The following day, after Mildred had left, I drifted around my apartment like a ghost. I had no energy, no will to do anything important, or even take care of myself. Less than an hour after I got out of bed, I was back and trying to will myself to sleep. It’s like a ‘soft-death’ to sleep, I thought. It’s as if I’m not really here at all. That was the only place I wanted to be — nowhere.
When Mildred was with me, my sleep was dreamless. But as soon as she was gone, my dreams were back. They were as vivid and haunting as they ever were. And whenever I fell asleep, I was back at the door.
That night the desert seemed to yawn around me. The air moved fast, whipping my hair around my head. The wind was stronger than ever, and the night was cold, and cloudless, with a silver moon. I looked down at my feet, and soft, white sand hugged my toes. I could feel every grain, it was so real. When I looked at the door, it was still made of the beautiful, intricately carved mahogany that had replaced the rotting door I'd seen that first night. I could feel the warmth radiating off of it. The wind began to blow a little harder, so I started toward it with my hand out, intent on grabbing the handle. Once there, I pressed one palm into the warm wood and put the other on the handle. I could smell burning cedar and cinnamon butter wafting from the other side. My mouth watered and I was reminded of my grandmother. She always burned cedar incense and baked apples in her fireplace. I immediately longed for her. She had died a few years back, and when she passed, I felt like a part of me had been stolen. As a child, my grandmother had been the only adult in my life who ever seemed proud of me and loved me for who I was. My parents loved me for what I could achieve, but not her. She loved me because I was me. I miss her so much, even now. In my dream, I could feel my chest aching the way it did whenever I let myself think about her in the waking world.
I woke up.
I was lying on my back when my eyes opened. I stared toward the ceiling. In my mind’s eye, I could see my grandmother's hands working at her fireplace, pushing logs with a poker, placing foil-wrapped apples in the fire. I could hardly remember her face, but I deeply remembered how she made me feel. I closed my eyes and focused on it. She made me feel loved, safe, and accepted. She taught me everything as if I could understand the entire world if I tried. I wished so hard that I had been able to see her when I was asleep. I scrunched my eyes shut and wished I could have a dream where she was right there and I could reach out and touch her.
Tears began to squish out from beneath my clenched eyelids. I opened my eyes again and they stung with tears. Every time I thought of her, the fact of her death washed over me as heavily as the day of her funeral. I was never going to see her again, I thought. There had been times in my youth when I thought she was the only person who would ever love me, and she was gone. I closed my eyes one more time, and warm tears streamed down the sides of my face. I lay there without wiping them away, somehow comforted by the wetness of my own tears on my cheeks and pooling in the creases of my neck.
When I finally got out of bed, it was almost 9:30 p.m. That might sound bad like I had wasted the day, and maybe I had. But I was so exhausted — not tired, but deep down drained — that lying there in the dark had been all I could do to keep myself together.
I managed to take a shower and make a sandwich, which felt like herculean tasks on their own. Eventually, I was on the couch with the television on. Some kind of gameshow was playing on the screen, but I was hardly paying attention. I was focused on forcing myself to take small bites of food, but it was torture trying to chew them. Every single bite felt dry in my mouth no matter how much water I drank. Every grain turned to ash on my tongue, and swallowing was nearly impossible unless I washed down each mouthful. Once I’d forced myself to eat half a sandwich, I placed the plate on my coffee table and sat back. There, I had done it. I ate something. I felt a little bit triumphant, as I could have gone all day without eating a bite of food if I’d let myself.
The door in my dream had appeared multiple times now, I thought, and each time I felt like I was getting closer to whatever was behind it. But it seemed like no matter how close I was, I always woke up before I could open the door and see what was behind it. I could tell that the door was significant. Every time I looked at it, felt it and smelled the air around it, I knew it was my door. I was meant to walk through it. For some reason, my mind wouldn’t let me get that far.
At that very moment, I decided I had to find a way to open the door. Perhaps I didn’t consciously decide it, but I knew. For the following few days, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Every breath that I took seemed to exist only to allow me to think about the dream door. I thought about how it smelled, its connection to my grandmother, its connection to me. It was impossible for me to avoid it. Each night the door would appear, and each morning I would wake up just before I could swing it open. After a few days, I came to realize that simply waiting for my dreams to last long enough for me to open that door wasn’t going to work. I had to think of some way to get it open myself.
Story fanatic. Published in the Camosun College literary journal Beside the Point. Former Senior Staff Writer at The Martlet. Current and future freelance writer.