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I Woke Up
I woke up restless and went over to Katja's. "Katja, I had the
most horrible nightmare that I went back to the mainland, and nobody
there liked me, and I got depressed, and the weather was really cold,
and all the plants died."
"That wasn't a nightmare," she said. "This is a dream;
you really have gone back to the mainland. You're no longer in Hawaii.
It's winter, so all the plants are dead, and the weather's freezing.
You're depressing . . ." then she quickly added in a semi-cruel,
comical tone, "and no one likes you either."
"Doh!" I said in my Homer Simpson voice. "Well, at least
I'm still stinking rich and can buy new friends."
"Actually, the stock market crashed while you were gone, and you're
now dirt poor."
"What about my house?"
"Your dog set fire to it, and it burned to the ground."
"Oooh! Well, at least I still have my dog."
"Perished in the fire."
I woke suddenly from my dream of Katja. For a moment, I didn't know
where I was. I halfway sat up in bed, leaning the weight of my upper
body on my elbows, and squinted my eyes as I looked around at the mostly
darkened room. Only a single bright shard of light beamed in from the
window across the room, letting me know it was daylight outside.
I was back in Hawaii! That was all just a dream about the mainland!
Wait, what day is it?
A rush of excitement burst within me, and I jumped out of bed. "What
day is it?!" I yelled to my roommate or anyone who might hear me.
He was not in his bed. I ran out into the living room and saw Juan sitting
in the filthy chair that used to be white with black pin stripes. A
very tacky piece of furniture, but still cleaner than the couch that
had been there for unknown generations of college students, which was
why Juan was sitting in it as he ate his cereal and watched TV before
leaving for class. He had been leaning back, but hearing the urgency
in my voice, he was now leaning forward, looking at me intently, his
right hand still holding the spoon dripping with milk over the oversized
glass bowl, which he held with his other hand.
"Juan, what day is it?"
"Juan, what day is it?" I asked in a loud voice while I walked
swiftly toward him.
"It's Monday . . . Why? What's wrong?" By this time he was
standing and looked very concerned.
"What is the date today?"
Juan set the spoon in the bowl, grabbed the edge of the bowl with his
right hand, and looked at his watch. "It's the tenth, why?"
I was getting frustrated. I didn't know how long I might be here. I
didn't even know how I got here. "September tenth?" I asked
him, almost grabbing his arms below the shoulders and shaking him. I
looked at the TV screen, CNN, and read the date. "What year?"
"What year is it!" I yelled.
"2001" he said as if I were crazy or like he was shocked.
I picked up the phone and thought of what number to dial. The only one
I could think of was 911.
I don't Remember what the operator said, but before he could finish, I cut him
off, "Listen very carefully! Tomorrow morning, terrorists are going to
hijack four planes on the east coast and fly them into the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon!"
Silence on the other end. "Hello? Hello?"
"Are you okay, man?" Juan asked in his Chilean accent.
The phone vanished, and I grabbed him by the shoulders. "Juan,
listen to me! Tomorrow we're going to be attacked!"
"Wake up," Juan said in Katja's voice, calling me by name,
I looked up at Katja from my bed, feeling self conscious of the perspiration
on me. "You're talking in your sleep again."
I smiled as I flew over the Pacific, looking down at the endless blue.
The sky was a perfect blue directly above me, and below the blue was
only interrupted by the silver shimmer of the sun on the water. But
the most beautiful sight was how I could not tell where the horizon
was, one blue fading into another. I turned all the way around where
I stood, scanning the area where the horizon should be. "This isn't
real." I dimmed the blue world around me by lowering my head and
closing my eyes. Then I reached for the light switch and stood there
in my room.
"Where am I?" It was cold and dark outside.
"You're home, come back inside."
"Home? Who are you?"
"I'm your wife!" the woman half yelled in astonishment, or
was she a dream too?
"You can't be my wife-I'm just a kid" I said, backing away
and hunching my head between my shoulders.
"What are talking about?" she sounded sincerely concerned.
"Come back inside; you'll feel better once you get out of these
"Why are my clothes wet? Where am I? This isn't real." Am
I going crazy?
"Katja, I have a problem," I said while trying to catch my
breath from running to her house. "I keep on trying to wake up,
but I can't. I just keep going from one dream to another. Sometimes
I think I'm awake, but it's just another dream."
"Silly, this is real. You ARE awake," she said.
"I don't believe you."
"Because if this were real, could I do this?" I asked as I
made the wall disappear. For an instant, her eyes gave an expression
of a spy who has just been caught, but she quickly recovered in true
"So what do you want from me?"
"I need to know how to get out of here-how to wake up. And once
I get there, how will I know it's real?"
"How to get back to the real world?" she said half laughing
her words, "It's easy, just keep on going from dream to dream until
you come to the worst possible reality, and that's real."
"I don't believe that."
"Because I don't want to." The words sounded weak even before
they fell from my mouth. It couldn't be true just because I didn't want
it to be?
"Well, you think that the best possible reality is your real life?"
she retorted. Somehow, she always got the upper hand in our conversation,
even if I had caught her in a lie. Why was I arguing with a dream?
"No, I suppose that wouldn't be real either."
"Why are you asking my advice if you don't believe anything I tell
"You want to know the truth?" Katja almost whispered as she
leaned towards me, as if it were a secret. "Life is but a dream."
"No!" I shouted. "Life matters! I-I'm real!"
"Listen to me," she continued in a soft voice, gently placing
her hand on my arm. "What I'm trying to tell you is that life is
LIKE a dream. Just as you can change a dream from a nightmare into anything
you want, you can change your reality as long as you want something
"What about her? I pointed to my friend who had died years before
as she laid on the floor. "What about all those people in those
"It's not controlling everything that happens to you, it's choosing
to be happy. You can choose how you feel you know. Control your reality,
don't be controlled by it."
I woke up.
Relieved that I was finally back in the real world, awake and alert,
I decided to eat breakfast. I floated down the hall towards the kitchen,
which was a garden with a fountain of strawberry milk that morning.
Bright yellow and red autumn leaves were scattered here and there on
the greenest spring grass I had ever seen, which grew up to the base
of the cupboard I opened. Filling the bowl that appeared in my hand
with cereal, I added milk from the fountain and sat on a park bench.
What a beautiful morning it was, watching the geese flying back and
forth in their V-shaped flocks.
Slowly, I let the scene fade as I lowered my head. I let it go as I
huddled in the corner of my gray, cold cell. I was dirty and hungry.
But as I gazed up at the sunlight pouring in through the bars of the
small window on the door, I knew I was happy, and that I could be happy,
no matter what.