“Dreams.” The word had been said.
I straightened in my chair before I even really knew why. I saw Mr. Travinski, which meant I was in psychology class. He was leaning against his desk as he talked about dreams. He asked if any students ever had dreams of significance, dreams of impact.
Almost every student raised their hand.
Mr. Travinski assured the class that everyone would get their turn. Students were called upon. Dreams were told (significant dreams, dreams of impact). Mr. Travinski did his best to navigate that delicate balance between remaining patient with each telling, yet moving the class along as he permitted each student a measure of time that didn’t suck up the minutes for everyone else.
I listened intently.
But as the dreams came and went, they began to sound like paper plates and plastic utensils – real, but lacking. Dreams were significant, but only to the person telling them. Dead relatives returned. A dream about the future, foretelling either blessings or a curse. Then others that were construed to sound spectacular or bizarre, but couldn’t really be categorized as significant.
Mr. Travinski called my name, “Sarah.”
“Is there any dream that has impacted you that you would like to share?”
“No. Not really.”
There were a few sniggers and shaking heads at my comment. My response made me out to be as bland as a lima bean, which didn’t surprise anyone with how I had become. I was the outcast with a personality as gray as her sweatshirt. But I didn’t dare tell them. I knew the looks I would get. The laughs. The disgust. The woman in the window was mine – in some horrible demented way – mine alone, not to be shared, because no one would understand.
“That is enough!” Mr. Travinski bellowed, silencing the chuckles. Then he stated, “Now, I am quite aware that Christmas break begins” – he checked his watch – “in thirty minutes. But, I have a fun homework assignment for you over break. Now, now, I said fun. This is why we are discussing dreams: there is the possibility of influencing dreams through the use of word repetition prior to falling asleep. When I first tried it, I used it as an opportunity to see a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in years. So, before bed one night, I repeated the name of my friend until falling asleep. Then, in my dream, my friend popped out from behind a bush and yelled, ‘Hey, Dave!’” Mr. Travinski chuckled.
One of the boys yelled, “I know who’s visiting me tonight! Scarlett Johansson!”
That unleashed a barrage of other women all the boys planned on conjuring up.
Mr. Travinski rolled his eyes. “Wonderful. I give you an opportunity to take command of your dreams, and you boys, with your hormones, can only think of women. I should have known.”
One of the boys said, “Don’t tell me you weren’t thinking the same, Mr. Travinksi!”
Mr. Travinksi pointed at his ring. “I’m quite happily married.”
“It’s not like imagining hurts,” the boy challenged,
“Considering I am the one who has been married twenty-three years, I would say it does. Of course, given that you are about seventeen years of age, I am sure you know far more about life and marriage than I do.”
“Ah, yes. The intelligent quip of your generation.” Pulling up the sleeve of his corduroy jacket, Mr. Travinksi glanced at his watch again. “Where was I before the lovely Ms. Johansson entered my classroom?”
I said, “You were telling us to try and influence our dreams.”
“Why, yes. Thank you.” He then asked, “And what are you hoping to discover in your dreams tonight, Sarah?”
“I’m going to try and get rid of my fears.”
Some of the boys laughed again. Somebody called out, “What a whack job!”
Mr. Travinski ignored them, then said to me, “I hope it works.”
The class bell rang. Students stampeded for the door. I remained at my desk, gathering my things.
Mr. Travinksi said, “Don’t worry about those boys, Sarah.”
“They’re jerks, sure. But they don’t know it yet. Someday they’ll look back and be embarrassed by how immature they were.”
Out in the hall, someone yelled, “Scarlett Johansson! I’ll see you tonight!”
Mr. Travinksi corrected himself, “Maybe not.”
I smirked brokenly.
“Have a wonderful break, Sarah. I hope you find an opportunity to relax and come back in the new year ready to regain traction on your grades.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“I truly hope it works for you, influencing your dreams. I hope it doesn’t work for the boys. In fact, I hope it all goes terribly wrong for them and doesn’t turn out like they hoped it would.”
“Like in real life,” I said.
He laughed a moment, then considered. “Yes. Like in real life.”
“Merry Christmas,” I said flatly.
“Merry Christmas,” he said.
On my walk home, I considered what I would say to myself that night before falling asleep. It felt as though I was preparing for a camping trip, skimming through my list of things I couldn’t forget, afraid I’d forget that one most important thing.
What would help me?
A weapon? I didn’t know if anything would ever hurt her.
A hiding place? She always found me.
Supernatural powers? She always seemed so powerful.
At home, I dropped my bag in the corner and stood in the kitchen staring out of the window like an invalid. My daily routine.
My mom came home early and asked if I was excited for Christmas break. I did a very good job of pretending, turning towards her with a big smile that hid my despair. “Of course!”
That night, I went ahead and changed. Showered for the first time in days. Slid into bed and pulled the covers up, staring at the window. The deeper tingling within my body told me sleep was coming soon. Before drifting, I repeated tiny whispers of courage:
She’s only a dream. She’s only a dream. She’s only a dream.