The next time I saw Dr. Evans he wanted to know more about my nightmare.
“When I wake up, I’m sweating and shaking. And I always sit there in the dark, trying to figure out the end. I think my nightmare means something awful is going to happen.”
“Okay, I’m hearing a strong sense of foreboding, but let’s go back, Jonah, to the part where Patrick Reilly is holding you up by your underwear. Give me specifics. Tell me about the pain, you said it changes?”
“Yes, at first it’s exactly like what happened in real life. The bullies catch me after I escape the toilet dunking and Patrick is giving me a wedgie, lifting me off the floor. Brian and Patrick and their friends are all laughing. A few other kids are laughing too, and everyone is staring at me. I feel like I’m going to be ripped in half from the wedgie, so I don’t fight Patrick because it hurts to move, I’m afraid I might even lose a ball.
But then the nightmare breaks from real life and it’s not the same pain as my underwear cutting me in two. This pain moves to my lungs and I feel like I’m suffocating…but it’s worse than that, it’s a powerful crushing sensation and much scarier. Like all the air in my body is being squeezed out of me. And then I realize this pain isn’t just in my lungs, it’s traveled throughout my entire body. I’m exhausted and my head is throbbing. And there’s also a strange loud thumping in the background.”
Dr. Evans nods. “And you mentioned before that you hear singing in the nightmare?”
“Yeah, the laughing is drowned out by my heart pounding and this other weird thumping sound. It echoes through my entire body, becoming loudest in my head, especially between my ears. But even though there’s this strange pounding coming from somewhere else, I start to feel less afraid. And then the pounding gets softer and the pain starts to fade. The beating sounds more like humming or a moan. It’s kind of beautiful, even melodic. And I feel like I’m floating or moving in slow motion. I look around but I don’t see the bullies or the other students. It’s cloudy and murky and I can’t really see, but there is something else out there. Something big. And then this light gets in the way. Like I said before, I think I should be scared of whatever it is, but I’m not. Then the moaning becomes a song. I hear a girl’s voice, it’s strong. And I know the song, I’ve heard it many times before, but as soon as I wake up, I forget it. That’s all I can remember.”
Dr. Evans shifted in his chair, put his hands behind his head and looked up at the ceiling. “So, you feel this nightmare, which relives a real bullying incident and then turns mysterious, is sending you a message, like an evil omen?”
“Yeah. Sort of.”
“What you described does sound foreboding, until the end. The call or moaning becomes a song and it sounds almost peaceful, pleasant? Maybe something positive is going to happen?”
I gave this some thought. “Yeah, I guess it does turn into something less scary, even nice. It’s bugging me though, I want to know what it all means.”
“Perhaps it will soon be revealed. Maybe the worst is over?” Dr. Evans smiled a little and stretched his legs out in front of him.
“I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s just a feeling I have. A really bad feeling.” I insisted.
“Jonah, remember our exercise? Interrupting your anxious thinking with thoughts like, ‘What if things work out?’ and ‘What if all my hard work pays off?’”
“I know,” I grumbled.
Dr. Evans tried again. “Maybe Jonah, this nightmare is inviting you to look straight into the face of fear and find a spark of hope in it.”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Thank you, Dr. Evans. I feel so much better.”
“Alright,” he said, “I don’t want to minimize your instincts here. But I also don’t want to dwell on the negative, I’m not a fan of behavioral confirmation.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“A self-fulfilling prophecy,” he explained, and then asked, “So in the nightmare, and I’m guessing in real life as well, there is no one who dares to stand up for you?”
I shook my head no and looked back down at the game. I felt ashamed. I wanted to tell him that one boy did try. Once. And that this same boy also stood watching and shaking his head in disgust, while Patrick Reilly held me up by my underwear, dangling me like an amusing little toy object for everyone to laugh at. Then I realized that I hadn’t been honest about this – not only with Dr. Evans, but with myself. It was way too embarrassing though, and I still wanted to protect myself.
“No one? Not one student even made a comment like, ‘Why don’t you lay off Jonah, pick on someone your own size?’” he asked.
I kept my head down, and looked at the board game. “Nope,” I lied.
“Why do I think you’re not being honest with me, Jonah?”