"All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.
- As You Like It, William Shakespeare
Hey honeybees, I know I am usually light and fluffy with the posts, but this one's gonna veer left. Ride with me. I'm about to get real Tony Soprano (in the coma) on ya'll.
I had a reoccurring dream last night. I had it once a long time ago - maybe a decade? Or more?– and I've dreamed bits and pieces of it since--snapshots of scenery and locations, encounters with certain people--but it's only come together on two occasions. The last time it happened was so long ago that I forgot about. This time when I dreamt it, it was all the same players as before, but this time I could recognize most of them. They are all people I know or have met.
It was so real that I didn't realize I was dreaming. The emotions so vivid, even as I type now, it's like the whole experience happened and not just in my mind. I'll try to give you the background of the characters (in parentheses) as I go along so that it makes as much since as possible to you.
I get a call to meet Penelope and Carmen on the corner of Broadway and Canal (Friends I was supposed to meet earlier tonight were late meeting me. They were supposed to meet another friend who lives on that corner, but they didn't show up.) I'm already in the city so I hop a train. The train takes forever. By the time I get there, and hit them, they've already gone to the club. I decide I'll hail a cab to the meatpacking district club Tenjune instead of getting back on the subway.
I step to the corner, raise my hand, and the cabbie appears. I get in and I recognize the driver. He picked me up the last time I made the same mistake of being late to meet Nell and Carm at the same place. He picked me up in the same location. (The cab driver is a man I've met. Every time his name is brought up, I say something like 'he likes pussy. He doesn't like women. Note the difference. He is the biggest misogynist on Earth.') We chat like old friends because the odds of the same driver, the same destination, the same pick up point to meet the same people have got to be in the billions. He drives and in the course of the trip the destination changes. The New York landscape becomes the suburbs where I grew up, the destination is now a friend's house for a late-night housewarming party (I'm supposed to attend one later today.) The yellow cab is on the long, winding dark street that leads to my parents' subdivision back in the Old Country (Maryland.) At the end of the road, we turn right at the light and the cab is supposed to pull over to let me out.
It keeps going.
"This is my stop!" I remind the driver.
He ignores me.
I tell him again. And again. It's like he can't hear me, but I know he does.
I panic. Think of a how-do-I-get-out-of-this-one? Plan. I realize I have on flip-flops. He has to stop at some point. He has to get out of the front and into the back of the car to get to me. If he does not lock me in, I will get out and run like hell. He will have to catch me to rape me--or worse--kill me. He is counting on my fear, I'm sure. I will not wait for either to happen. I will run.
I hook my large purse on the crease of my elbow. My phone is in my hand in case I need to drop the purse while I haul ass. I must keep my phone to call for help when I get to a safe place. I don't know anyone's number by heart.
The cab tunnels forward, obeying the speed limit. It turns into a subdivision (not my parents') and I vaguely recognize my surroundings. It's a dark street and at the end, it's cul-de-sac peppered with mini-mansions. There was a party here once at a beautiful home with a gigantic fountain that greets visitors as soon as they enter what would be the foyer. The foyer was 20-feet tall. It was thrown by a friend of my father's. It was a night to remember. A stand- around- and-chat bourgoise affair while we all wore designer wares made to impress. Months later, 200 partygoers discovered that the house didn't belong to the person who threw it. In fact, the person the house did belong to didn't know there was a party.
The cab slows. I put my palm on the handle to open the door.
"Take me back to where I was supposed to get out,'' I demand to the driver. "Take me back!!!!"
He ignores me. I know for certain that I will be raped or killed--or both--if I don't act fast. I will die a gruesome death that when it is discovered people will read about it online, shake their hands, and say to a co-worker or friend 'there are some sick people in this world.' They will give the that's- such- a- shame' shy, click the close button for the news site on their computer screens and go back to the monotony of their jobs.
That will not be me.
I pull the handle and my plastic covered foot hits the ground. Dirt. Not grass. Easier to run in. I get my footing and I RUN. I RUN harder and faster than I have ever before. The purse doesn't slow me down. I clutch the phone like it is a gun and I RUN.
