I had the strangest dream.
I thought it was reality and I panicked for a handful of seconds before being oddly reassured by the clock on my iPhone screen. That was panicking because I had a dream I missed my alarm, and subsequently, the ACT.
But I lean against faded bricks in the shade of an arched entryway, and I’m remembering the first dream. The second reality, it feels like.
I see myself flipping through old Polaroids in the basement, illuminated by the bare lightbulb that frightened me when I was very little. See, I remember the Polaroids.
My grandfather, the one I cannot remember only because he died before the neurons in my brain were strong enough to capture his image and preserve it. I was two.
The Polaroids move. He is laughing in my grandmother’s old house. I’m seeing the past. Him in a faded red work shirt stitched with a name tag. Louie.
My grandmother and he are sharing a pack of Marlboro Reds, laughing with smoking trailing out of their mouths. My father, young, is sitting with his head turns down at the table, frowning at his plate. As a grown man, he cannot stand the scent of cigarettes and ash.
Younger still is my uncle, trying to sneak a cigarette as the pack is passed around the wooden table. To this day, he lives with a past decorated with bad decisions and stolen things other than cigarettes.
I do not see my aunt, the youngest, although I imagine she is in another house down the street, lamenting with friends over first kisses and hand-me-down wardrobes.
It is strange to think of them as a family, although really it’s because I have a family of my own. I have never seen my parents interact with their siblings like children. Only grown-ups.
In the other Polaroids, my grandfather is wearing a black and red leather jacket, worn from motorcycle rides and good old-fashioned wear and tear. It makes me think of my father’s jacket, of rides on his Triumph around farm fields and through towns past their heyday.
I wish the dream were real. I wish I could keep the Polaroids, the history and memories of which I have never experienced, will never experience.
I wonder why this dream in itself inspired writing.