That house was my safety… (Dark Doorways #21)
Dreams can fool you, trick you into thinking they actually happened. Swanson once had me read a book by Daniel Everett, a fellow linguist, on the Pirahã people. Apparently, they believe that their dreams are an extended reality, than whatever one dreams actually happens. I was beginning to wonder if they were on to something.
Watching our bodies drift along the Chicago River and Eliza expand toward us– that felt like a dream. Finding Mom in her kitchen, making me my favorite meatless tortilla soup– that felt real.
Mom looked just how I remembered her, beaming her vibrant smile before the chemo treatments started. Her arms and legs were so strong, graceful even. Every inch of her glowed, from her thick, dark hair to her fair skin. The most amazing feature was that she was simply there. My mom.
“You’re enjoying your classes?”
“I am. I’m done with my coursework though. Swanson has me working on this indigenous language program for my fellowship.”
“My daughter, in a Ph.D. program and on fellowship.” She cupped her hands around my face, adoring me like she always does.
“Mom, why didn’t you tell me Swanson was my father?”
She turned back to her slow cooker, pretending that it needed tending, as if I did not understand how these things work.
Still facing away from me– because who wants to look someone in the eye for a sperm donor conversation?– she was able to talk while stirring. “I think just a bit more garlic.”
“Sarah, I don’t know. I think I just didn’t want him giving you special treatment or anything.”
“But you knew the whole time? All those times you drove by his house? Your dream house? You knew it was my biological father who lived there?”
“I didn’t find find out until you were already away at college. That was just a coincidence.” Mom finally turned back toward me, reaching for my hand, trying to calm me like mothers do.
“That’s an awfully big coincidence. Your dream house just happened to be my father’s house?” I was gesturing widely with my right arm, the arm she wasn’t holding.
“It wasn’t really my dream house, Sarah.”
“What? You would go on and on about it! You imagined how they decorated, where they’d put the Christmas tree–”
“Sarah,” she interrupted. Two hands massaged my own, but it wasn’t calming. “That house was my safety. I went there to protect us, to escape.”
Mom’s hands began to slip away from mine just as her silhouette dissolved in front of me.
“Mom! What were you running away from?”
She was gone. The tortilla soup was gone. Her soft jasmine scent was gone. It all drifted away from me elegantly, as if my heart wasn’t ripping out of my chest.
“Mom!” I found myself shouting, hoping to transport her back. So I found myself talking into thin air, hoping some small part of her might hear me. “There’s so much more I wanted to say.”
I drifted in and out of consciousness, still wondering which was the dream and which was reality. There was a haze as I blinked my eyes open, a struggle to get everything back into focus. I still wasn’t sure where I was. It certainly wasn’t our boxcar with a view of the river.
It was Eliza’s vile face that greeted me.
“Sarah, you’re joining us again. And how is your mom’s tortilla soup?”
* to be continued…