I originally wrote this back on February 22nd but could not bring myself to post it then. The ending was not what I wanted it to be, it didn’t fit with my “it’s always too soon to quit” attitude. I actually rewrote the ending three times trying to make it fit my hopes and stubborn expectations. As it turned out, the original version became an unwelcome reality. Sadly, here it is…
Sunday, February 21st, 2010
I had a bad dream tonight. It wasn’t a cold sweat nightmare, but it definitely had a bad feel, sad and ominous. It did not involve demons or monsters, but something equally if not more frightening. The scary part of the dream was the feeling of utter and complete helplessness. Tuyet and I had stayed up later than we should have, chatting and watching a movie together while KaSandra slept in the bed beside us. We had been in the Village at the City of Hope for the past three weeks while KK recovered from round four of chemo. She was scheduled to begin the next round in the morning and I was heading out to New York on business. We all had a busy week ahead of us. I wasn’t keen on making this trip, but if I had to travel, going while KK and Tuyet were in the hospital was the best time as there would be plenty of help.
So, now for the dream, I should premise this retelling with the fact that I am not exactly sure where consciousness and unconsciousness overlap. I have recollections of speaking to Tuyet at certain times but those conversations could have been part of the dream as well?
Sometime during the wee hours, well before the alarm was set to go off, I was awakened by a soft rhythmic noise. It was KaSandra’s feeding pump called a Joey. The sound came in sets of three, and it sounded like this; whirr…whirr…whirr. The three soft and sleepy tones arrived in ten minute intervals. The sound they made was better than counting sheep, and I had fallen asleep to them many times over the past nine or ten months. This night I was awakened by them.
I was facing the wall, my back to Tuyet and KK when I opened my eyes. The Joey began its next set of three tones, only this time I saw them as well as heard them. As I stared at the wall a word appeared with each tone:
That was weird? Obviously I’m dreaming I rationalized, and I closed my eyes. I was asleep again in nanoseconds. Time passed, I don’t know how much, seconds maybe, minutes, perhaps an hour? The Joey played its tones again, whirr…whirr…whirr. This time I kept my eyes closed, just in case I wasn’t dreaming. Time passed, I don’t know how much, seconds, minutes, perhaps an hour? The Joey sang again and this time I couldn’t resist the temptation to peek:
What the…this was really starting to bug me! Now I’m no stranger to dreaming, I do it often, so much so that I sleep with a stenographer’s notepad on the nightstand beside my bed. Of course, I wasn’t at home this time so whatever I was experiencing would have to be burned to memory. Turning onto my back I rubbed at my eyes. Maybe if I stayed awake this would end and I could get some rest. Funny how I was more concerned with sleep deprivation than why words were appearing out of nowhere? I managed to stay wide awake for a second or two. Time passed, I don’t know how much, seconds, minutes, perhaps an hour. The Joey sent another message. Still on my back I opened my eyes:
This time was very different because there up on the ceiling, these three words were written in every language on Earth. And as amazing as that was, even more amazing was the fact that I was able to read each and every one of them. I sat upright quickly and shook Tuyet, or at least I think I did? I think that I asked in a loud whisper if she saw what I was seeing. I think she rolled over scolding me and told me to go back to sleep and to leave her alone. I say I think because it may have just been part of the dream. I laid my head back onto the pillow and stared at the ceiling for a while longer, waiting for sleep to come again. It didn’t.
The Joey continued to sing every ten minutes or so. Once, twice, three times, then four. For nearly an hour the pump purred the same three monotone notes. Each time the words on the ceiling became bolder and bolder, and try as I might, I couldn’t go back to sleep. I glanced at the small digital clock on the dresser near the foot of the bed. The large red numbers read 3:16, curiously familiar? Once more the Joey sang to me:
And in that moment the words on the ceiling slowly faded away. The room was eerily quiet, devoid of all sound, not even the sound of the three of us breathing. Time passed, I don’t know how much, seconds, minutes, perhaps an hour. The silence was suddenly broken by a familiar tapping sound. It was KaSandra rapping the bracelet that Grandma had given her on the metal rail of her hospital bed. I turned toward her and rose up onto my elbow. She was looking directly at me through the railing of her bed. Her eyes were open and clear, as they typically were so long after her chemo treatment. And she was smiling at me; at least I thought she was? Truthfully I didn’t think she could see that far, especially in the dimly lit room. I thought she was getting ready to call out to me with her usual greeting, Nickelodeon. But she didn’t.
The Joey sang once more:
And in a strong and clear voice, one that I hadn’t heard for many weeks, KaSandra replied still staring at me through the railing of her bed;