Joseph?” The voice sounds distant, like something heard through cotton in the ears, or as if his head is high in the clouds. “Joseph?” It is insistent, this voice, forcing it’s way into the forefront of his thoughts, and now he’s back in the doctor’s office, firmly grounded in a worn, but deeply comfy leather armchair.
“Sorry.” He shifts in the chair, as if motion alone will be sufficient to keep his thoughts rooted to the present. It seems so difficult to stay focused these days.
Dr. Reed smiles benignly in his direction. She says she’s not a doctor, she’s a LCSW, and he can’t remember exactly what that stands for, but it’s academic, because to him, she is a doctor. “Mind telling me where you went just now?”
“Nowhere.” A lie of course. One of no consequence, but a lie nonetheless. Now he is unsure just how much he wishes to tell this stranger, however kind and disarming she may seem..
Casey- she says to call her that- raises her eyebrows. “Are you sure there’s nothing else you want to talk about?” She glances at her watch. “We have a few minutes left.” She must not really have expected an answer, and his reply seems to surprise her. She raises her eyebrows again in that curious way she has.
“Do you believe dreams mean anything?”
She considers the question in silence a moment. “Well, one theory among the scientific community regarding dreams is that they are nothing more than the subconscious’s data consolidation and filing system. Others believe dreams are nothing more than the brain’s attempt to make sense of meaningless stimuli while sleeping.” She pauses a moment, and her eyes seem to drift over his shoulder as a slight frown line creases her forehead in between her eyes. She is trying to remember something. Then her brow clears, her eyes refocus on him, and she continues, “Freudian theories lean towards dreams as the expression of subconscious and unfulfilled desires.”
“Is that what you believe?”
She pauses again, and despite his anxiety, Joseph is momentarily surprised into appreciation at the fact that the doctor-not-doctor actually gives serious thought to his question. “Well, given that dreams are sometimes completely random in nature, and yet other times their meaning is quite obvious… I believe perhaps dreams are merely an amalgamation of things heard, seen, or otherwise experienced in the course of a person’s day, week, or entire life.” And then, with practiced ease, she redirects the conversation to Joseph. “Have you had a dream you’d like to discuss?”
Joseph drifts away again, just briefly this time, and alights on the memories of the dream, like a moth dancing around a candle flame. He does not want to remember too much, does not want to recall the feelings evoked by the dream. After all, this is not his idea really. The doctor. Casey. She can’t help.
“Tortured animal cries and mournful howls hang in the air like greasy smoke. They follow me from my dreams…”
As always, Casey tries to be equanimous, but that slight vertical line between her eyebrows betrays her dismay. Finally she says, “Yes, I understand. Especially powerful dreams often seem to linger, their emotional effects lasting hours and sometimes even days…”
But she doesn’t understand. She is smart, easy to talk to, disarming, and someone with who he might even be friends, in other circumstances,outside of this professional doctor/patient setting. But she does not understand.
He feels an overwhelming urge to tell her, despite the warning voice in the back of his mind. He abandons the tiny voice of reason.
“It’s my wife. She’s cursed me.”