I’ve been working on something a little different.
And I thought you might like to take a peek.
She’d had the dream again.
Within minutes of waking, Ramona’s hands were pawing over the mess on her bedside table, skimming her glasses, her phone, upsetting two books splayed open, kissing like lovers. Her fingers found the roll of tape she’d left there the night before and she was up, eyes squeezed shut as she moved by touch in the dark to the wall opposite her bed where she’d drawn the map.
Lines drawn in thick, black permanent ink spidered from the window to her bare, aggressively tidy desk. Structures had been meticulously trimmed from a variety of magazines and discarded books and taped against the wall in various places, some labeled, others awaiting identification. Ramona gently peeled one labeled ‘Bazaar’ from the lower left quadrant of the map and placed it several handspans further right, next to another clipping – a squat ruin she’d cut out of a tattered National Geographic – labeled ‘Arena.’ The snap as she tore a new piece of tape was startling in the silence, and only after she’d made the adjustment did she open her eyes and turn on the light.
The harsh fluorescent glow further illuminated the stark, impersonal dormitory: bed pushed against one wall, built in wardrobe and desk opposite, door and window with its navy drape squaring off like combatants. The rug underfoot was cheap and thin, the curtains and bedspread worn but without personality. The wall with its world realized in marker and college scraps was the only thing that felt like it belonged to Ramona, and she’d have to paint over it in less than a week.
She sat down on the edge of her bed without a sound, reaching for her glasses and her phone, checking her face, checking the time.
Yesterday it had been nearly 6 AM when the dream woke her.
It wasn’t always the same dream, it just always was. It was the world as she knew it, twisted, the places she recognized warped and peopled by strangers – or not at all.
Dr. Cutter was interested in the dream. It had been she who had first suggested Ramona keep a journal, sketch what she recalled upon waking, as though getting it all out of her head would keep it from coming back. But it didn’t, and the notebook hadn’t been big enough, anyway. So she’d sacrificed the security deposit on this year’s board and started drawing on the walls.
There was the strip where she and her mother and brother had bought groceries and visited the check advance place to borrow against dad’s upcoming pay day, the taquería where between the three of them they’d demolish an easy conquistador’s dozen.
Ramona had layered clipped photos and crude sketches underneath of the main edifice she’d chosen to represent each place on the map, indicating what was different, what was the same. There were some places she frequented often – her high school, the trailer where she’d grown up, her grandma’s house just down the street, the quarry – and others she’d go months without seeing, sometimes whole years – the labyrinthian downtown, the derelict grocery, the sculpture park. In the park there was a bronze statue of a woman in the center of a reflecting pool, her arms raised in invitation. But when Ramona dreamed of her, the gestures were always different and Ramona had noted this, too: arms overhead like a dancer’s, fists clenched against the stiff folds of her robe, arms absent, hacked off or lost like an ancient Roman statue.
Because it really wasn’t one dream, but many. Ramona moved through them each night, pursuing whatever mad trajectories her sleeping mind conjured. Usually, she was alone. But sometimes she was with her brother, Felix.
He’d been the reason she’d gone to see Dr. Cutter in the first place, six years ago, in the weeks following his disappearance.