“Good night, Carrie,” she says.
She does not sleep long.
Like always, her eyes flash open when they close in the dream. The shutting of a door to one world behind her, and the opening of another.
She shivers. Her sheets and comforter are damp and she swims her naked body through them. She must have sweat from the heat of the flames. Her dreams always leave little ghost fingerprints in reality.
She rises creakily and strips the bed to the mattress and piles the linens on the floor. Goes to her closet and pulls on her bathrobe, worn and soft. She pauses, staring at her shoe collection lit sparsely by the moonlight. Heels above and flats beneath and sneakers in front. She can just glimpse the white plastic peeking over the shoe rack.
She can always recall dreams like they are any past event. When she tried to compare hers with friends, before she finally stopped asking, they always said they could not remember. Hers, on the other hand, are as close and palpable as a first kiss.
at the water hole, near her elementary school,
everything gray, muted, tree colors silenced,
legs dangling in the flat black water,
everyone is gone,
She resists parting with possessions because everything has the potential to be a symbolic artifact, imbued with meaning by trauma or joy. The latter is kept, the former shed, or ritualistically destroyed. And tucked into the back of the closet, inside a knotted plastic shopping bag, is the latter. Will they still fit? She hopes so. Kneeling, she reaches in and extracts the bag. She tries impatiently to undo the knot, then pries the mouth of the bag apart.
watching her feet moving in the water,
the reflection doesn’t quiver,
the water doesn’t splash,
There they are. There had been a flicker of doubt, of course. She’d seen them in the dream, and so they wouldn’t be here. They’d be disobeying some law of time and space that says an object can’t exist both in the unconscious and in real life.
hearing voices of her classmates getting farther away,
someone turning their volume down gradually,
saying “just a minute, i’ll just put my shoes on,”
lifting her feet from the unshakable water,
setting them on a towel next to her pink galoshes,
Perhaps the law held after all. The further she pulls the torn edges of the bag down, the more wear she sees, and the more apparent it is that the dream galoshes and the ones in front of her are two different objects. She had used this pair into the ground. The rims are no longer white, but a muddied cream, bloodshot with darker, tan veins. Neither are the bows, and only one of those remains, listing to the side.
struggling with her socks,
singing the song Ma taught her,
“pull the socks up / make a lip / at the heel / or they will rip,”
She has the slap of memory of when the bow came off. She’d been playing idly with it on a car ride, head between her knees. When it snapped, it was like she’d played too rough with a pet, and had broken one of its appendages, and she screamed into her lap. Dad slammed on the brakes like she had broken one of her own. Are you okay, he’d said, turning around in his driver seat. Said it like he was demanding she tell him she was okay. I broke it, she replied. What did you break? he said. He was as frightening as he was frightened. I break everything, she said. Emmet, we’re in the middle of an intersection, Ma said. A car behind them honked. Beddy raised the bow so he could see. In the palm of her hand, it looked like a tiny bird with a broken wing. Dad’s fear turned to puzzlement. A horn blared again, and others chimed in. His face still red, he threw on the parking brake and unbuckled his seatbelt. Don’t, Ma said. He stepped outside. Beddy watched him pass her on the left passenger side. He pointed at the car behind him and stalked toward it, roaring in the Scary Voice.
trying to shout to her classmates, “hold on! wait for me! wait for me!”
but her voice is muffled,
like she’s at the bottom of the sea yelling to someone on the beach,
She lets her breath out in a burst. That event some ten years ago made one sense at the time, and now it made another sense. Dad didn’t yell at her because she broke something he bought for her. It was his sensory overload. First his daughter is screaming because something happened to her, then she is fine, then his wife scolds him, then the honking, then…Righteous Berserk mode. She knows this because she has felt this. If she could go back, would she understand what he was screaming? At that age she couldn’t pick swear words out of a conversation, but she knew when they happened. For kids, the path to verbal language is through the language of reaction. Certain words make people smile. Others make people cry, or frown. It’s your duty to learn them all so you can participate. But maybe he wasn’t saying words. Just the wordless sound of panic.