A persistent voice faintly echoed. It sounded like a foreign language. Could be Yiddish or Gibberish, hell if I knew. I only knew that I felt wet. I tried to wipe the dripping liquid from my brow, but my left arm was.. numb. I couldn’t lift my arm. I concentrated with all my might. I still could not move my arm. I grunted in frustration as my eyes remained closed. I finally managed to decipher the relentless voice, “Ma’am, can you hear me? You’ve been in an accident.”
I moaned in despair.
“I know that hurts. We’re going to help you feel better.”
I woke up in a brightly lit room and noise that could wake even the dead. I whimpered as I attempted to shield my blue eyes. I noticed my dominant left arm was wrapped in a sling, still numb, but I was able to move my right arm somewhat. I peered through my pale fingers and saw only fuzzy images. “Has my lazy eye gotten.. lazier? C’mon, jeez.. Or could it be my Nystagmus.. Ugh,” I thought to myself as I concentrated on focusing my vision. I closed my eyes tight as if to “restart” my peepers, I gently shook my head, and blinked them open a couple times.
“Well, there she is!” I heard a familiar, yet groggy voice on my left. “Opal, how ya feeling?” It was my younger brother, Onyx, who always wore a smile and forever smelt of Bod cologne and stale coffee.
I smacked my lips to respond, but had the worst case of dry mouth and could not utter a syllable. I weakly pointed to a water pitcher near Onyx’s Styrofoam coffee cup. He quickly picked up what I was putting down and started to pour me some ice water then abruptly stopped.
“Opal, I- -I, um,” Onyx fumbled to find the words. “I- -I don’t think I- -I’m allowed to g- -give you a- -anything.. just yet. Um, let me go ask a nurse real quick. They need to know you’re awake anyways.” He stood slowly, stretched with a yawn, and shuffled out into the busy corridor. My hospital room just happened to be near the Nurses’ Station, which explains the noise that woke me up. He returned with a glum look, “They said you can have ice, but no water.” His famous smile reappeared, he gave me a playful wink, and skipped back over to my bedside.
“Hey! I’m sure you have lots of questions, so I’ll give ya the gist, okay?” He asked softly yet eagerly.
I nodded weakly as I guzzled down a couple ice cubes he spoon fed me.
“Okay, cool,” he talks with his hands.. a lot.. so it was “dinner and a show” for real. “Well, you.. fell asleep at the wheel.. again,” he rolled his eyes and shook his index finger at me. “But this time you rear-ended a taxi. You hit them pretty hard because your, pardon my unintended joke here, your dead weight hit the gas and accelerated your speed, which the cops estimated at about 60mph.”
My mouth opened with a light gasp and the melting ice cubes almost escaped my chapped, white lips.
“I know right?! Good to know your airbags work!” Onyx touched my wrapped left forearm lightly. “The taxi driver and their passengers weren’t hurt because they, again pardon my unintended joke here, they had too much junk in their trunk to make a dent!” He toppled over slapping his knee as he roared with laughter.
I aggressively cleared my throat while side eyeing him. I opened my mouth for more ice cubes, Onyx obliviously obliged and continued on, “You fractured your collarbone, dislocated your left shoulder, broke three bones in your left wrist, severely bruised your elbow, and a broken finger.. hence the arm sling!” He dramatically gestured towards my mangled body. “Girl, you’s a hot mess!” I fiddled with my long, white dreadlock strand that dangled in front of my face. Onyx absentmindedly placed the strand behind my left ear. “You’re welcome, sis,” he carried on as he fixed his own hair of short black dreadlocks. “Your insurance will cover all the damages to your car. It’s in the shop right now, they expect it to be ready in two weeks. You’re eligible for a rental car, but- -” he trailed off and averted his gaze from mine.
“Wh- -what,” I hoarsely whispered. “Onyx?”
