some fall in love. i shatter.

A Dream Can Be A Dangerous Thing – Part III of IV: Dreams (#24)

In Stories Volume 2 on October 1, 2012 at 11:29 am

(A minor note before we begin: the text in gray is from Part I of this story; the text in black, which is interwoven, is the new portion that makes up Part III. It should all fall into place together)

 

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.

 

 

D1

 

She saw his face for an instant before it disappeared back below the crowd. The sidewalks were packed. Trin kept trying to push her way forward faster than the slow, migratory pace of everyone around her but they were all packed so tightly. Any potential opening turned out to be filled with a shoulder bag, a purse, a briefcase, a suitcase. Instinct told Trin that she was on her way to work but she couldn’t quite pin down what street she was on. The guy up ahead, maybe a half-block away, had turned and arched his face upward as if he was looking for someone in the crowd. He had done it twice now and both times he’d turned back around and lowered his head, allowing himself to be blanketed by the sea of people.

Something about him called her forward. She was forgetting about work and becoming singularly focused, though the crowd of commuters had no regard for her. Everyone had fallen in step along regimented lines that eliminated any pockets for Trin to advance through. They may have as well been arm-in-arm. She looked toward the street but the traffic was bumper-to-bumper and when she glimpsed a tiny opening, a bike messenger would fly through. As she cast her eyes around, he turned around yet again, searching with his upturned face. Instinctively, she raised her arm and waved to him. His eyes lit up, a smile stretched across his face, and his arm reached up to wave back. He was looking for me, she thought, excitement coursing through her system. He was looking for me.

As these words crossed Trin’s mind, the woman to her right peeled off the line and entered an office building. The man to her left entered a waiting taxi. One of the people ahead kneeled to tie his shoe and everyone surged past him. Someone stopped to answer a phone call, someone stopped for a hotdog, three others turned down a subway stairwell, two stopped to talk to one another, one dropped his bag and stooped down to pick it up, disrupting everyone in line behind him. Then, quite suddenly, there was nobody left in her immediate vicinity. Everyone was gone – the cars, bikes, people; the congested and drowning-in-people sidewalk was empty of all humanity except for her and him. Two of them existing within a vacuum. She continued moving forward and he walked back towards her.

It was her first chance to see more than just a bit of his face. He wore jeans, a button-down shirt with the top buttons undone, and a blazer; the same slouchy and sophisticated look that she had loved on Benjamin, an old boyfriend. His light red beard that slouched down his face via his sideburns and the scruffy reddish hair reminded her of another guy, Tommy. His wiry build was like that of James. And when she finally met his eyes, they held her with an intensity she hadn’t felt since dating Kingsley years earlier.

“I’ve been looking for you,” he said.

“You have?” Trin ran his face through her mind, trying to recall if she knew this guy, if she had been supposed to meet him.

“Yeah, I’ve been looking for you for a while. No matter.” He reached forward to grip her arms, and when she looked at those hands on her arms, holding her in place, he dropped them with a blush. “I was looking for you because I was… well, I was hoping to ask you out. I know it’s sort of sudden but –”

“Yes!” she blurted. He smiled. Her words out in the air, she still struggled to remember where she knew him from but a thousand memories floated through her mind and she couldn’t pin one down.

She blinked and he was gone. Trina didn’t know his name. She blinked again and the world disappeared into endless bright white where streets and buildings had been moments earlier. Trin blinked again and she too disappeared.

 

 

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.

 

 

D2

 

Ice-skating at Woolly Rink, surrounded by dozens of anonymous people engaged in their own dances. A first date unlike any Trin had gone on before. Every guy she met seemed to lack imagination and, she admitted, even if ice-skating wasn’t so imaginative, it was more adventurous than just having drinks at a bar. Flint let go of her hand, a dangerous proposition given her skating skills, and skated ahead a few feet before turning around to face her. He was good – not flashy but solid in his skills. His moss green pea coat bunched up around his shoulders as he hunkered down and pretended to pull her in as if she were lassoed. Trin had a hard enough time maintaining balance and coasting – the idea of steadily speeding up to reach his arms was absurd. Her first glimmer of annoyance on an otherwise perfect evening. She was about to yell at him to give it up when she felt her legs beginning to pump. The blades audibly began to shave away at the ice below her feet and the cold wind presented itself on her face as she created a minor breeze. Trin was gaining on Flint even as he continued moving backwards. Her hands were closing in on his outstretched arms, inch by inch; their fingertips grazed each other through gloves and mittens. Flint grabbed Trin’s hands and spun her as if –

– they were on a dance floor sweat running down her back as the music drew down. She leaned over, hands on her knees, to catch her breath. Flint grabbed her wrist and pulled her to an empty seat at the bar.

“That was great!”

