In the months following Jimmy’s death, when the sun was so hot the neighbor’s crops dried up and crumpled in the wind and the cows started to lie on their sides in the shade, I started taking little blue pills and got good at controlling my dreams. Doctor Quinn assured me there was no correlation between these, but I was never good at controlling dreams, let alone remembering them, until I started taking those pills.
David was the one who sent me to Doctor Quinn in the first place. He said what I was experiencing was normal. He said that with the help of pills, I’d start feeling better soon. He promised.
“Why can’t you just prescribe them for me?” I asked him.
“Because they need to be taken in conjecture with therapy,” he replied.
“You’re a therapist,” I’d said.
He responded something noncommittal. Something about being his wife and conflict of interest. Then he pecked the top of my head and told me he’d call some colleagues of his. He said he’d find me the very best—someone who specialized in grief. That’s how, a week later, I found myself in Doctor Quinn’s office, being prescribed Xanax and Zoloft as well as Ativan to help me sleep.
“Don’t you think that’s a little much?” I’d asked.
She said something like this needed to be dealt with hands-on. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” she’d told me. “To lose someone that close—”
I took the prescription and left.
They say when a twin dies, it’s almost as if you do, too.
It was also during the months following Jimmy’s death that ants started to take refuge in our home from the heat. I started finding them everywhere—crawling in our sink, across our stove top, up the walls in the bathroom, even in between the shower curtain and liner. David scattered traps around the house—in dark corners and on the bathroom countertops—but they didn’t seem to help. I just found more and more, as if the ants took the traps as some kind of challenge. I spent my days trapping them, throwing them out of the house, and taking my pills.
One day, after I’d fallen asleep on the hammock, I dreamt of a psychiatric ward. I wasn't meant to be there, that I knew for sure. I wore dark blue hospital scrubs. It didn’t strike me that this was odd. The ward was located in my old high school. This didn’t strike me as odd, either. In fact, nothing felt off to me. Everything felt entirely real, until I escaped the ward, that is, and my legs wouldn’t work. I could always tell when I was dreaming if my legs couldn’t move fast enough to run.
I was escaping with two others, their faces blurry, and they yelled at me to run faster. I told them I couldn’t, my legs—and that’s when I realized I was dreaming. I yelled for them to stop.
“This isn’t real,” I told them, taking their hands in mine. They wore the same blue scrubs as I did. “This is a dream,” I said as the shouts from the nurses got closer and closer. “It’s not real.”
We looked back, the nurses waving syringes at us. My companions pulled my arms, begging me to run.
“Listen to me,” I told them. “Just wake up.”
They disappeared then, leaving me, alone, to deal with the nurses. They circled me, holding their syringes like swords. They told me to come with them. They told me I needed help. They told me life wasn’t supposed to hurt this much.
“You aren’t real,” I told them, and with that, I awoke, the sun beating down on my face, sweat pooling under my armpits, and I was home.
“There’s a lot of mixed views on dreams, in psychology,” Doctor Quinn told me during one of our sessions. “Freud thought it was the ‘road map to the unconscious.’”
“Freud thought a lot of things,” I said.
She smiled. “A lot of people can suddenly become very lucid during dreams. It’s nothing to be worried about.”
Once, when I was younger, I read that twins often have the same dreams. Jimmy and I had tried it, of course. We’d hold hands as we fell asleep, thinking this would strengthen our mental connection, or something. In the mornings, we’d compare our dreams. He’d tell these wild and vivid tales of monsters or motorcycle gangs. He’d tell me how he leapt from cloud to cloud in his dreams, not afraid of falling. Every morning, he’d tell me this, and every morning, my answer was the same: “I don’t remember.”
“I never used to dream, before,” I told Doctor Quinn. “That has to mean something, right?”
“The mind copes in various ways,” she answered.
It was always like that with her—always a vague answer, never what I needed. We ended our session, and I drove home.
“I mean, she’s right,” David said when I told him. “There’s no scientific reason to believe the medicine could be linked to your dreams.”
“You’re just coping, sweetheart.” He smoothed my hair away from my face.
Years later, when I am feeling better and not waking in the middle of night gasping for air and calling his name, when I no longer need the medication, I still take those blue pills. Every night, I dream in vivid color, and the dream bends and changes at my command. I wake when I want to.
They say that every person that appears in your dreams, you’ve seen before—whether in passing on the street or in your day-to-day life. Every night, I look for him in my dreams. I have yet to find him.
About the Author: Hannah Gordon studied Communications and Creative Writing at the University of Michigan. She enjoys black coffee, good whiskey, corny jokes, and good writing. Read more of her work at https://hannahnicolegordon.
Story Song: "Wait" by M83
Photo Credit: Leesa Cross-Smith