I’m standing alone in a dream where I know that nothing is real but oh! how real it feels. With my feverish head pressed against the cool smoothness of the window, I wonder how I got myself in this situation this time around. I wish I had someone else to blame for landing me here this time, but it’s just me and my foolish pride. My breath makes a little cloud on the glass. I stare at it for a time, remembering all the other times I lay staring at the sky and thinking up a new story. Finally a nostalgic smile creeps across my lips, settling down in place. I push myself away from the window and decide to take control of the dream. From past experiences I knew that nothing would happen unless I made it happen. Well, it’s time to go.
I am not surprised by the blindingly white walls of the room and the pristine white of the floor. I was a very neat and tidy person and my dreams reflected it. I am surprised though at the splashes of color on my virginal white dress. Now that’s something new in this setting. Probably just the clue that I needed to get me started. As I walk across the floor of my mind, I notice that there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. I nod approvingly as if I was out on a survey and everything is up to my expectations. Hah! Only I know what a joke that is. While I do tend to organize all my thoughts and events categorically, often I end up shoving down a couple of fanciful dreams down one folder or the other. These flights of fantasy might seem childish for one so firmly tied down in reality. They would tarnish the image I have worked so hard to maintain. They are thrown in randomly where they disappear out of sight, but not out of mind. Maybe one day I will finally get the time to take them out, smooth the wrinkles of neglect and air them…Ok, no time to dream inside the dream! Time to find out why I am really here.
As I walk past room after room after yet another pristine, clinically clean room, I wonder if I appear just as boring and rigid to those who look at me from outside. There seems to be nothing out of place. Not a single fuzzy line to give relief to the straight lines forming my prison. While I have surely lived a long life, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of it. There are plenty of wrinkles on my body to mark the passage of time, but not a single blemish on the walls to show that anything changed over the years. I was and have always been just the same. But that’s supposed to be a good thing right? Permanency, predictability, stability. I was the solid rock that people held on to in times of turbulence; though they did tend to let go rather quickly once the weather turned fair. Yet, I remained grounded in one place, knowing that if they ever needed me I would always be right there. It had never bothered me before, I wonder why this thought reared its head today of all days.
My reverie comes to a sudden standstill when I notice something amiss. In all the brightness and whiteness, the little corner seemed almost sinisterly dark. I could feel it try to curl up tighter into a ball as I moved towards it. Somehow, this tiny aberration has me intrigued. I like its courage. The naive hope of thinking that it wouldn’t be caught in mischief while it seemed so glaringly obvious to the eyes of an adult. Feeling very grown-up and matured, I step into the cool relief of the darkness…and get the shock of my life!
There, hiding under the blanket of darkness, was a memory that I had tried very hard to escape. I had locked it up real tight and thrown the key away hoping that nothing would ever remind me of that day again. I must have been successful because my mind had blacked it out for so many years now. But today, meeting that little girl and hearing her story seemed to trigger a sense of loss in me that seemed to go deeper than mere empathy. It seemed almost too personal to just forget and move on to the next patient; the next wound waiting to be healed. I had obsessed about it throughout the day and swallowed the bitterness down with every gulp of dinner as well. It must have been this very nagging feeling that had dragged me down here. It was an ugly serpent that refused to go back to sleep. It was time to de-fang it.
No matter how much my conscience is encouraging me to go ahead, something seems to hold me back. Each step further ahead feels like moving against the current. I can feel my lungs about to explode with the strain of breathing but the quiet sobs from the shadows make it impossible for me to stop now. I can see her now. A pretty cherubic thing playing in the garden in her frilly white dress that her mother has just bought for her. Round and round and round she goes with arms open wide and her skirt twirling around her legs. Giggling as she becomes light-headed and topples over. Gets up to start doing it all over again. I smile at her simple pleasure. Life is lovely for the innocent. Then just like in the movies, the scene changes to one of horror. From where I stand, I can see it all unfold yet do nothing. I am just a spectator at this macabre.
There is no change in the lighting. No thunder claps in the background. The day is as bright and sunny as ever, but there is a shadow of darkness that now surrounds the little girl. The suffocating silence of the place reminds me of the joy that was vacuumed out. She is lying down on the grass like a broken little doll. Her eyes are open and unblinking. And her pretty dress is now splattered in different colors. The grass and dirt have stained it muddy but that’s okay. It can be washed out. It’s the rapidly spreading bright red that will be difficult to get out. I want to call out to the little girl but no voice escapes my strangled throat. I watch helplessly as the clock ticks life away. The sun is sinking down the horizon hiding its head in shame. The birds are flying past with new gossip to carry far away. A little hand lifts up a little, trembles and falls down.
I can’t bear it any more. I stifle my cry and stumble my way back into life as I know it. Where everything makes sense. Where everything is predictable. Where there are no more surprises. Where my dresses remain white and clean and pretty. Where there are no nightmares that haunt my daylights and no more shivering in the backside of the night. Where I can pretend that all is well and life couldn’t get better. And I run, run, run away….
I know it’s been a long time coming, I had quite forgotten about it. But here is another not-quite-as-funny take on the #back side of the night. Thanks again Gina @Singledust, Charles @Reluctantpoet and @Sailorpoet for introducing me to this term!