The Block comes in contact with a lot of talented writers, individuals with the gift of the pen. We rarely see those writers get a platform where they can do more than be witty pop culture analyst or metronomes for adjusting cultural norms. Today, and every Friday in the month of July, we are going to give writers a platform to display their talents in whatever way they see fit. Whether it is a short story, poem, or essay, it’s their world, The Block their stage. Be sure to let us know what you think about the writers work. Today we feature a short story from Henry Ramon a native of Chicago, IL who is working on a book about his upbringin in the GO,and a book documenting the current murder spree ripping through the city. This is some of his early work. Enjoy the read and let us know what you think.
I used to have this dream that would freak me out. I wouldn’t have it all the time but it occurred often enough for me remember it in vivid detail. On the nights I would have it, I would rip myself from my sleep, gasping for air like I was drowning in the sweat that soaked my sheets. This dream always happened at the same time of night or morning (depending on how you look at it). And it was always the same, the exact same dream every time. On the occasions I shared a bed, I worried about the dream shoving me awake and rousing my visitor as well. I worried about having to explain why I couldn’t breathe, why my hands wouldn’t stop shaking, and why I would not go back to sleep.
The strange thing is this nocturnal meeting was not a nightmare, at least not in the traditional sense. There was no boogey man, or falling from some unidentified tall object. There was nothing, in and of itself, remotely frightening. But the emotion behind the dream was dreadful. It was enough to ruin my entire day. Not only did it wake me up before the crack of dawn, but it created a sort of melancholy mood to the rest of my day. It drained me of any momentum or spark I may have had. I can’t count how many great days were stolen from me by this dream. However, I am certain that if combined it would be enough to account for academic and personal shortcomings for the past few years. This thing was a delicate thief, striking without warning or pattern, moving in and out of the shadows with an intricate knowledge of my every blind spot. Never returning often enough to be a constant danger, but heisting enough to always be on the forefront of the back of my mind. Dangling ever so close to the surface, but only coming to light too late to be stopped. Another great day gone, and me thinking it had been too long since we last met. 4:22 am.
That was when the dream happened and it was the time in the dream, never a minute more nor a minute less. I would suddenly be in a room Spartan in its décor, nothing out of place, functional and precise. There were floor to ceiling windows with a view of an anonymous skyline. The room had cold hardwood floors I could feel seeping the last warmth in the room from my bare feet. There is an alarm clock on a metal side table, 4:22 am glows neon red reflecting off a glass filled with brown liquor. This is the only light in the room, somehow even the light from the skyline can’t seem to reach me where I sit. I sit, alone, in a leather chair with wooden studs tracing its contours. The only sound in the room is me, I am crying. I often thought of staying in the dream to see the clock turn, but it was too much. The emotion behind it was too thick, I had to breathe.
This dream was doppelganger, always larking in the background threating to ruin my day. Like a natural disaster, I never had a warning when it would strike next and by the time it was upon me, it was too late to do anything but endure. I endured until the frequency of this dream started to tune out my everything. After weeks of being snatched from bed, with the red eyes of my tormentor staring at me blinking 4:22 am, I decided that enduring was no longer an option; conquering this monster became my only goal. As much as I tried to decipher the code, I could not unlock the safe. I tried to talk about the dream with my family and friends with the hope that discussing it and figuring it out while conscious would trigger an end to the dream’s existence in my subconscious. None of the talking worked. It was interesting to watch my friends do their best impersonation of Joseph. One by one my friends and I fell short of Joseph, landing on the magistrates useless interpretations.
I finally broke down and told my mom. I was reluctant to share this with her for the fear she would think I was crazy. I have always been an excellent student and my most meticulous scrutinizer. She always said I put too much pressure on myself, but never seemed to mind the results. I had no doubt she would have me committed or at least lecture me about balance. She surprised me when she did neither. Her advice proved to be powerful, challenging, and helpful. I still sometimes call her Joseph. She told me to take a deep breath and stay in the dream past 4:22. She actually told me to put my big girl panties on and make it happen. The problem was that I never knew when the dream would come back, nevertheless, I was determined to let this dream play out pass my personal witching hour. I didn’t know what to expect, but the anticipation of seeing what happened pass 4:22 was almost as heavy as the feeling despair in the dream. Now that I look back on the situation, it’s amazing how much of an impact a few minutes had on my life. Most of us strive for consistency, for predictable, reliable outcomes, but the consistency of this dream was more than I could bear.
A week before I graduated college, it had been months since my days were robbed by it, the dream happened. Every detail was just as I remembered it. I sat looking at the skyline, draped in a curtain of darkness that seemed to dissolve every speck of light within its boundaries. A chill crawled from the bottom of my feet to the nape of my neck. It felt like a spider tip toeing up my body, and tired from his journey was breathing heavy whispers on my neck. I checked the table, the drink was there, condensation sliding down the cup forming a puddle that made it look like the table was sweating. The furniture wasn’t the only familiar setting in this scene. The heaviness was there too and the heaviness ushered in the tears. As I sat in my subconscious sobbing, the heaviness began to take over. It was pushing the oxygen out of the room and once again I was gasping for air. I began to panic as the tears blurred my vision and my lungs struggled to squeeze enough air through my body. I saw the clock, 4:22 am. It was time to leave this nightmare, time to let the air back in and push away the darkness of this moment. But this time I couldn’t push out. I couldn’t break free, like it or not, I was going to see this out until my mind had revealed whatever emotion was tied to this vision. Somehow, I was now holding the glass, struggling to take a sip and swallow the cold bitter liquor. The sobs softened but the tears flowed harder. It was easier to breath but not because the heaviness was leaving, I had just gotten used to it. I sat there, mesmerized by each excruciating flicker of the clock, anticipating an explosion of emptiness upon the changing of the minute. When the clock reached 4:23 am, I got up from the chair, dried my eyes and walked toward a door I never noticed before. I could see light creeping under the door and hear people laughing on the other side. It took every ounce of strength I had to grab the door knob. Even though it seemed like the elixir to all that ailed me was on the other side of the door, I struggled to open it. I knew I would be able to breath, see, laugh, and move on if only I could open the door. I stood at the door, still trying to wake up, but my mind kept me locked in that moment until I decided. Open the door or sit back behind the curtain of heaviness. What if the door was locked? Then I would always know that what I needed was just out of my reach. What if the people on the other side were laughing at me and that was why I was in here crying? Could this room that has haunted my dreams really be a place of refuge? Before I had the chance to contemplate any of these questions, I was once again struggling to breath with a suddenness that activated a primal instinct; self-preservation. If the other side of that door meant breathing, nothing was going to stop me from opening it! As I twisted the door knob and pushed the door, the light from the other side was blinding. The rush of air that filled my lungs, calmed my panic, and sucked me into crowded space. My hands were shaking, my lungs trying to make up for lost breaths, but there was no explanation needed. The people on the other side were waiting for me, cheering that I had finally left the seat and saw the door, laughing because they were overjoyed it was over. I saw a clock, I didn’t care what time it was.
What do you think? Ever had a consistent dream/nightmare? What did you do about it?