Sleep Thoughts

“I was alarmed nevertheless by the thought that this dream had had the clarity of consciousness. By the same token, might consciousness have the unreality of dream?” – Sodom and Gomorrah (In Search of Lost Time, Volume IV)

In a small portion of Part Two: Chapter Three, Proust’s narrator muses on the world of sleep and consciousness. Why is it that what we dream can seem to have the reality of consciousness, and vice-versa? Below is a two-page short story from my series, “Sleep Thoughts,” in which the character hovers in an atmosphere somewhere between dream and wakefulness…

Sister Got Struck By a Car and No One Woke Me

Hot Dog’s tongue – rough and dry – scrapes against the back of my neck. Saliva sticky cheek stuck to sofa cushion. Hot, heavy air in one nostril, out the other. Arms tucked under, hands pinned down by thighs. Hot Dog pants, licks cheek, and then hair. Back to my back. Hot Dog makes skin raw and hot. No, I sleep whisper to him, but he keeps on licking my back like a bone and my hair like his toes. The weight of his belly and paws heavy on my bones.
Voices drone in my ear, disembodied from distant shuffling feet. Slam goes the door. Vroooom, vroooom goes the engine.
Hot Dog’s weight is heavy, and I am heavy like a bed. There’s a bed on my head and my body. I try to speak the Lord’s name, but the “J” is stuck between the corners of my tongue and the bottom of my teeth and I can’t get up.

Thump. I open my eyes. Hot Dog is on the floor, panting, wagging his tail. I wipe my cheek with the back of my hand and smell my saturated hair. It’s brittle and dried and smells of metallic mucus. I’m drenched in sweat, but the back of my neck feels ice fresh, and the fuzzy couch has left tractor marks on my arms and legs.
The patio is quiet. No one is here but Hot Dog at my feet. I wander into the kitchen. A halfway open can of peas, open pot of water on the stove, the fan whirring and the stove light dim. Hello? I say but no one answers. I peek into the living room and there is no one. Hello? I shout again. I drag my sleepy body to the bedrooms, and they are as empty as the kitchen. I wander back into the warmth of the patio. Hot Dog is back on the couch. I push him onto the floor and go back to sleep. This time the Lord keeps me light and safe.
There goes a buzzing in my ear. Vroooom, vroooom. Slam goes the door and wakes me.

“Sister got struck by a car!” No one woke me.

Sister must be made of bouncy stuff. She looked one way as the car came the other. And she bounced. Struck by metal and flew through the sky with not one bone broken. Daddy says, “I want you to use these crutches anyway – just in case,” and Sister complies.
Mommy ran into the street yelling, “My baby, my baby,” when she saw the white sheet. I thought I was the Baby. But Sister was hiding from the bright, dizzy lights, on the silver tray with wheels. Mommy slapped her hands against her face and looked like the screaming face on Sister’s bedroom wall. That’s what Daddy says. Mommy loves Sister even though sometimes she slaps her across the face.
Sister says, “I wasn’t dead, but on that street I looked straight up to the Lord.” Her eyes are unblinkingly beautiful when she says this.

She wasn’t dead – she was asleep. And the weight of the Lord saved her.

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