“I- -I don’t think you should be driving anymore,” he solemnly admitted as he looked at me with tears in his big brown eyes. I knew he was right. This was my third Asleep at the Wheel car accident. “There are so many public transportation options here in New York City, Opal. Subway, taxi, Uber, Lyft,” he held my pale, IV-ed, scratched hand. “You used to ride your bike everywhere! Why’d you stop?”
“G- -graveyard s- -shift,” I muttered with a cough.
“Oh, yeah, that’s right,” Onyx said. “That’s another thing! You need to get more sleep.”
“Yeah, right.. in The City That Never Sleeps!” I thought to myself.
I clutched a wrinkled business card my brother gave me against my chest in hopes to calm my supersonic beating heart. I methodically closed my eyes, inhaled deeply through my nose for five seconds, and exhaled through my mouth for five seconds. I gradually opened my eyes, adjusted my shirt, and carefully stuffed the business card inside my left arm sling. I sighed and rhythmically rapped on the door with my right hand. “This is it,” I muttered to myself.
The natural wood grain door opened to a short, slim, stylish señorita who spoke softly, “Good afternoon. You must be Opal Whitley, I presume?”
I nodded weakly.
“Swell, I’m Amber. Please come on in. Make yourself comfortable,” she stepped aside and motioned with her arm towards a plush peach couch with a dozen throw pillows.
I cleared my throat and removed my sunglasses. “Shall I lay sit or.. lay down?” I hesitantly asked as I hovered around the couch.
Amber chuckled as she adjusted her asymmetrical tortoise eyeglasses. “Whichever makes you feel most comfortable,” she sat beside me equipped with a clipboard and pen in a gradient armchair. “If you do decide to lay down, I do ask of you to please remove your shoes first.” She crossed her slender legs and I admired her sequins sandals with perfectly pedicured toes.
I slipped off my beaded moccasins, laid down with my head toward Amber, and stared at the ceiling. I was pleasantly surprised to see there were tree and cloud diffuser covers on the fluorescent lights, which seemed to help my sensitivity to light. “Oh, wow, I really like these,” I pointed up.
“Thank you, I’m glad to hear that! My other patients seem to like them too. I find they help create a calming, safe environment,” said Amber. I could hear her flipping through the clipboard papers. “So, I see you were referred to me by- -,” she paused. “Onyx Whitley. How do you two know each other?”
I adjusted a throw pillow under my head and crossed my ankles. “I’m his older sister,” I automatically responded. “I don’t take the role lightly either.” I forced a laugh to break the ice. “Get it? It’s an Albinism joke!”
She chuckled, “Oh, that’s clever! You have a witty sense of humor, Opal.”
“Thank you. Onyx has the dark sense of humor in the family.”
“You’re two for two, Opal!” Amber giggled. “Hey, I just realized we three have mineral names.” She pointed at me, “Opal.” Then pointed to her clipboard, “Onyx.” And pointed to herself, “Amber.”
“Well, how about that! Oh, I got one. Why do people trade with minerals?”
“Hmm,” Amber pondered carefully. “I don’t know. Why?”
“Because they take everything for granite!”
“Good one!” Amber giggled again. We both gradually fell into silence and averted each other’s gaze.
“Awkward!” I thought to myself. I’m sure it read all over my face.
She cleared her throat and straightened her posture, “So, why are you here today, Opal?”
I explained my three Asleep at the Wheel car accidents, how my most recent accident caused my injuries, which put me on short term disability and of course.. Onyx’s concern for my well-being. He strongly, annoyingly is more like it, suggested I seek professional help.
“I see,” she paused. “Why do you think you fall asleep at the wheel?”
“Well, I- -I think it’s because- -,” now it was my turn to pause. “I work the graveyard shift. I requested to change shifts because of my Photophobia. Guess my sleep schedule is all messed up,” I trailed off.
“How many hours do you sleep per night?”
“I don’t know,” I calculated in my head. “About four or five, maybe. If that.”
“Did you know drowsy drivers are more dangerous than drunk drivers?”
I gasped and wrung my hands together.
“Opal, this is your wake up call, no pun intended. Can you describe your incubation site for me?”
