some fall in love. i shatter.

A Dream Can Be A Dangerous Thing – Part I: Reality (#24)

In Stories Volume 2 on September 17, 2012 at 2:50 pm

R1

 

Five hairy fingers the shape and size of sausages came down on Trina’s desk in a swift and surprisingly gentle motion. They sprung back up again in an instant, leaving behind a sheen of residual perspiration and eight blister packs, each filled with a shiny purple pill the length and width of her pinkie nail.

“What is this, Pop?” She didn’t turn to address her editor, instead picking up the packs and taking a closer look at the pills. FLE was stamped in tiny white letters in the center of each pill. “What is Fle?”

“Jesus, Trin, you want me to fire you? What kind of reporter are you, getting your news from me?”

“Give me this one.”

“You should already have this one. Fle’s the big new sleeping pill on the market.”

“Oh, right, Fle. Why is it called Fle?”

“Means ‘sleep.’”

“Latin, huh?”

“Latin was already taken, this is something else that I don’t know and you should.”

“And why is this on my desk?”

“Because you’re writing a piece on it.”

“I’m what?”

“If you were present for a few more story meetings, you’d know this.”

“I’m at every story meeting I’m made aware of.”

“You’re physically in the room but you’re not present half the time. You’re falling asleep. And why are you falling asleep, Trin?”

“Like I’ve told you a hundred times, I have insomnia.” The realization came quickly. “Oh.”

“Exactly. You’re the perfect person to try these out and give us a little opinion piece. Some people have been complaining that they give these intense dreams. Unsure-of-what’s-reality-and-what’s-a-dream intense. FDA cleared them but there’s a concern about them becoming addictive. Not through the chemicals, but through the addiction to a more interesting, some might say better, world.”

“That doesn’t sound safe at all – why should I try these?”

“Look, we’ve got you covered here, we know what you’ll be doing, and you know what you’re potentially up against. For the public good, someone responsible, respectable, objective, and aware of the possibilities needs to check this out. Why did you become a reporter?”

“It’s easy and I’m not particularly good at anything else?”

“Pretend you did it for the good of the populace. To help out your fellow man.”

“Fellow woman.”

“Just try the pills and see if there’s a story, okay?”

 

“Oh, come on.” Drink in hand, Trina read the online directions for the purple pills as the clock ticked past 10pm. Her shoeless feet were up on her desk as she leaned back in the chair with the lumbar support that was supposed to be good for her young back but made her feel like she carried sixty-seven years in her spine. The comforts of home, she thought. The first guidelines instructed her to avoid alcohol for four hours before taking the pill. “That’s gotta be them just covering their asses.” The second told her to set aside at least eight hours for sleep, preferably ten. “Well if I skip the ‘no alcohol’ thing, I should be okay.” She looked around her lonely living room and wondered if she talked to herself too much.

Reaching into her messenger bag, she pulled one of the purple pills from an interior pocket. Her thumbnail wavered and then broke through the foil, the pill falling softly into her palm. Abandoning all restrictions, Trin swallowed the pill and washed it down the remaining gin in her glass.

 

 

R2

 

“So how was it? How did you sleep? Did you dream? This is Brandon, by the way, the intern; have you met? He’ll be shadowing you for this project, keeping tabs and making sure nothing too bad happens to you.” Pop paced in front of Trina’s desk, scribbling notes on a clipboard while she settled in.

“Too bad?”

“Got your attention. Now talk to me. I was worried. You’re late, you know.”

“I know. I got a full night’s sleep, eight and a half hours of solid, deep sleep. Pop, I haven’t slept like that in ages.”

“And did you dream?”

“So vivid, so lifelike. When I woke up, I had to figure out what was real and what wasn’t.”

“Shit. What did you dream about?”

“A guy, I dreamt about a guy.”

“A sex dream? There’s a story in that.” Salacious as it may have been, Pop’s voice betrayed disappoint that it wasn’t something bigger.

“Not a sex dream, Pop, just a dream about a guy. Meeting him. It’s hard to pin it all down now but I remember being carried through city streets, like being caught in a river, but the entire time I was looking for him. I knew he was there, knew he was somewhere on those same city streets, it was just a matter of finding him.”

“And you found him.”

“Yeah, I found him and he was wonderful. He was almost like a composite of all the guys I’ve dated before, all their good qualities bundled together into one guy.”

“What about all the guys that were complete assholes?”

“Even they had their moments.”

“So you had the dream, met the guy, what else?”

“There is no what else. The entire dream was this sequence so far as I can recall. Me being me and these pills doing whatever they do doesn’t change the nature of dreams being difficult to recall.”

“And you’re keeping a notepad by your bed?”

“I’m not that green.”

“You’re green to reporting on Sleep World. Get your details down, share it all with Brandon, and then get back to whatever else you’re working on. You’re aware of your other work, right?” Trin ignored him as began pulling notebooks of various colors from her messenger bag.

“Pop,” Brandon chimed in as Pop began walking away, “what do you need me to do when we’re done?”

“Can you task him, Trin?”

“Got it.”

