Sleepless in Phoenix

Photo credit: Aminah Jamil – the sunset from my balcony

Today is the big day: my permanent overseas move. I’m hesitant to write the exact location until I’m actually there. Perhaps a little bit of childhood jinx residue left over from past disappointments.

I’m supposed to be up in 2 hours, but I can’t sleep. The majority of yesterday was spent running errands and clearing my apartment of the last bit of the things I’d accumulated over the years. It’s kind of wild to see just how much stuff I had, and how most of it was purchased in order to cope with life.

There are 3 suitcases and 2 bookbags on the floor in the living room waiting for me to add the last few things before I zip them up and bungee cord them together to escort me to the airport. The amount of stuff in them is still way too much, even after having shaved down my entire life to fit inside of them. Hopefully once I get settled into living abroad I’ll cut down my items by half, or hopefully more than half, in order to give myself better freedom of movement between locations.

Even though I’ll be able to sleep on the plane, I really want to sleep right now. You know how it is; you finally get to sleep about 25 minutes before you’re supposed to be up and it’s the most dreadful feeling in the world, like WHY did even attempt that little bit of sleep anyway?

Because why not? 😏

Fast forward 5 hours into the future…

I’m back. I went to sleep and, lo and behold, had a semi-difficult time waking back up. The only way I was able to was because I had this weird dream where I was talking to one of my ex-coworkers in sales, and he was telling how great of a decision I made leaving the company and that he didn’t have the balls to do the same. And then I proceeded to attempt to coach him on ways he could make it happen, but then he started speaking in sales and I had no choice but to wake up.

Now I’m on the plane heading onto the first leg of my 3-leg trip. I have advice about packing, because I didn’t do it well. Let’s get on that in a future post.

Let’s talk soon my friends 👋🏽

– Aminah Burch

Day 8 – Dream Catcher, Part 1

Photo credit: Daniel Hourtoulle from Pixabay

As I made myself comfortable in the well-worn in armchair, its velvet hugging my clothes as if to tell me that I was safe to relax into it, I could hear the howl of the wind as the winter storm grew stronger outside. The warm, dim light of the sconce lamps on the walls flickered, casting a haunting glow between the paintings. Dr. Murray, my psychotherapist, had left the office briefly to speak to the receptionist, though I figured he was probably also going to the loo. He was a highly sought out therapist, and my guess was that he had so many patients throughout the day, even on days such as this, that he had to use any open chance to handle his business.
He was a kind-natured fellow, an older gentleman; quite stout in stature with a little balding spot right on the top of his head.
“Alright, Mademoiselle Loraine, I’m back.” He said as he shimmied into the chair behind his desk. “We have made great progress, in my humble opinion, in a very short amount of time at that.” He smiled at me and clasped his hands on top of his desk.

I flashed him a small smile in response.
“You don’t think so?” He asked, as a look of surprise appeared on his face.

“Um,” I started, “I’m still having the nightmares without the visuals. Except now, I hear them, but I still don’t see them.”

“That is progress, my dear! When you first came in to see me, you complained of nightmares, but you could only feel them. Everything else was all black. Then you began to see light, and now you can hear them. What have you been hearing?”

“Well, it’s all muffled, so I can’t really make it out. Oh! But I can see very blurry outlines of figures moving about, nothing at at all distinguishable though.”

Dr. Murray nodded. “I see, I see,” he paused and looked at me, “any other developments? Inside of the dreams or in your waking life?”

I tilted my head curiously and gave the questions a bit of thought.

“Not in my dreams, no, but I’m not quite sure what you mean when you say in my ‘waking life.’”

“Oh, yes. Carl Gustav Jung, a famous psychiatrist and psychoanalyst believed in the concept of synchronicities, which holds that two separate events that seem to be coincidences may actually have a meaningful relationship. His biggest anecdote about that was of a woman he was treating, who in the middle of her appointment with him, told him about a dream she had. In her dream she saw a golden scarab.

“As she was telling him about the dream, an insect flew into his window. When he turned to see what it was, he opened the window and caught it, only to find that it was as close in resemblance to the scarab the woman had seen in her dream that could possibly be found in that area of the world.”

My heart began to pound against the inside of my chest, as warm waves moved down my body. The thing was that I had experienced something like that.