“My what?” I asked. “Oh, you mean my bedroom. I live in a tiny studio apartment. Ya know Harry Potter’s room? The cupboard under the stairs?” I craned my neck to see Amber and she nodded while she scribbled on the clipboard. “About the same size, but New York City style: includes a singular window and a fire escape.”
“Your homework tonight is to create a space that’s relaxing and comfortable. Try burning incense. Purchase black out curtains or a sleeping blindfold. Splurge on luxurious bed sheets. Get a white-noise machine. Kick out your snoring partner,” she laughed at herself.
I joined in on the laughter, “I don’t have a partner.”
“The less obstacles the better,” Amber continued. “Sleeping in a colder environment helps. Try taking a nice hot bath before bed. In lieu of taking Melatonin, you could drink a glass of milk, it’s rich in tryptophan. Turkey is too. That’s why you fall into a food coma on Thanksgiving Day!”
I gobbled and flapped my one good arm.
“Oh, masturbating releases endorphins, which are hormones that relax you, making it easier to fall asleep. These are just some suggestions. Feel free to utilize any of them to incorporate into your lifestyle.”
“Welcome back, Opal! How have you been sleeping since we first met?” Amber inquired during our next appointment.
“A lot better!” I sighed with relief as I adjusted in my seated position on the couch. “But- -” I trailed off, fiddling with my long white dreadlock strand in between my pale petite fingers.
“But what?” Amber posed.
“I’ve been.. dreaming.”
“Do you normally not dream?”
I shook my head no, maintaining eye contact.
“Why do you think that is?”
I shrugged, “I- -I don’t know.”
“What was your childhood like?”
I stifled a laugh, “How much time we got?”
Amber checked her watch, “Fifty-nine minutes.”
I sighed deeply, “Well, my father left when I was born because he didn’t think I was his- -“
“Because of your Albinism? Or because he thought your mom was unfaithful?”
“All of the above.”
“Did you dream as a child?”
“What did you dream about?”
“The usual stuff, I guess. Flying, showing up to class naked, and monsters in my closet.”
“Have you been having those types of dreams again recently?”
“No,” I shook my head. “I’ve been dreaming of my teeth falling out, being stalked by a shadow creature, and being trapped in an elevator.”
“I see. How do you feel when you wake up from those dreams?”
“I feel,” I paused and twiddled my thumbs. “Humiliated. Scared. Anxious.”
“Understandable emotions,” Amber scribbled on her clipboard. “Do you feel humiliated, scared, and/or anxious on a regular basis under normal circumstances?”
“Sometimes, I guess, but not regularly, no.”
“Tonight’s homework assignment is to start a dream journal. Keep it at your bedside. Write the dates for the next two weeks on the first several pages. As soon as you wake up, write down everything you remember. List three adjectives for how the dream made you feel. Immediately after jotting down your dream details and feelings, create a one or two line title for it. At the bottom of your dream details, note the associations you have to the dream.”
“Okay,” I unintentionally enunciated. “How is this going to help?”
“I think you’ll begin to notice certain elements, symbols, and feelings that crop up in your dreams. This is one way to begin to name your dream themes.”
“I still don’t get it. I’m sleeping better,” I began to get defensive. “Why does it matter if I dream?”
“I think it matters because,” Amber adjusted in her armchair. “You hesitated to share that you’re dreaming.”
Amber set her pen and clipboard aside, removed her glasses, and scooted to the edge of her armchair closer to me, “We spend a third of our lives asleep; if we’re lucky enough to reach the age of ninety, that’s thirty years! On average, we have several dreams each and every night, so over the course of our lives, that’s a hundred thousands dreams.”
I made a non-committal noise.
“I think deep down, you suspect these unique dreams you’ve been having recently express something very important about you. You can feel it, but you can’t seem to articulate it. Am I right?”
“I suppose. I mean, I don’t know. I do find it interesting that I’m dreaming again since I’ve been sleeping better.”
“As do I, Opal, as do I,” Amber returned to her regular sitting position. “Let’s just see how this goes. Who knows? You may learn something new about yourself.”
