For months after my mother’s death I have a recurring dream: that I’m riding an aerial tram as it slowly descends a mountain. I don’t see myself but I know I’m inside the metal gondola suspended on the cables. And nothing tragic ever happens, but the feeling of weightlessness, of stomach queasiness, wakes me up stunned and frightened each time. At twelve years old, I don’t expect nightmares.
I’m not alone those nights. Since we have moved in with our grandparents, there were four of us in that room now: my unmarried uncle in the top bunk, my father in the lower one, and my brother and me sharing a bed, half of which has to sit length-wise into the closet so that all our furniture fits. My brother and I take turns sleeping on the side beneath the hanging clothes.
On the nights I sleep with the row of garments grazing my entire body, that’s when the bad dreams come. Always the suffocation before sleep, always the anxiety of falling as the aerial tram glides down.
And then one night, the quick relief of waking up is not enough. I decide to cry out deliberately, hoping that someone will rush over to my rescue. But no one moves or even whispers from another bed, “It’s fine now; it was all a dream.” My father, my brother, my uncle simply sleep—or pretend to sleep—through my girlish episode.
I know then that I have a reason to be scared: if anything should happen to the tram, help will be slow in coming. Or never show up at all.