“Actually yes.” I began, “Though I can’t make out the exact sounds from my dreams, I was able to hear a muffled melody of some sort, something unfamiliar to my waking mind. However, when I went to the library over on 57th and Ashby last week, the one with the gorgeous lobby, I could’ve sworn that the same song was playing softly in that lobby. I remember thinking, ‘what a strange coincidence.’ However, now I’m afraid that I may have been wrong.”

“Hmm, yes. That is quite strange indeed.” Dr. Murray slowly moved his head up and down, seemingly pulling in information from somewhere deep inside of his mind. “How about this? I have a good friend and colleague of mine who’s a hypnotist, Dr. Dandridge is his name. I believe we might need his expertise to pull what’s trying to uncover itself from the recesses of your subconscious. By all means, if you’re not comfortable with this, you can decline-“

“I’d like to do it.” I said, not meaning to cut him off. “I mean, I’m sorry, I’d really like it if you brought your colleague in.”

He chuckled. “You must be quite eager to get this nipped in the bud.”
“Absolutely. It’s a strange life to live having nightmares that you can only feel, but you can’t see or hear.”

“I can’t even imagine. Rest assured, we will take care of this. I’ll reach out to you with some openings for both myself and Dr. Dandridge before the end of the week.”

I rose to my feet, both nervous and excited about our next appointment. Would the hypnotist be able to pull the hidden nightmare from my the recesses of my mind? If so, what if it’s something so horrid that I purposely hid it from myself so that I would never have to face it again? What if I regret it?

Dr. Murray left his chair to meet me at the door and patted my shoulder.

“Don’t worry, my dear. Whatever we uncover, I’ll be sure to make things right.” He said as he escorted me to the door.

His reassurance was comforting, but I couldn’t help but think that we were about to uncover a monstrosity.

Day 5 – C-Sweet

Charlotte held her chin in her hand as she scraped her fork slowly across the empty plate. No food had touched it at all, and she was getting hangry. She wasn’t the type of person to lash out at others when her stomach was neglected, but that day she felt that she might not able to control herself. Why hadn’t she been able to take a break away from her colleagues to eat? This normally uncommon situation was becoming more and more of an issue, and she wasn’t appreciative of it at all.

When she started, the work culture at her company was laid back – people could come in when they wanted to, so long as they completed all of their tasks before the end of the day; there were ping pong tables at each corner of the building, including the roof; there were beanbags all over the place that you could just plop right into. However, the company was under the rule of a new CEO, and she was an absolute nightmare. Everything that Charlotte had loved about the company was slowly disappearing, though she’d been putting up with most of it without a complaint.

The one thing that she was finding she wasn’t fine with, however, was the working lunches. Even though they were called “working lunches” there was more work than there was lunch. And now, she had to wait even longer for dinner because the restaurant was backed up. An angry growl vibrated Charlotte’s stomach and sent zaps of pain all throughout her abdomen. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath in through her nose. The chatter and dish clinks of the restaurant started to fade away. She held that inhale for ten seconds, allowing the pain of hunger move to a less prominent part of her attention, and then she exhaled. She repeated that sequence twice more.

She recalled the mindfulness breathing technique from her meditation teacher, remembering her words: “There will be times when you want to hurt people, when you want to lash out in anger or frustration. In those moments, choose mindfulness. Choose to take less than three minutes to step away from those emotions, from a potential negative situation that may last you well over three minutes in consequences. Just close your eyes and breathe.”

While the mindfulness practice was usually helpful, she found that the hanger crept back up little by little. To make matters worse, from the corner of her eye, she caught the shiny, platinum blonde hair of what looked like the head of her CEO. Wait, was that her CEO? She rose up from her seat to get a better look.

It was.
Charlotte’s hanger swelled within her as she watched the CEO laughing and smiling, as though the CEO’s employees weren’t out in the world suffering because of her draconian work policies. The CEO was seated in one of the reserved areas and was immediately brought a basket of bread, a basket of bread that should have been on Charlotte’s table. Charlotte’s lips curled up into one of the saddest frowns ever to appear on anyone’s face in the history of mankind, ever. With that frown, another strange thing started to appear on Charlotte: dark, greenish-blue leathery skin and sharp, hard scales. She wasn’t aware of these new formations, as she was attempting another round of mindfulness.

