Thursday, December 8, 2016


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By Terrance Tucker

To have a bad dream is normal - to have the same bad dream constantly is scary. Well at least it scared me. Being a Muslim I believe that a good dream is from Allah and a bad dream is from Satan, and that you should seek refuge from that evil and never mention the dream unless you find someone capable of interpreting it. For years I kept this dream tucked away in that closet portion of my brain but it kept re-occurring, the menacing shadow was always peeking out the closet door like the bogeyman does to scare children. One day on a visit I opened up and told my old girlfriend. She seemed just as worried as I was. “That's crazy--who's trying to kill you?" she asked, and stared at me waiting for an answer I didn't have. I opened my palms gesturing that I didn't know before I looked away from her strong hazel eyed gaze.

The dream stayed hidden for a while after that first confession, and then one night I woke up sweating, and afraid, I sat up in bed and stared around my small dark cell - The bogeyman was back. The anxiety of not knowing who this bogeyman was turned into worry and I needed to tell someone about this nightmare and maybe get some sincere advice. I thought of who I could tell. Days passed before I told my friend, who was also my co-worker, about the nightmare. We were sitting across from each other at a small table, eating lunch in the prison's infirmary. The timing was right since the infirmary was a small quiet place with dull white paint and depressing antiquated equipment that stayed empty. I looked around as we ate, made sure the walker and bikes were empty and no patients were being chauffeured around in their wheelchairs. Once the processed food was eaten, I eased my dream into the conversation.

"It always starts and ends the same," Is how I nervously opened up beneath his piercing stare. I went on to explain the rest in detail looking away at moments to keep my composure. “I'm coming out of a small store, it kind of looks like a store in my North Philadelphia neighborhood, right off of 28th and Jefferson. The sky is gray as if it's about to rain. My right hand is full of whatever I purchased - probably sodas, and chips. As soon as my foot leaves the step, a guy approaches me, his body language and demeanour is aggressive and quick. He's wearing a black hoodie and blue jeans.  I never see his face. I watch, frozen for a second as he rushes in my direction, but he makes a mistake and gets too close to me when he draws his gun. I remember an old friend of mine that made his living going through the pockets of others told me to never walk too close to your target with your gun extended out in front of you during a robbery because the person can grab your weapon. But that's what this man did. So when he drew his gun and pointed the business end in my direction, I grabbed it. We tussled right there in front of the store. My bag drops to the ground as I struggle for my life. No one is around and no one intervenes. We are just two gladiators fighting to survive . . . And then I wake up. Never knowing who got hold of that gun.

My friend sat there staring at me, he's a serious guy who never speaks without knowledge. I knew the fact that my brother was recently killed flashed through the back of his mind when he was replaying my dream in his head as he stared at me. Maybe he thought this was the reason for my nightmares, but it wasn't. The dreams started well before Aaron's death. "Damn . . .” He shook his head, his face still held that serious stern glare, his long beard dangled as he began to speak again. "That's deep. I don't know what to tell you-- I'm not qualified to break that down for you, but what you should do is talk to the psych about it."

"The psych?" I repeated his last words of advice to make sure I heard him correctly. Being from the street, we don't volunteer to see a psych, especially in prison where some men go and see the psych, get medication and never come down off of that psychotropic high.

"Yeah, she's better qualified to explain the dream to you, because I'm sure there's a deeper meaning behind it, and talking to her is your best chance to find out what's going on.  She went to school for that stuff." Now I was staring at him, my mind on a treadmill at top speed.

The psych was a tall, slim, older white woman with gray hair. She reminded me of Diane Keaton. And even though I never actually held a conversation with her, I could tell she had a very warm personality. It was her smile, and the way she dressed. She wore nice color shirts with casual long trench coats, or rain jackets that had to be Liz Claiborne or something fancy, yet subtle and relaxed.

For a few days I walked past the psych's office, debating whether or not to step in and lay my problems on her couch. I thought of Tony Soprano, a character on HBO. He was a mob boss who suffered from anxiety who started seeing a psychiatrist. When his mafia family found out they contemplated taking his life. Now I'm no mob boss, but I would never want to display weakness in this lion's den.

One day, when I finally worked up the courage, I tapped lightly on her door. She was sitting in front of her desk, legs crossed, her glasses hanging slightly on the bridge of her nose as she read a Nora Roberts novel. She looked up and gave me that warm professional smile, her book still clutched in her hand. I smiled back. "You got a minute?" I asked while walking into her office, which was bare bones. There were no pictures of her smiling family sitting on her empty desk, which was void of papers or anything that displayed signs of work. The yellow walls were naked, and the bright fluorescent lights ricocheted off of the walls directly into my eyes, highlighting the reality and seriousness that came with visiting a head doctor.

"Sure."  She closed her book and put it down. Even though her office held no signs of comfort or warmth, her smile was strong and that made me feel as if she just invited me into her house and offered me chocolate chip cookies and strawberry milk.

"What you reading?" I asked afraid to jump into my dream.

"Nora Roberts–– I love her writing. I have all her books, and I read them over and over." Her face lit up and I could tell she was really a fan. We made small talk for a few minutes--she told me about her family and how she loved the Philadelphia Eagles football team. After that I was comfortable, and ready to lay my nightmare in her lap. The details of my dream came out with ease as she listened with no sign of emotion.

After explaining my dream I sat there fiddling with my fingers, awaiting her response.  It seemed she was in no rush to give it. She just sat there, her smile returned, her glasses pushed back up on her lean face. I waited wondering if she would pull out a big book and scroll through the pages to find the remedy for my nightmare. I was unprepared for what she would tell me when she finally began to speak:

"The guy in the dream with the gun is you." She paused as if she was waiting for me to say something, but I was too confused to say anything. She continued, "The gun represents your loss of control of your life. You fighting for the gun is you trying to regain control of your life." I sat there staring at her, probably playing with my fingers, or stroking my scraggly beard. I don't remember, but I know after those words I was floored.  Here I was in a maximum security prison for murder, having a nightmare wondering who was trying to kill me, and the whole time it had nothing to do with death, it was about regaining control. Regaining the power over my own life. It was about struggle.

Terrance Tucker EZ7394
SCI Graterford
P.O. Box 244
Graterford, PA 19426-0244

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Great short story ! It was intense as well as enlightening.