I get to the lights highlighting the houses in the cul-de-sac 300 hundred yards away from where I began before I slow down. I don't hear footsteps. I slow to a jog, then a walk. Illuminated by the street lamps, I turn back. The cab is still there. The brake-lights are on. The driver is still in the car.
I have to get inside one of these houses and fast. Before he comes after me. I look around and see the party-house. I don't know the owner but I think it's my safest best. It's familiar at least. I know a family lives there.
I walk up the stone steps to the mansion. I'm bathed in light on the porch. Huge spotlights gift the brightness of their bulbs on me as I ring the doorbell. Footsteps. Children's voices. A woman chastising them to get away from the door. "It's a woman," says one of the kids. Sounds like a toddler.
The woman peeks out the window, looks at me, then cracks open the door. "Can I help you?" she asks. She's blonde, stout. Her hair is in a messy ponytail.
"Yes. I need help. I think I was about to be raped. Please help me. Please."
She nods like she understands or at the very least she recognizes my pleading is genuine, and pulls the door wide open, ushering me into the foyer. Behind her, there's the fountain. Her husband is in front of it. I recognize him as one of my father's friends. A kid is standing behind him, peering over his leg to see me. (My last vacation, I was with my parents. My father had some friends by his suite. I told them I was leaving to run an errand and one- a middle-aged man too- made a sad face, told me he'd miss me. When I returned to the room, he was sitting in a chair facing the door. He raised both arms above his head in the touchdown stance and shouted "YOU'RE BACK! when I walked in. What a greeting!) He looks quizically at his wife (actually a current co-worker of mine) and I begin to explain what happened. He nods when I conclude and invites me to have a seat in the kitchen. The wall on the clock reads eight o'clock.
I get myself together and think who I can call to get me. My parents are nearby. Less than ten minutes away. I ask to use the house phone and when I pick it up to dial, I hear a modem. A kid in another room is instructed to get off the computer, then the line is free. I call my parents and my Dad picks up. I tell him what happened.
He refuses to come get me. (I can't remember why.) I plead with him. "Please. Please, Daddy." His answer doesn't change.
I call other people I know with cars (its' the suburbs. Everyone drives.) I get the voicemail of every single person I call. An hour passes. The kids sit at a nearby table for dinner with their parents and nanny. After dinner, Dad washes dishes, the nanny does flashcards with the kids. Then they are put to bed.
Another hour passes. No one has come to get me. I debate calling a cab, but there's no way in hell, I'm getting in another car if I don't know the driver. For some reason, I don't ask the family to drive me home. I feel like they've already done enough. I look out the window and the cab is still there. I see the brake lights.
I never think to call the police. What will I tell them anyway? The driver didn't stop when I said to and so I jumped out the car and ran? That I never paid the fare?
Another hour passes. The husband appears in the kitchen again. He's clearly ready for me to go. I apologize for bothering him. He shrugs it off, but I know he wants me out. I compliment his home. I tell him I've been there before. That I was at 'the party.' That like everyone else, I had no idea that the person who threw it didn't live there. I add that I hope nothing was broken and his house was not messed up. He tells me that it was left in perfect condition.
My cell phone rings. It's my mother. She wants me to go back to campus (apparently I'm in college and a senior). Pretend the whole thing never happened. Just go back to campus, she keeps insisting.
"Someone was trying to kill me! I cannot just go back!" I remember then that I have class tomorrow. That I have papers due.
My mother will not come get me. She asks where I was on my way too. I tell her a housewarming. She tells me I was probably going to meet some boy, sucks her teeth like she is disgusted with me. She just wants me to go back to campus. She knows I have no way to get there but to walk. Campus is 20 miles away. Even if it was on the corner, I would not go outside. I will not go near that cab.
Another hour passes. Carm calls me back. I tell her what happened. The cab. Where I am. My parents. Help, Carm! She tells me to shut up about it. Never to tell anyone. Act like nothing happened. I wonder what I will tell my professors, shouldn't I tell them why I will miss class? Why my papers will not be done on time? She says I should tell them anything but the truth. I should tell them I had PMS. "Nobody wants to hear that story, D. Nobody cares." She pauses as if realizing the harshness of her words. She begins again, softer this time. "Just move on, okay? Don't be a victim." She's not coming to get me either.