As she finished her last exhale, her whole body was covered in the leather skin and scales. Concerned stares and whispers emerged from the other patrons of the restaurant, which didn’t help matters at all. In fact, Charlotte’s temper began to flare as she shot angry glares at the innocent by-eaters.

While you’re staring, why don’t you offer me some of your appetizers? Huh? HUH?

Murmurs filled the restaurant as Charlotte grew to be about 1.5 times her size and as her fingers turned into sharp, claw-like phalanges. The wait staff and nearby patrons began to leave the area, leaving plates full of food and empty glasses of wine to create a smell smorgasbord that riled Charlotte up even more. She shot a dirty look in the direction of her CEO who was, at that point, stuffing her face with the exact same appetizer that she’d ordered and had yet to receive.

That was the last straw. Charlotte flipped her table and terrible roar and began to stomp over to the CEO. Neither the CEO nor her guests had any awareness of what was taking place in the restaurant. As Charlotte strong-armed tables out of her way, her teeth turned to fangs, sharp canines now protruding from her mouth. Everyone from the CEO’s table dived out of the way once they saw what had arrived.

The CEO was taken aback and almost ran herself, but there was something familiar about this creature. She squinted her eyes and ran through all of the faces she held in her memory rolodex, until she saw the one of the quiet girl from the morning project meetings.

“Charlotte…Wellston? Is that you?” The CEO placed her hand on her chest.
Charlotte let out an unintelligible grunt, and before the CEO could say another word, Charlotte opened her now abnormally large mouth as wide as it could possibly open, and fit the whole CEO inside of it. In just a few munches, Charlotte was satiated; her hunger was finally gone. 

Day 3 – A Vessel for a Trip

She sat in the passenger waiting area, her frustrations deflating from walking behind inconsiderate individuals unaware of their surroundings, those people who’d stop right in front of her to look at their phones or to turn around or to pull scarves out of their pockets to blow their noses. Despite a pandemic having changed the travel industry, it did not, unfortunately, increase those people’s awareness.
The passenger area was less chaotic, though, not too many people traveling these days. She feared that she might be labeled ‘crazy’ for not having a ‘proper’ reason to be traveling. What was ‘proper’ though? Should she sit around in her hometown, in between comfort and discomfort, waiting for something to happen that never would? On top of that, should she allow some disease to prevent her from living her life? Or, in the least, figuring it out?
She wasn’t as young as she used to be – old enough to drink and have lived through those days, but young enough that, unless she had the misfortune of having had acquired a secret terminal illness, she wouldn’t be dying any time soon. She was tired of life making all of her decisions for her, no matter what in the world was going on.

So she sat, and waited, and watched the people. The people with their faces covered, the people who ushered children, the people who talked on cell phones a little too loudly, the people that hugged one another, the people that social distanced. She was, for the first time in a long time, comforted. And comfortable with her decision to fly over halfway across the world to a country she’d never visited before, to teach English to children.

In a way, she felt she had to go. To end the monotony of her life, she had to go. 

The airline attendants began their preparations for boarding. She could tell they’d done this many times, for instead of it being a mechanical display, they were almost fluid, water-like in the way that they opened the terminal door, announced any last-minute standbys, and began pushing those in wheelchairs up to their designated waiting spots. This was their thing. She felt solidarity with them as she went to go find out if teaching was her thing.

She got up and walked over to the window where she could see the giant bird she’d soon be embarking. This is it, she thought, I’m about to leave this country for a year. And, almost ceremoniously, she placed her hand on the cool glass in a silent goodbye. 

Day 1 – Outside the Window

It’s Thursday, post-afternoon, that lazy time when things simultaneously slow down and speed up, but for different reasons. Outside of my window a plane is in the process of landing, and I can hear the robotic voice of the train system letting passengers know that they must wear mask in order to board.

A man screams, “Go away!” at someone, and I imagine it’s either a stray cat, maybe the one that’s been crying outside my window for the last couple of nights, or an imaginary friend who’s overstayed their welcome. 

The wind blows, swaying the thin, dry leaves of the palm trees. I am not comfortable here any longer, I think, but I just arrived. What has changed? I don’t have to open the sliding doors to know how unbearably hot it is outside. Is it the heat? Was I inadequately prepared?

The thoughts tumble around in my head as I gaze without a focal point off into the distant mountain range that is surely home to aliens. Here, in this daze, I let the discomfort fade into the background and just enjoy the view.