“I didn’t know you could dance like that!” she shouted over the beats pumping down from the speakers.

“Two years Panama with the Peace Corps. There was no way they were letting me leave without knowing how to dance. Couple dances almost ended in marriage; it got serious. What are you drinking?” He leaned over the bar and flagged down the only bartender working the crowd.

“Vodka tonic.” When he turned back around, Trina’s drink was in his hand. “So I didn’t think this what you meant when you said we should head out to a bar.”

“It feels more like a bar to me than it does a club, you know? And please, I wouldn’t just take you to some bar for our third date; I’m still trying to impress you.” He laughed and Trin realized just how well she could hear Flint over the music. It no longer felt like they were shouting. It was as if –

–  we were made for each other. It hasn’t been that long but I love you and… what I’m trying to say is, Trina, will you marry me?” The breeze of early summer blew off the ocean and tossed Flint’s hair in front of his eyes so that he couldn’t see as Trin’s eyes filled with tears. She would blame it on the salt in the air but nobody would ever believe it. She bit her lip as he thumbed his hair away toward his ear. She steadied herself as he did the same.

“Of course I’ll marry you. I love you, Flint, I love you so –”

 

 

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.

 

 

D3

 

From the backroom of the church, Trina could hear the sounds of the crowd amassing in the nave. The familiar voices of her family members, the strange and unrecognizable ones of Flint’s family, the click of heels on the black and white marble-tiled floor, the groans of the old wooden pews, the swoosh of formal dresses sliding back on the polished wood of those same decades-old pews.

Every woman in Trin’s family had been a wreck before her respective wedding. Her mother married her stepfather when Trina was just 11 and she could remember blotting the tears and mascara from her big eyes just moments before she locked arms with Trin’s grandfather. Trin’s younger sister was fast, but Trina proved to be the faster barefoot runner when she chased her down, half-naked, after the sister had bolted while in the middle of putting on her wedding dress. Becky, Trina’s older sister, had been deceptively calm and it turned out to be only because of the vodka that nobody had noticed her slipping into her water glass from the flask in her purse.

Trina had worried herself into anxiety about how she would be come wedding day and it was turning out to be for nothing. She wasn’t anxious, regretful, or uncertain of her decisions. Her cup held only sparkling water. She never was a runner and wasn’t about to become one. As unsurprising as it should have been, Trin was surprised to find that she was perfectly content and perfectly happy. She’d been that way for all her time with Flint so it was natural that she’d be so calm though a part of her constantly expected that something would go wrong. It may have been irrational and she may have known that, but she nevertheless couldn’t just purge the lurking notion in her mind.

A knock at the door roused her from the unfocused reverie.

“Yes?”

“It’s us, sweetie.” The door opened a crack and her mother and two sisters tiptoed into the room. They had each expected the same histrionics that the others had all been through and when Trin kept her composure, it only made them each expect an even greater explosion. “How’s it going in here?”

“I’m good, I’m good.” She smiled at them from her twisted position in the chair.

“Don’t turn like that, sweetie, you’ll crease your dress.” Her mother rushed over and began smoothing out the stomach of Trina’s dress. “Janice, come over here, don’t make your sister contort like that.”

“Sorry, Ma. Trin, you look fantastic! You should see everyone outside, they’re so excited out there.”

“Everyone is saying how beautiful the church is, how lovely the decorations are, how nice the limousines from the hotel were. Those little snack packs were a great idea. That Flint of yours is a genius. People think those pastries are better than the cakes at most weddings. He made those himself?”

“Yeah, his idea and his handiwork. He’s good at what he does.”

“He’s great,” the three of them said in unison. Trin’s mother stood her up, smoothed down the sides of her dress, and pushed a small ringlet of hair away from her eyes. “Your father’s waiting outside. Are you ready?”

 

 

R4

 

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

 

 

D4

 

Michelle grew up to be a doctor, Brianna became a lawyer. Out of a concern of sounding smug, Trina never said aloud how amazingly happy she was to have two daughters find success in such classically desirable professions. She’d always thought herself immune to such thoughts and on occasion she counseled herself by figuring it was different because they were women and thus still fighting against standard, male domination and hegemony. The girls were fraternal twins and they seemed so mature since the moment they emerged from the womb. Neither was a crier, neither was fussy, neither was prone to late night awakenings. Beyond maintaining a strict eating schedule that persisted through the nights, Trin and Flint slept nearly as well as they did before the girls were born.

Both girls went to Harvard, both excelled at the top of their class, and both egged the other on, constantly spurring one another to try harder, work longer, study more closely. They were natural motivators, each wanting the best for the other through bonds both familial and friendly. As they grew up and moved efficiently through the challenges of their lives, Trin was always reminding them to be thankful that they had dodged the bullets of so many potential calamities. The world was a place of danger; lives were fleeting.

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