I walked by a dead tree. An apple tree. There were only two apples, bruised and barely attached to a low hanging branch. Who were the apples? What did your tree say about you? I looked behind me, and realized it wasn’t my backyard, it wasn’t even my town, but it seemed to be. It felt deceptively familiar, and portentous. And then it struck me, the house was one I used to live in, something from a past life. For someone who hated the past as much as I did, I always found myself dwelling on it, consciously and subconsciously.
I entered the house knowing this wasn’t real. How is it possible that you can be aware that you’re dreaming while still trapped inside the dream? I stood in the doorway. The door was painted white, weiss, and it cracked and peeling off. I was consumed with the usual sense of dread that lived inside of my chest and constricted me whenever I returned to any of those horrid places I lived. Would this be the time I find Hattie? Why would I dream about that? If I found her dead in my dream would it be a prophecy? Predetermination is not real to me. Fate is a romantic notion, fanciful perhaps, but purely make believe.
I was in my new suit. The one I bought in anticipation of my mother’s funeral. No shoes. My bleach white feet, weiss, were blinding. Inside this room, which became a dining room, I saw Hattie and younger versions of Catherine and myself seated at the table. Hattie spoke harshly to her children, asking them afterwards, “Can we have a talk? Can we be friends again?”
Ten year old Wilhelm, stood and yelled at his mother. “No. We are not fucking friends. I have nothing to say to you.” I watched myself behave with an overabundance of insolence. I still felt that anger all these years later. I was only an overgrown version of that broken hearted boy in a dream.
They were both gone in an instant. I heard, “No one cares about you,” reverberating through the house, over and over. I walked down a hallway, following horseshoe tracks in the soiled carpet. I called out for Hattie.
The tracks were the only trace my father left behind, the only thing we shared was our mutual desire to mosey on, and never look back. I’d paint Whitestone red if they’d let me, those bastards. I’d paint the whole fucking city if I was more ambitious. Did cowboys head west solely for profit or escape their past? Why couldn’t it be both? The shame and the guilt tear at a man’s core. Irish goodbyes were fundamental in westerns.
I got to the end of the corridor and knocked on a door, “Mom, are you ok?” I guess we were always liars, every single one of us, lying to each other, and worse, to ourselves.
The door creaked open on its own. Hattie was on the floor. I checked her pulse to find slow drunken rhythms. The thought of my own pulse made me anxious. The mere fact that I had veins and arteries dispersed throughout my body was enough to make me faint. My central nervous system possessed bad information. Why do I tell you these things about myself? The floor cracked wide open and Hattie fell into the yawning hole, a dark endless void. I froze, until the floor beneath me shattered and I floated into another room, an old bedroom I once occupied. I wouldn’t say the bedroom was mine, but rather I was a stranger who overstayed his welcome.
“Your mother is in the hospital. Again,” said Hattie’s current husband as he laid across an old couch. With a mocking tone, he said, “Nice suit.”
“What is wrong with the suit?” I didn’t need to ask what was wrong with my mother. I already knew.
“You can dress up shit but it will still be shit. There is no place for you here.”
I walked out through the front door, and was smashed off my feet by a wave of Scotch. I drank some inside the rip tide, and it washed me ashore through the electronic doors of a hospital entrance and I crashed into the front desk inside the lobby. No one seemed to find anything abnormal about it.
“Who are you here to see?” said a woman who resembled my old school teacher, Mrs. Healy.
I coughed on the twelve year old single malt, “Excuse me. I’m here to see Hattie. Please.”
“What is your name, sir?”
“Wilhelm. Wilhelm Flood.” I said, loosening my tie.
“And your mother’s name is?”
“Hattie. I’m sorry. It’s Harriet. That is her real name.”
“Harriet what, young man? We need a surname?”
“I…I…I don’t know her last name.”
“How do you not know your own mother’s last name? A good son you are.”
I made a break and opened the door to the first unlocked room I could enter. I was alone inside the room. It was like an ordinary hospital room, antiseptic. The last and only time I visited Hattie during one of her stays was over a decade ago. It was on Christmas. It was cruel of me to never see her. She spent a large portion of the last ten years in a room like this. Alone. Sedated, with calming colored walls and machinery that dripped and beeped. It could be a movie. It looked a little fake, like props, something you’d see in science fiction. The obligatory wall mounted television with nothing intelligent airing. It was a room like this that I just couldn’t enter. I couldn’t see her in her white paper gown, with the tubes sprouting from bruised veins, and the pain expressed in her grimace. I just couldn’t.
My difficulties with emotional expression were always exhaustive and extenuating. How are you with your emotions? Terrible, right.
I called out for Hattie. I walked around the bed. Tabloid magazines were strewn on the chair beside it. Strawberry milk and ice chips on the tray. It had to be her room. I pulled open the shades and it was snowing outside. I saw a car in the distance, a Cadillac, spinning to a halt, with a woman running from the automobile. A young boy stood in the storm calling out to her. It was me in my red hooded sweatshirt, rot, with tears in his eyes looking at me, with her hot pink driving shoes in his little hands.
Something dripped onto my bare feet. My suit was still soaked, pungent with drink, so I wasn’t alarmed at first until I looked down. My feet were red, rot, with blood. My teeth were falling out, innumerable teeth, rows and rows of teeth, I bit down on them, gagging as blood poured profusely from my mouth. I caught some in my hands but when I looked they weren’t teeth in my palms but pills. I panicked, and though I knew I was in a dream, the feelings and the shortness of breath were overwhelming.