thing about my life is that I have a reputation for being the girl who hates rain. I'm often mocked and ridiculed for canceling plans if the sky clouds up. It's not storms or thunder or lightning that scares me, simply the rain. The anxiety that it causes requires me to plan my whole life around the 7-day forecast.
I know it sounds ridiculous but it's been that way my whole life. I'm not even sure when it started, but when the rain starts to fall, I feel my chest tighten and my heart race and my breathing changes completely. I've tried talking to friends about this issue but it's often brushed off. "Life's not waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning how to dance in the rain," they say as if it's that simple. I even tried therapy once, but no matter how deeply we dug into my past, the source of the problem could not be identified. So when it rains, I just stay inside and try to drown out the sound. It's really the best I can do.
Unfortunately for me, it's spring time right now which means there's an ungodly amount of rain and my anxiety has been running wild. As I sit propped against my nest of pillows in my bed, my husband's snoring just keeps getting louder and louder. I pause between the pages of the book I'm reading to glare at him as he sleeps. "Of course he can sleep, " I think to myself as my anger begins to rise to the surface. "He just adores the sound of rain. Says it's relaxing." I take a deep breath which ends in a sigh. I shouldn't be so angry at him. It's not like it's his fault that sleep evades me this time of year. But still, it would be nice if I could read in silence for just a little while.
Just as he rolls over and the snoring stops and I try to locate my place in the book, I hear it... the ever so faint sound of rain drops tapping against the window. "Ugh!" I groan and toss my book to the side. "I give up!" I say out loud as my frustration finally gets the best of me. My aggravation doesn't even phase my husband who has once again rolled over and is snoring. I turn off my lamp and cover my head with my pillow. "If you're going to snore, it would be nice if you could at least snore loud enough to block out the rain sounds!" I think as I pull the pillow tighter over my ears.
I can almost block the sound out as long as I pull my pillow close, but it's already too late. I can feel my heart racing in my chest and I feel sick. As my breath becomes shaky and irregular, I consider taking the pillow off of my head but I know that would not help the anxiety I'm feeling right now. Why am I like this? Why do I have to be this weird? Why do the raindrops feel like an endless torment? I just don't understand.
I walk myself through some anxiety breathing exercises and eventually drift off to sleep. It's not a restful slumber. It is one that feels like I'm constantly in motion. Like I am being jerked from one side of the universe to another. It's the kind of sleep that you just can't wait to wake up from. And soon that's exactly what I do.
I feel a drop of water hit my face and it startles me enough to gasp for air. I wake up suddenly and abruptly and try to sit up in my bed but I can't move. I try again, thinking maybe I'm experiencing sleep paralysis and everything will start functioning soon, but as I attempt to raise up, I can feel the tug of leather against my wrists. I try to kick because I know nothing else that I can do but I find leather bands around my ankles too. And there it is again... Another drop of water hits my face.
"Why?!?" I scream in anger.
"You know exactly why!" A gruff voice answers as another drop splatters against my face.
I open my eyes to see a man standing over me and a crowd mocking me as I suffer. Everything seems so different but somehow so familiar. The man directly above me looks pleased with the pain and torment that I'm feeling. In the crowd, I see faces so familiar that they seem like friends even though their actions say different.
"Why don't you just confess and that way the real torture can start?" the man says with evil grin.
Suddenly, it's like the world comes into focus... like snapshots of my life are being shown to me at lightning speed but it's not the life I remember. It's like seeing a movie in fast forward. It feels real but at the same time it feels like a fantasy. Drip. The coldness of the water as it runs into my eyes makes me realize this is no dream.
"I didn't do it! I swear I didn't!" The words flow out of my mouth as I deny an accusation that I am still trying to sort out in my head. Deep down, I know they think I did something terrible. A snapshot appears in my mind of my husband... no, wait...that's not my husband. Is it? Drip. I feel the memories of a lifetime together bubbling to the surface but this is not my life. The memory movie reel ends with a vision of this man that I feel is my husband lying in our bed with his lips turning blue. Drip.
"I didn't do anything to him! I love him too much to ever harm him!" Suddenly, I can feel myself mourning for this man whose name I don't even know. I can feel my heart being ripped into shreds as I remember shaking him and trying to wake him up. I remember the warm tears as they ran down my cheeks when I realized my best friend was gone. Drip. The cold water hits my forehead once again and runs down to my eyes where the warm tears once were.
"All right then, lady, I guess we'll keep going."
The constant and unpredictable drops of cold water remind me of rain. Rain? I realize the thought of rain doesn't scare me anymore. Drip. Nevertheless, I feel my anxiety rising as I lie strapped down, unable to move, and completely helpless against the innocent drops of water that are stealing my sanity.
"Please! I loved him!" I believe the words that I'm saying because I feel them so deeply in my soul even though I don't understand why. Drip. Tears began flowing from my eyes and add to the wetness of my face. I can't handle it anymore. My breathing is so deep that it hurts my chest and I feel my hands trying to shake even though they are unable to move. Drip.
"Please! Make it stop!" I scream as I try to gasp for air.
The world goes black. All sound stops. It is terrifying and peaceful all at once. I feel as if I'm floating through the universe again but this time at a much slower pace. I feel as if I exist but only barely.
As my breath finally catches, I jerk awake and sit straight up in bed. I frantically look around and see my husband still asleep beside me. I hold my breath and listen for the rain and hear nothing. Feeling relieved that it was only a dream, I lie down on my pillow and close my eyes. And just when I convinced myself that my anxiety had got the worst of me, I feel it. Drip. I open my eyes without moving the rest of my body and I realize the dream felt too real. It felt more real than the moment I'm living in right this second. I can remember my parents' names from another lifetime, my closest friends and my favorite shoes. I can remember the songs that I sung to my children even though I've never heard them before. And I can remember seeing my husband's grave covered with fresh dirt as I wept beside of it in the pouring rain.
And I remember my death. I remember the torture and the mocking and the feeling of being terrified and being at peace all at once because I wouldn't have to live any longer without my husband.
At least not in that lifetime.