The wind is ferocious; a real living thing, ripping branches from trees and trash bins over into the street. It pushes my car sideways on the highway. The rain is tossed down on the body of my car like pebbles caught in the mud flap of the truck in front of me, so hard I’m afraid the window will break. When I’m safe at home, in the warm, it sounds like a freight train is rushing through my yard all around, and the flap on the pellet stove goes tap-tap against the outside pipe, like something is knocking to come it.
Nights like this remind me of my dreams. They remind me of the wave.
I had the dreams for as long as I can remember, but I don’t think I really started paying attention to them until I entered middle school. There, people talked about their dreams, and how they hardly ever saw color, and they had no control, and dreams were hard to remember. I quickly realized that my dreams were not ordinary. It was not normal to feel like a dream is real when you are in it and when you are out of it. My dreams were more like memories than regurgitations of my days—and always, there was water; usually a lot of water.
In my earlier dreams, it was my mom who was surrounded by lots of water, all the time. Sometimes she got stuck in it and couldn’t swim to shore. I was never a part of these dreams though, I could only watch. Men would swim out to her and drag her in. Then they’d do things to her, things I didn’t like, and I’d leave the scene for a little while. I could do that—leave and then come back whenever I wanted. When I woke up mom would talk obsessively about her new boyfriend, so I eventually learned that these dreams were good and mom was happy.
But some nights the dreams were violent: the man would rip the ring he’d given her off her finger, and push her down in the water. The water was cold, I could tell, because mom’s bare arms and legs had goosebumps all over. She would try to climb back out, but he would just push her deeper and deeper, until she was almost drowning. She never did though—drown, I mean. But in the morning she was quiet and sad-looking, and I knew the boyfriend was gone.
I didn’t tell anyone about my strange dreams. I felt like a freak, seeing these things, knowing what my mom was going through. But as I began to make friends, more dreams came to me, more water, and more emotions. I saw my best friend lock herself in her bedroom and scream in rage while the water on her floor rose from a trickle flowing under her door, until her bed was floating on it. Just before it swallowed her, though, she quieted down and the water drained. She lay on her bed, dry-eyed, until I got up.
I learned from her sister that her favorite aunt had been killed in an accident. I avoided her for days, afraid to confront the girl I’d seen go so hysterical in my dreams. I avoided her until our friendship was lost entirely, and she appeared no more in my dreams.
High school brought with it my first real crush. He was sexy and sweet and dirtily greekish. He played Dungeons and Dragons on Saturday nights with his friends while I studied Tarot cards. From my cards I learned the meanings of the elements, but the most important to me was water: It’s symbol was the cup, it’s meaning—emotions. It began to make more sense then, my dreams, the water rising, threatening to drown, but not quite getting that far.
There was a girl I met briefly once. She was the daughter of my mom’s friend. Her name was Denise. She had a happy face and long pink fingernails. She’d been to rehab several times, my mom told me, and I needed to be nice to her. I read her cards. We got some that Denise didn’t like—it basically all told her that she needed to sacrifice and love, and be alone for a little while. Denise wanted to stay with her boyfriend, she loved him. But I knew from the look on her face that whoever he was, he wasn’t what she needed.
That night I dreamt that Denise was in a dark place, like a cell, with a single concrete bed, no blankets. A boy came into the room—a boy without a face, and he hit her until she screamed for him to stop. He pulled her head back by the hair and stared down at her. She was wearing chains on her wrists, and I assumed that was the reason she didn’t try to stop him when he pushed her back and took his pants off. I left the room as the water began to trickle in.
Even though I didn’t see Denise again, didn’t even talk to her, I kept seeing her in my dreams. She was always with a different boy, mostly in the same room, although sometimes there were blankets on the bed, or sometimes she was singing. Then, in my final dream of her, she was sitting on the bed, far under the blankets, touching herself. No boys came to see her. No one wanted to see her. I heard a rush like a speeding train and felt the spray before I saw it—as the wave collapsed on top of Denise.
I woke up as though from a nightmare, my whole body awake with terror and the need to act. I paced my room frantically, then went to find my mom.
“I feel like something’s wrong,” I told her, “Call your friend? I’m worried about Denise.”
“Why? What’s wrong with you? Go back to sleep.” She rolled over.
“No mom! You have to call, now, I’m not kidding. Please, just do this for me.” She sighed, sat up, and called her friend.
The look on her face gave me shivers. I could hear loud, painful sobbing from the earpiece. Her mom must have heard the wave too. Denise was dead; she’d killed herself only a few hours ago.