by Stephen Reid Andrews
All rights reserved in the author
For the entire one hundred and fifteen mile trip to
, I want to keep my eyes closed so
there’s no chance to have a seizure. At first, I was upset with the doctors for
telling me that I couldn’t drive, but I soon learned to accept the advice
because I discovered cars and epileptic tendencies don’t mix. If I look out the
window for a prolonged period, the passing scenery together with the movements
of the car will trigger a seizure. If I were driving, I’m sure we’d be in a
ditch somewhere in no time. Chicago
As much as I would like to keep my eyes open to make sure that Liz is not going to kill us with her adolescent driving skills, I hold my eyelids shut. Unfortunately, for the time being, I am a captive to her iPod playlist blaring through the speakers and her whining about teenage drama. For the most part, I have been able to tune both my sister and the music out while occasionally offering a grunt of acknowledgment.
Like many teenagers who are unable to focus on one subject for an extended period, after several minutes of Liz talking about how much she dislikes her math teacher, Liz abruptly changes the subject with words that pierce my ears. “Dave, you can’t be depressed forever.”
I groan and open my eyes to look briefly at her. “Believe me Liz. Life is not as simple as you think,” I say with a cynical smirk.
“Well, life may not be simple, but at least I’m living it,” she says like she is repeating song lyrics from a teenage band.
“I tried living life Liz, it didn’t work. Anything worth living for just ends,” I shoot back.
“You’re so depressing!” Liz responds with a slightly whiney voice.
“Life is depressing Liz.”
“Whatever.” She rolls her eyes. “You can at least help pass the time here. Tell me about your dream again.”
Believing that teenage girls love mystery, drama, and romance, on one of the many occasions that my parents assigned Liz to keep me company – also known as suicide watch – I told Liz about the dream with Jennifer where she gives me the gift.
“There’s nothing more to tell. It’s the same every time,” I say under my breath.
“And you still only have the one dream during your episodes?” She asks the question like she is my shrink.
Not wanting to get into a discussion about how I had a different dream last night, I appease her. “Yup.” I put my hand to my forehead pushing up my dark brown hair as if I have a headache, but I don’t have a headache.
Unlike some sister-in-law relationships, Jennifer and Liz were good friends when Jennifer was alive.
“Maybe Jenny is trying to tell you something,” she says.
My sister’s analysis and suggestion upsets me a little. All of a sudden my sister thinks she can interpret dreams. But, simply glad that Liz is entertaining herself without much effort from me, I urge her to continue. “I never thought of that,” I lie.
Of course the thought had crossed my mind before, but I was sincere when I said my life is not as simple as Liz’s life. Her life consists of reading novels and watching romantic comedies where everything has an explanation and ends happy.
“Really. Maybe she has a message for you,” Liz emphasizes, sensing my disbelief.
Liz actually is a smart girl. She is first in her class in just about every subject, but she is not nerdy either. In fact, her long sand-colored hair, her button nose, and her pale soft skin have ensured her a place on the cheerleading squad for the duration of her high school experience.
For an average middle-class family without any privileges, the Palmers are pretty smart except for Jacob; he seems to be the runt of the family academically speaking. Trevor is majoring in physics, and, before the shooting, I was working towards my mechanical engineering degree. In fact, I was one and a half years ahead of schedule to receive my degree, so I’m no idiot either.
“Okay Liz, why don’t you tell me what the message is then,” I mockingly respond to Liz’s revelation.
Liz ignores my derisiveness – after four months of me moping around the house giving out sarcasm like it is candy – she is used to it. “Okay. You say your back is turned to her, she calls you, you turn, she gives you a wrapped present, and you can’t touch her, right?”
The dream does not sound very spectacular when my sister sums it up so thoughtlessly.
“Keep your eyes on the road,” I remind her as she briefly glances over at me.
Her smile tells me that she is thoroughly enjoying the analysis of my subconscious.
“Do you ever say anything?” she asks.
“I told you. I can’t.”
“Does anything different happen – you know, does anything change from dream to dream?”
“Nothing changes,” I answer in a robotic voice.
“Maybe she is giving you a gift.”
“Did you think of that all yourself?” I am unable to help but smile as I respond sardonically. My sister is smart, but it doesn’t take an I.Q. of one hundred and forty to figure out that Jennifer is giving me gift in my dream.
Briefly looking at me with her penetrating hazel eyes and then turning back to the road, I can tell that Liz is encouraged that, sarcastic or sincere, I have actually smiled for once.
“No. I mean, maybe she is giving you a gift.” She stresses the word gift as if I don’t know the definition.
“Okay Liz, what’s she giving me then?” I say as I look out the window to show I am disinterested although I am actually curious as to what she might say. The passing asphalt starts to put me in a trance.
“I mean, you can’t touch her right?” Liz asks rhetorically. She picks her next words hesitantly, trying not to offend me. “Well, now that she’s…you know…”
“Dead,” I interrupt.
After a short pause, Liz continues aware that she is venturing into a sensitive subject. “Yeah, that. Well, maybe she is giving you a gift in exchange for you not being able to touch her anymore. Like something to help you because she can’t be with you.”
What could that possibly be? I say to myself with thoughts of my wife’s death now making me angry. Just as I thought, Liz has made the explanation of my life into a romantic fairy tale. Frustrated, I want to snap at my sister for bringing up Jennifer, but I stop myself. None of this is her fault.As an alternative, I look out the window at the passing freeway and, as I do, the scenery blurs and the motion makes my heart spin. I can sense that I am about to have another episode. My eyes lock on the road ahead in an uncontrolled stare and my muscles contract as I zone out of consciousness. Although I don’t want to have the dream about my wife right now, I do nothing to stop myself from giving into the seizure.