“Just pick a winning horse for Daddy. If I place a phone call from here we can walk away millionaires. Come on, baby, after all we’ve been through with this, what’s the harm in making a little something for ourselves?”
I stared at him long and hard. Throwing daggers with my eyes bought time to gather words potent enough to penetrate what remained of his conscience.
“Dad, I’ve told you a hundred times, I don’t choose my dreams they choose me. I don’t see horses, lotto numbers, or the stock market. I see burning houses, dying people, crumpled cars, and pools of blood in alleyways!”
Like a sleeping volcano, my response erupted louder than intended and attracted every set of beady eyes in the bar. I supposed dad had slipped toward comfortably numb, but I felt the burn of each additional gaze as the collective weight settled on our backs. Someone finally voiced what everyone was thinking, “Looks like we got a genuine freak in the house tonight, fellas!”
Dad bristled before swiveling on the stool and launching an angry scowl in the general direction of my detractor. He pretended that double-vision had not claimed the space a foot beyond his nose two hours earlier. Puffing his chest he wanted every patron to believe if there were reason enough he could stand without wobbling. I saw an ugly situation sliding distinctly in the direction of uglier, so I acknowledged his good-hearted effort to defend me.
“It’s no big deal, Dad. Just turn around.”
Alcohol reduced his attention span, so within moments my father regained his focus. We came to the bars often enough for both of us to realize we weren’t leaving until he reached the bottom of the liquor bottle sitting between us. Sully’s was a rundown, smelly, ugly, place, where people bearing like qualities came to meet. Even those that strolled through the door differently stumbled out the same. If not for my compulsion to watch over him I’d have been a million miles away, and sometimes despite my physical presence my mind dabbled with faraway places. Daddy’s escape came in clear bottles of amber colored liquid, and mine in dreams of how wonderful life could be if it were dreamless.
Over the years he attempted to shield me from how the world viewed people like me. It took a gravely, anonymous voice rising from a dark corner of a rundown bar to confirm my suspicions. It wasn’t anyone’s fault really. Those having dreams about catastrophic events before they occurred has to classify them as permanent residents of ‘freakville’. Without even realizing, I moved there at the age of five, but the part I regret most was dragging my family with me.
I remember the first time with painful clarity. How the lace at the bottom of my dress scratched my knees as I skipped around the kitchen table singing a tune.
“Grammpy died, Grammpy died, Oh how we wish he were alive.”
Neither the innocence of a face painted by the hand of God, or the darling curls framing chubby cheeks could offset the morbid nature of my song. On my third trip around mother grabbed my arm and put her fingers over my lips to hush my singing. She asked me why I sang about such things, and why I would wish something so ugly. I explained it wasn’t a wish at all, but from a dream last night. I described sitting on his knee and that we were watching television. That he gave me a big hug and a kiss, and drew my head to his chest. That I heard his heart’s last beat, and he was smiling when the angels came for him.
Mother dismissed the dream to eating too close to bedtime and adamantly asked I not sing the song. She had asked me to help her finish breakfast when the doorbell rang. Daddy answered and when he entered the kitchen to inform mom her father passed late last night all she did was stare. She was staring at me in a way that made me very uncomfortable, and changed our relationship forever. In the following weeks she probed me about my dream. I didn’t want to talk about it any longer because every correct detail I provided tore away another piece of her love for me.
Daddy still denies that worry drove my mother to an early grave, but prior to her passing I dreamed about it. She was whistling in the backyard with a clothesbasket nearby and laundry hanging. The colored clothing on the line represented the pretty things she once hoped for me, but the buzzards circling overhead symbolized the darkness of what my dreams had done to us. The circles became tighter as the descended little by little. Mother flailed her arms frantically in an effort to save what she could, but their beaks and talons shredded all that swayed in the breeze. With a swirling sea of black about her head my mother fell to the ground. That’s exactly where Daddy found her two days later.
It started with dreams, but later morphed into vague visions during daylight hours. There were hundreds if not thousands of them, but I learned to keep close watch over the key to my mind. Once I realized I could do nothing to prevent or preempt the future I kept most of them secret, locked inside. Every day I struggle with the misfortune of being given half of something useful.
The slam of an empty whiskey bottle startled me back to reality and signaled our departure. We left the bar around 4:00pm, and I remember three things distinctly; the kind of things that lodge in your brain and rot. Firstly, my father stumbling down the curb, secondly, me coming up short as I reached for a handful of his shirt, and lastly the loneliness in the rush of wind from the city bus that took him from me.
For the very first time in my life it was the things I didn’t see that ushered in an unbelievable burden of guilt. If only I had felt the quiver in my gut, we’d have stayed until daddy passed out. I’d have figured a way to get him home. A million times over I wished for something as simple as a light switch to stop the dreams. I had no idea of what I asked for.