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There are different kinds of dreams. There’s the kind you never remember—before you awake, all memory is washed away. But then there are the dreams that are so realistic, so full of feelings and so personal, that when you wake up, you really believe the events in the dream took place, leaving you disoriented for a little while. You usually experience these close to dawn—maybe in the last two hours before you wake up. You know it’s a dream, but it still burns in your mind, refusing to let you go. Dreams can be emotionally disturbing, wonderfully happy, horribly sad, or as scary as a horror film. No one can really explain them—though people try, with books and logic and hocus pocus. Still, while most disappear from your memory so quickly that you can never recall them again, some stay with you forever.
I tilted my head back to engage in conversation with my two friends. They were chatting and laughing, while my dad tapped his finger on the steering wheel in rhythm with the pounding music blasting from the radio.
“I’m so excited to show you guys around my old school!” I squealed. “You guys won’t believe it! It’s so small compared to John Jay. And my old friends can’t wait to meet you both!”
I was overwhelmed. I had been looking forward to this for weeks—I was going to see my old school and my old friends for the first time in several years, revisiting a part of my old life. New York City, one of the most famous places in the world, throbbing with people and places, had once been my home. No one could blame me for being ready to jump out the window and run the rest of the way.
“Yeah, me too,” Emma said eagerly. “Wait, how many people were in your grade again?”
“Eighteen,” I giggled, scanning both their faces for the reactions I knew were coming. Emma gaped and Emily laughed, “Just 350 more and you’d have what we have now!”
I nodded, turning back to my own window view, their voices seeping into my lazy consciousness.
A few hours later, I realized I had been napping, lulled by the rhythmic sounds of everyone’s voices. When I straightened up, I looked back to see my friends, who, tired from talking, had retired to their own activities. Emma was on her Ipod, while Emily was risking nausea with her head buried in a book.
Confused, I looked at my dad. “Shouldn’t we be there already?”
“Soon,” he replied. “We might not get there in time, though. If we’re lucky you can see your old friends doing the clean-up shifts before they leave. Those were eighth grade duties, I remember. Everyone pitched in to throw this festival. I remember when I—”
“Dad,” I interrupted, horror-struck, “we left hours ago, which means we should’ve been there! We live ONE hour away from the city! And”—I consulted the dashboard clock—“it is now five-fifteen. What is GOING ON?”
My dad looked surprised at my hysteria, and Emily lifted her head when he said calmly, “Hon, we’ll get there. Relax. I just have an errand to run.”
By that time I had gazed out the window to see the large green highway road signs, and I turned my head slowly back to my dad before shrieking, “AN ERRAND IN CHICAGO? You have GOT to be kidding me!”
“There’s this one amazing store right in the middle of town. We’ll just pop in and grab what I need, then be on our way.”
I slumped in my seat, refusing to believe what was happening. “Just a little longer, guys,” I informed my friends with a sinking heart. They were again engrossed in their own activities and did not respond.
“Well, the errand took longer than usual…” my dad began, winding up for a long apology, but I cut him off with a scream of frustration. It was dark. My friends were asleep. And Chicago was still alive with hustle and bustle. We were parked outside a hotel with a bright neon sign stating: Dreamy Nights Hotel.
“You got that right,” I murmured sarcastically, taking a deep breath.
“We’ll just rent two rooms for the night, and take off back home in the morning. Sorry we missed your festival, kiddo. I’ll make it up to you.” He sighed. “Well I guess I’ll go to the desk and rent the rooms. You and your friends stay in one, me in another. Okay?”
I could only nod.
When I awakened my friends and explained the situation, they were surprisingly agreeable and headed straight into the rented room, got into separate beds, and went back to sleep. I could not follow their examples. Strolling through the hotel halls looking for a vending machine (I had a yearning for candy) I heard raucous noises coming from a nearby room. I stopped in front of the shiny, mahogany wood door. The plaque read: Ballroom. Curious and tired of despairing, I fingered the doorknob. Surprisingly, the door swung open.
No one acknowledged my entrance. The DJ in the corner continued spinning tunes; the crowd of teens kept dancing, eating, and socializing; and the few adults around the perimeter of the room did not pause their friendly banter for even a second. The birthday party was jamming, and as I came in a little farther and stood awkwardly by an empty table, I caught sight of her. I did a giant double-take and continued to stand there, blinking in surprise and bewilderment. She looked older, for she was. Her hair was dyed a platinum blonde, and a tight black mini dress replaced her cargo pants and T-shirt. Her face was caked in makeup, and the plastic crown perched on her gleaming hair read “Birthday Princess.”
It was October 28th. I had forgotten. As I watched my old best friend—whom I had lost touch with years ago—dance and laugh with her new friends (who actually looked a lot like little clones of her and each other) I felt a pang in my heart. We had once been inseparable—but then I moved, she moved, and that was it.
I took a step. Ashley spun around. She caught my eye, and then turned back around.
I was shocked, and began to realize that she, in fact, had not recognized me. Not even the slightest spark of remembrance. I had expected a “Katie! Oh my god—I can’t believe you’re here!” and a happy reunion.
So I turned around and shut the door quietly, as if I had never been there, and ran down the hall back into my dark hotel room. I had forgotten all about the vending machine, but my stomach hadn’t; it growled all night long. I couldn’t sleep a wink. All I could do was look back over the day’s events and lie in bed in numb disbelief…
When I awoke, I was barely conscious, in a still sleepy frame of mind. The room was dark but some early morning light was coming through my windows, illuminating certain spots in the room with an eerie bluish-yellow glow. I rearranged myself on the bed, and realized my pillowcase was wet. When I heard myself sniffling, I knew that I had been crying: racked sobs, stuffy nose, sore throat, wet cheeks. The dream lingered with me until I managed to quiet my crying and return to sleep.
Maybe a new dream would rewind it all, and I would go to my old school and have a great time with old and new friends, as planned, instead of traveling to that creepy hotel and seeing Ashley, in all her newfound glory, not see me, as though she had erased eleven years of her life, sending me away in the process. At least she looked like she was having fun?