I’m washing my sheets for the third time this week. Tenth time this month. I don’t even want to know how many times it’s been this year. It’s 3:45 A.M. I stare blankly at the clock hanging on the wall above the dryer. Every two times that the second-hand moves you can see the minute hand move a little. The dryer gyrates and whirs in a rhythmic and entrancing fashion. Nevertheless, I will not be able to fall back asleep tonight.
Every night I wake up in a panicked fit sopping wet from the mass amount of sweat my body has produced. This leaves my sheets absolutely soaked which answers the question as to why I’m standing in front of the dryer in my apartment complex at 3:45 A.M. Well, now 3:46.
I blame the dream. It’s always the same dream. I am a child. I am sitting in the mulch at the playground helplessly trying to build a miniature house with the bigger chips of wood. And about the time I’ve given up, my mother comes and helps me like she uses to in real life. And she always knows just the right ways to align the pieces to make them stand straight up.
As soon as we finish I hear my father’s voice call out, “Hey, that looks pretty good sport!” He and my mother and standing some feet away. He waves me over with his hand. I rush to my feet and hustle over to them but when I arrive at where they are I am no longer a child. I am now an adult in my early 20’s wearing a suit and tie standing before my friends and family. When I come to, the church organ starts to play and the doors at the opposite end of the aisle open. My soon to be bride is now walking towards me.
I still tear up every time I see you, Chelsea.
As she nears I can see her face clearly, the love of my life. We were so young but knew that we didn’t want to live any longer if we couldn’t be together forever. When she places her hands in mine the reverend skips the formalities and tells us we can kiss.
I lean in eyes closed but before our lips make contact I open my eyes once more and gaze upon someone else. I am now on a different stage holding a different girls hands; Juliet’s. It was my big break. Chelsea and I had moved to New York shortly after our honeymoon so I could audition for Broadway plays. She had already secured a job teaching at a local elementary school at the time. We went months living off of her salary while I auditioned for almost every male role available. Chelsea never urged me to find a real job. Not even when we found out she was pregnant. She always believed in my dreams. Sometimes even more than I did. However, knowing a baby was on the way made me doubt my life decisions up until that point and lead me to wonder if I should give up and find a new job. A real job. One that could help support the family. Chelsea wouldn’t let me. She reassured me we would be fine even on her salary alone and that when the time was right I’d get cast as something.
And eventually, I did. Two months into her pregnancy I was cast as Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In my dream, I am standing on stage holding Juliet’s hands, but I am not Romeo. I am a speechless actor choking on my lines. Outside of the theater, I hear a crash. And as I turn my head the crowd vanishes along with Juliet and I am standing in the middle of a poorly lit intersection.
The opening night of the play my parents flew in from Georgia. Their flight landed at 6:30 p.m. a 30-minute drive from the theater. The Play started at 7:15 p.m. so there was no way I would be able to pick them up. Seven months pregnant Chelsea insisted that she would pick them up. I didn’t object. Instead, I thanked her and kissed her on the cheek before I left to get ready for my performance.
I stood in that intersection alone knowing what was going to happen next. I always knew what was going to happen. Every night I dream this same scenario, and every night I rack my brain and inevitably fail to find a solution. A way to stop what was going to happen from happening. I checked my watch; 6:47 p.m. I see a car off in the distance to my right. My father is driving. Chelsea sits in the passenger seat because my mother insisted she sit up front do to how pregnant she was. To my left is another car in the same lane. This one is also driving towards me, but at a much more rapid speed. The driver is a 40-year-old male who had just gotten done binge drinking at a buddies house. He is unaware of the tragedy he is about to unfold. I stand in the street yelling at both cars to stop. It’s no use. Nothing but air escapes my mouth. I frantically jump up and down and wave my arms trying over and over again to stop one of the vehicles. The more I see my efforts are hopeless the more panicked I become. I start running towards the vehicle my father is driving to reach him before it’s too late. But it was already too late. The cars inevitably crash in a head on collision. None of the five passengers survived. I rush to the side of the car where Chelsea is sitting slumped over in her car seat. I hit the window relentlessly until it breaks and I am able to unlock the car door from the outside. I pull her from the car and hold her in my arms. She’s already gone but I can’t help but rock her back and forth and tell her everything is going to be okay. I pet her head as I cry hysterically, howling and sobbing.
I cannot move. I stay there knelt on the ground until everything disappears and I’m all that’s left. Myself kneeling on the ground in a pitch black space. No more emotion. No more people. No more death. And then a small still sweet voice, “Daddy?” And then I wake up.