and dreamed without thinking it was odd that I was observing the days and weeks of mundane preparation before my own birth. My mother was working long hours in anticipation of my arrival and the needs that I (and, in turn, my parents) would soon have. Times were tough and she and my father were worried. He worked outside the neighborhood until late every night; she worked inside it afternoons and evenings. She would leave me at home in a locked house by myself each night (I was just getting old enough) while she went to another house in the neighborhood to work. I would shut myself nervously in a closet with a candle and a book and wait with a kind of creeping worry for her to come back, scared to be young and alone on the one hand, aware that she was too pregnant to be working on the other.
One night, she came home suddenly, alone, and it was time. She bundled me in layers of clothing, took my hand, and we set out on food to the local doctor, who lived in a long, low one-story house with a bay window and a wrought iron fence out front, once of two on its street—a street that ended in empty fields on one side and in a major surface road on the other.
I was born quickly and uneventfully despite her exhaustion while I watched, and afterward the baby was laid beside her on the bed; she turned over and fell immediately into a long, deep sleep. I watched her for hours, satisfied but somehow still deeply if vaguely troubled. I never got a good look at the doctor. My father, making an attempt to rush home (I somehow knew), sat waiting in traffic, unable to reach us in time.
I, surprised that such circumstances marked my own birth, vowed to remember it always and to tell the tale someday to my own children while making clear the tirelessness and dedication of my fatigued mother.
The dream was put to an end when our pooch woke me up suddenly, though not intentionally. He had come to check on us and see if we were awake and turned away thinking that we weren’t. By the time I had indeed come fully awake and went to check on him, he was laying on his side trying to go to sleep again, but it wasn’t working. He looked uncomfortable and was licking his chops excessively as though he felt ill. He’s been on medication lately from the vet as the result of a paw injury, so I suspected that he might need to go out.
I asked him and he said yes by wagging. We went out.
The dream, of course, does not resemble what I know of my own birth in any way, nor does it resemble the neighborhood that I grew up in, nor would my mother have left me home alone as a child to go work, nor—of course—is it possible that I could have observed my own birth, not least because of the bounded orbits of the western metaphysics with which most of us (my parents and myself included) are lumbered.
Standing outside on the lonely streets of Queens at 1:30 in the morning, however, in slip-on shoes and an absence of socks, being interrogated by 18-degree-cold, blustery winds, it occurred to me with startling certainty though without explanation that I had just dreamed in some imponderable way about the trajectory of my own death.
No clear questions such as when it is to occur, how it is to be imagined, and the circumstances that threaten to encompass, surround, and found it were addressed or even conceived of with any acuity, yet the dream was nonetheless about all of these things.
It doesn’t frighten me, but it makes me sad, full of regret somehow.
I think things need to change in my life. It is time to be 33, time to know where I stand and what I am about. There is no time to lose.
Most important for all involved is that we not lose sight of ourselves, of our actual circumstances, or of the big picture, no matter how bad things get or how much frustration or injury seem to taunt us.
To lose perspective, even in the little nooks and crannies, is to tear the big picture to utter shreds and court an insistent sadness, if not shattering tragedy.
The floor has gone from underneath me, and the ether now tells me that this is henceforth to be the way of things, make of it what I will.
I hope I can do well by myself and those that I love, and I hope things will, in the end, be okay.