February 24th Outta This World I was outside playing with a Smurf and Swamp Thing, who was deaf. It was too hot. The Sun had a distorted face. I was angry with the Sun for burning me into a deep purple. Smurf and Swamp Thing didn't seem bothered by the Sun. Before we knew it, day turned into night with the Moonlight shining upon our faces. I felt confused, angry, and helpless. I used to watch Smurfs as a kid. Swamp Thing is my favorite movie. I do burn easily because of my Albinism. I enjoy the moonlight far more than the sunlight.
“Do you have any other associations to your dream?” Amber asked after I read my most recent dream journal entry to her.
“Nah, not really,” I sighed with frustration, handing her my journal. “This is my thirteenth entry. I don’t think I’m getting the hang of it.”
“I’d have to disagree with you,” Amber quickly stated.
“Oh, yeah?” I asked cynically.
“I think you’ve made great progress thus far.”
I scoffed and shook my head into my hands.
“What’s your mother’s name?”
“What does that have to do with anything?” I spat.
“Opal, please,” she peered over her glasses at me. “Indulge me.”
“Fine,” I scoffed again. “Topaz.” My eyebrows shot up and I met Amber’s gaze. Her eyebrows rose too.
“If I may?” Amber asked, tapping her clipboard with a pen.
I nodded, “Please.” I slid closer to her armchair, propping myself up on the couch’s armrest, and held my chin with my right hand.
“I theorize the Smurf represents your mother, Topaz. Swamp Thing could be your br- -” she began.
“But Onyx isn’t deaf,” I interrupted. “Onyx isn’t green either. He’s black. It’s black. Ya know, the the- -” I snapped my fingers trying to think of the word. “The mineral. Onyx, the mineral, is black.”
Amber glared at me, “Please allow me to finish.”
I nodded and waved my right hand in the air.
“Swamp Thing could be your brother, Onyx,” she continued. “Not everything is so literal, Opal. “The Sun had a distorted face.” Hmm, that’s interesting,” she paused. “This is called personification, which is the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman.”
“Okay,” I said. “So, I gave my arch-nemesis, Albinism, a face.”
“No, I think the Sun represents your.. father.”
My white lips parted and I let out a soft gasp.
Amber nodded at my non-verbal response and continued, “His face is distorted because you’ve never seen him, correct?”
“You’re angry with your father, the Sun, for burning you. Burn could represent disrespect. He disrespected you.. because he left you.. and your mother.”
I shook my head and rolled my eyes at the ceiling in disbelief.
“There are a lot of colors at play here. A Smurf is blue, your mother, Topaz. Swamp Thing is green, your brother, Onyx.”
“Yeah, the sky is blue and the grass is green,” I muttered under my breath.
Amber paused, lost in thought, “The Sun is yellow. Blue and yellow make green, Swamp Thing, your brother, Onyx. You are burnt to a deep purple. Blue and yellow don’t make purple. This “discoloring” could, again, represent your father leaving you.. and your mother.. because of your Albinism and his accusation of her being unfaithful.”
“This is some deep shit,” I admitted, rubbing my right hand across my forehead.
Amber exhaled softly, ““Smurf and Swamp Thing didn’t seem bothered by the Sun.” Do your mother and brother talk about your father?”
“Nope, it’s like an unspoken thing,” I confessed.
“I see,” Amber stroked her chin. “Did your mother ever remarry? Presuming your mother and father were married, of course.”
I nodded, “Clay.”
“When did they marry?”
“When I was five years old,” I clicked my tongue and looked out the window.
“Okay,” she began wiggling in her armchair with excitement. “Okay, okay.. I think the Moon represents your step-father, Clay.”
“Well, I’ll be damned!” I exclaimed, smacking Amber’s armrest.
“I believe we may have unearthed some deep seeded abandonment issues here,” Amber declared as she astutely placed the end of her glasses’ arm in her mouth.
“Girl, ya mean I got daddy issues!” I exclaimed.