Writers Institute

Why You Love the Annoyances in Your Dreams

Catherine Pierce ’00

You can’t get your basketball shoes laced.
When you do, the game is nearly over
and you’ve just realized you’re late

for a Spanish final. When you reach
the classroom, you remember you dropped
Spanish three months ago. You rush back

to the game, which has just wrapped up. Then
you’re at a conference, but the conference
is in Schenectady and it’s March. Also,

the hotel bathroom is covered in cat fur.
Gross, you say. You can’t find
the number for your friend’s room

and when you do he is that kid
from sixth grade who stole your copy
of The Hobbit and called you troll boy.

He wears a business suit and is marginally
successful. He busts you about old times
and on your way out you stub your toe.

In dreams, these annoyances are epic.
Your stomach twists; your teeth grind. And
you love them for this. Even in sleep, you know

that once you drop like a rock into waking,
everything will shift. In your daytime world,
when your car stalls on I-70, or you miss

the big deadline, or the cat runs out of food
during the county’s biggest snowstorm
since ‘94, even as you pound your steering wheel,

even then, you’ll know all too well
that these are your life’s small highlights.
You’re just biding time until the tragedies.

Soon, your wife will take the day off,
make the bed with perfect hospital
corners, and vanish for Cabo.

You’ll feel a lump in some never-before-
considered spot. Your mother will fall
and shatter her hip and your sister

will call you, frantic and frightened, but
you’ll be across the country
at a conference in Schenectady, New York,

with no one to shake you awake and say,
what a bummer of a night for you, but
it’s morning now, wake up, it’s morning.

From Famous Last Words, winner of the 2007 Saturnalia Book Prize.

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