I wonder what to do next. I don't know what to do. I'd cry, but tears won't do shit for me now. I have to think of something.
A half hour passes before the doorbell rings. The husband answers it. It's my parents.
I thought they weren't coming.
They enter the kitchen and my father and the husband are chummy. My mother is profusely apologizing for me interrupting their dinner and family time. They never ask me if I'm okay. If there is more to the story than what I said on the phone. If I can ID the man to file a report. No reassuring hug that it will all be okay. That I am safe now. They don't even acknowledge that I am there other than to apologize for my presence in the family's home, my inconvenience to the family's life.
My father won't look at me. My mother finally pulls me aside as he talks shop with the husband. I have no idea where the wife went. Mother has the same advice as Carm. 'Shut up! Act like it never happened! Don't tell anyone!'
Each objection from me is met with another hostile "Don't..." followed by another piece of advice that I should pretend, ignore, erase from memory what has just occurred.
They drive me back to campus. The cab is gone when we pass the entrance to the subdivision. We ride in silence. My father's driving so the trip takes forever. The sky is turning light blue with the beginnings of dawn. They pull up in front of my dorm. (LaPlata Hall, where I lived as a freshman and sophomore at UMCP.) My father still hasn't spoken to me. I gather my purse in the hook of my arm, clutch my phone. This time it's just an electronic device to me, but I grip it anyway. Maybe that's nerves. I reach for the door handle in the back seat-passenger side. I open it, place a plastic covered foot on the ground.
"Demetria," my father begins. I look up. He's starring ahead like he's talking to the windshield. His hands are in the 9 and 3 position on the wheel. He can't even look at me? "When you get upstairs, look in the mirror," Dad says. "The woman you see standing there. It's her fault. (He actually said this to me about something else catastrophic that actually happened.) You had no business in that cab."
Something bad has happened to me. Someone was going to harm me definitely. Kill me, maybe. But it is my fault? His words seep into my core in that powerful way that only parent-words can. They go into that dark place that only the critiques of the people who brought you in this world and threaten on occasion to take you out can find. Only those who put them there have the key to unlock that place and remove the burden. I guess most of them lose the key or forget or don't realize what they did with the words.
It's my fault? quickly becomes It's my fault. The lock on the door to that place that I have no key clicks shut. It's my fault. It's MY fault. IT'S MY FAULT!!!! The purse feels extra heavy.
I nod. Duly chastised. It's .My. Fault, I process as I pull the handle to the door and mumble a good-bye to my mother.
I wake up with a start, staring at the ceiling. I blink once. Twice. Again. Again. Again until I realize I am home in my bed. I pull the covers to my chin and pray that I am alone. I am so scared.
I speak logically to myself. It was a dream, D. It was all a dream. I think it, then say it aloud as if hearing the words will convince me further. It works. My heart rate finally begins to slow.
My mouth is dry. I pad to the kitchen barefoot, wearing the dress I dozed off in. I throw a look to the front door. It's locked. The safety lock is on. I'm safe even if I don't feel it. Even if I don't feel it, I'm safe.
I get juice from the fridge, then sit on the counter top to smoke a Black & Mild to calm my nerves. I stare out the kitchen window into the blank night. It's silent. New York is silent.
Light it. Pull it. No one to pass it to. I want to tell someone what happened. I want someone to reassure me that I am safe. I debate calling my parents. I don't want to wake them. But really, I don't know that they will care. It was a dream, D, I remind myself. It was all a dream. I think of who else I can call. I don't know what time it is, but it's late, too late to call anyone about a dream. I think of Big, who I haven't talked to in over a year. I could call him. He would listen. He always used to listen. But I won't go down that road again. God bless the child that's got her own, Billie said. "I can make it on my own," said Lena, her incarnate (The Inner Beauty Movement).
I exhale a puff of smoke and cough hard. For the first time ever, I wish I didn't live alone. Maybe this is why people get married. So when they need to be assured that they are safe, there is someone -obligated by vows before God--to tell them "it's okay." I begin to analyze the dream, try to make sense of what it all meant. I reach a conclusion, then I tell myself--outloud--"It's okay." I add unconvincingly, "It's really not your fault. It's not my fault."
I look at the clock before I head back to bed.
4:20 is the loneliest hour on Earth.