 

An hour later, Brandon finished taking down everything that Trin was recounting and putting into her notebooks as well. The details of her dream, what time she went to sleep, what time she woke up, her sleep history prior to this investigation, her dream history, the details of all the ex-boyfriends that the dream man seemed to be composed of. Trina helped Brandon fulfill his destiny as an intern and sent him for coffee. Once he was gone, she leaned back in the faded black office chair she’d wheeled in off the street since the paper was so cheap. Her feet up on the small desk, she read through everything she’d written down, sort of amazed that the dream had lived up to the hype.

She had awoken refreshed and rejuvenated in a way that she hadn’t felt in years. The deepest sleep and the most restful slumber, and yet the most vivid, enticing dreams that no matter how well she had slept, left her longing to return to the light blue bed sheets that looked so comfortable in the rays of the rising sun. Showering, dressing, drinking the coffee that she needed on any given day in order to function, Trin had constantly been fighting the low level desire to crawl back into bed. It wasn’t anything approaching addiction – I’m here, aren’t I, she thought – but there was an allure to this dream world.

When Brandon walked back into the newsroom with two cups of coffee from Roasted Nut two blocks away, he found Trina completely lost in a daydream at her desk, feet up, head back, eyes glassy. He called her name twice before she shook it off and looked at him in a stupor.

 

 

R3

 

“Why are we at Woolly Rink in the middle of summer?” Trina and Brandon walked the perimeter of the ice skating rink, searching for something that neither one of them could articulate. The rink was maintained but desolate as July closed. There wasn’t even a security guard to tell them to buzz off.

“It wasn’t the middle of summer in my dream, it was the dead of winter, though the whole thing seemed to be jumping around time. I don’t know what the connection’s supposed to be, or if there even is a connection, but this is as good a way to find out as any.” When Trina reported to Pop the location jumping of the previous night’s dream, he’d sent Trina and Brandon to find each place and figure their connections. He was intent on knowing why they featured so prominently in the dreams that built a second reality.

“So what exactly is it we’re looking for?” Brandon was using his $400 loafers to tamp down the bushes and weeds that hugged this one desolate corner outside the rink that hadn’t been fully maintained.

“I don’t know. Just keep your eyes open for anything that stands out.”

“We stand out,” he muttered, “traipsing around like burglars casing a joint in broad daylight.”

“You know, we could call off Pop’s scavenger hunt and I could go home and just drop again to see where the dream takes me. That’s the Interstate plan while we’re stuck out here on country roads.” Pop had expressly tasked him with being hyperaware of how she talked about the pills, whether or not she was consistent in her feelings towards them, how often she brought them up, and, most importantly, whether or not she looked for excuses to break away, to go home, to be able take another of the purple pills. Brandon’s right foot hovered in the air, ready to stamp down more problem weeds.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Then stop whining, okay?”

Stop whining, stop whining, stop whining. The words hung in Trin’s mind as she traveled back three years to a snowy night at Woolly Rink. She had been on a date. Pierce, who had seemed like such a great guy, someone Trin had hoped would last. She was back to the night when they’d gone ice-skating at her suggestion. Her father had taken her ice-skating every weekend as a girl. It meant something for Trina to invite someone to that special place.

But the whining had begun the moment he laced up. ‘These skates are too tight,’ ‘It’s cold out here,’ ‘This is really hard and my butt’s starting to hurt,’ ‘When can we go, Trin,’ ‘When can we go, Trin?’ The night had been pregnant with importance for her, for them, until Pierce became someone she’d never seen him be. A child, a person caring only about himself, someone that Trin couldn’t imagine being with. She’d snapped.

“Stop whining! Stop whining!”

“I’m sorry, Trin, I’m sorry.” Brandon’s eyes were wide at her outburst; Trin’s too. His eyelids slowly dropped though while hers fluttered as the hurdles fell away and she understood the locations. She waved Brandon back and out of the weeds, back towards the path out of the park that would take them to the subway. He wondered if she was feeling the pull of the pills, if she needed them for the breakthrough, or if she’d really thought of something.

“These amazing dream dates are all from places where I was supposed to have amazing dates that turned out shitty. One guy who couldn’t stop whining about his ice skates, a dance club where the guy turned out to be a not so closeted bigot, and the boardwalk.”

“What happened at the boardwalk?” They’d reached the exit of the park and, feeling uncertain about letting Trina leave on her own, Brandon hailed a cab to carry them back to the newsroom together. She carried wistfulness in her eyes, a sad daydreamy look that ferried her back and forth between the past and present.

“The boardwalk was a date where… I expected a proposal. We never went out there together but I loved the ocean air, the saltiness, the smell of the sand. The boardwalk itself wasn’t anything special but he knew that the water was. And we never went there until… we did. It was his idea, I thought it meant something, I thought he was taking me there because he loved me and wanted to do this amazing thing in a place that meant the world to me.

“He ended things instead. Said he couldn’t maintain the relationship, couldn’t compete with both of our jobs, couldn’t see us together forever. He took me there because I loved it so much. He imagined it would deaden the shock.”

“So the dream was creating an ideal world, righting the wrongs done in reality?” Trina looked over at Brandon, from one side of the backseat to the other. She took in the scene around them, only now becoming aware of their being in a cab. For the past fifteen minutes she’d been pulled between the world surrounding her and the one being built, or perhaps reconstructed, she thought, within her mind. Brandon, the grimy pleather and plastic of the cab, the remembrance of those things she’d chosen to forget.

It wasn’t much to speak of.

 

 

R4

 

“Just once more… there’s time enough… to see…”

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