I dreamed I had amnesia. When I woke up, I remembered the whole thing perfectly.
This was no ordinary dream. An ordinary dream would be more like I arrive at school dressed only in my underwear, so I hide behind a bush. Or something like that. Once I woke up, however, the whole thing would seem silly, and I’d forget all about it by breakfast.
But I could not forget this dream. I could not forget how it felt to have no memory. Awake, the problem seemed even more serious.
In the dream, I’d been walking around my own neighborhood. Yet I had no idea where I was, or how I got there. I tried to ask directions home, but I couldn’t remember having a home or a family. I didn’t even know my own name.
I stared at my Raisin Bran and wondered what it meant. “Mom,” I said, “I just had the worst dream. I dreamed I had amnesia.”
“Really,” she said. “Don’t forget to come straight home from school. We have to visit Grandma.”
My mind kept drifting back to that dream. I had to tell someone who would understand. Compared to your average ninth grader, my friend Madison was deep.
She listened to my detailed description. “It’s hard to express,” I said. “I was physically there. I could still walk and talk and everything. But somehow the real me had been completely erased.”
“Wow,” she said.
“I never could have imagined something like that while I was awake,” I said. “I feel like I really had amnesia, like there is still something terribly wrong.”
“But Jim,” she said, “you can remember everything now, right?”
“So what’s the problem?”
At lunch, I tried to tell the guys about it, but Ron broke in, “One time I dreamed I had to mow this guy’s lawn, and I looked up and his grass went on forever.”
“One time,” Eric cut in, “I dreamed I was supposed to go to the prom on a blind date with Selena Gomez. But when I got there, it was Lady Gaga instead. She was wearing a dress made out of bicycle tires and this weird lampshade on her head. Every time I tried to dance with her, she kept turning into my Aunt Lucy.”
“Oh that’s nothing,” Dave said, “One time…”
Our guidance counselor always said if we had personal problems, we could talk to him. I never imagined I’d need to do that, but talking to other kids wasn’t working.
I told him the dream, and he said, “Hmm. That’s interesting. I’m glad you came in. I need to talk about your schedule for next semester. You signed up for art, but that meets at the same time as band.”
I walked home alone. Down the streets from my dream.
I remembered about my grandma. My mother and my uncles took turns. I knew my mother felt terribly guilty about it. The place was dreadful, just a hospital bed in a bare room. It was hard to believe just a few years before that feeble old woman was my lively grandma. I always tried to get out of going.
Mom and I headed down the long corridor to Grandma’s room. Just the smell of the place put me on edge. As we were about to enter, a nurse asked to have a word with Mom.
“Go ahead, Jim,” Mom said.
The gaunt scarecrow of a woman seemed to be staring at a blank spot on the wall.
“Grandma,” I said.
“Oh Freddy!” she said. Freddy was my 250-pound, fifty-year-old uncle.
“No. It’s Jim.”
“Freddy, I know my own son,” she said sternly. “And don’t think you can get away without doing your chores. Your father will expect the snow shoveled and rock salt on the driveway before he gets home. You know how he is about leaving the station wagon on the street.”
It was seventy degrees out. Freddy’s father, the station wagon, and the driveway now only existed in old photographs.
“And where is Lucy?” she said.
“She’s talking to the nurse, Grandma.”
“She should be home from school by now. She thinks I don’t know about that boy she is seeing. But you kids can’t get anything past your own mother.”
That made me smile. “Really,” I said, “so who is she seeing?”
“Oh, that boy in that rock n’ roll band she met at that dance.”
I prodded her further. She told me all about this high school romance my mother had with a red-haired boy who played guitar.
“You have a wonderful memory, Grandma,” I said.
“Like a steel trap,” she said. “And why do you keep calling me ‘Grandma’?”
For the first time in years, I was having a wonderful visit with my grandma. “Last night,” I said, “I had a horrible nightmare. It has been bothering me all day.”
“Tell me all about it,” she said.
She listened in rapt attention to my every word. When I was through, she said, “Oh, that sounds terrifying. I could not even imagine losing my memory like that. Your memory is precious. But don’t forget, Freddy. You will always have me. Whenever you have a bad dream, wake me up and tell me all about it.”
I went home feeling relieved.
James Fabris is a writer living in Princeton, New Jersey. He is working on a novel called “Whiteboy”. It is the story of a Mexican-American girl and her friends trying to survive on the streets of Chicago in the 1990′s.
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