"Buy the stars. They'll keep you awake."
The thrumming in my head was so loud it hurt. It ushered in a sharp, piercing headache when I opened my eyes. Through heavy slits I could see the digital clock on my night table. It was 8:30 AM and I wanted to go back to sleep.
Saturday morning and up at 8:30. It felt like a cruel joke. Sam stirred beside me. But only slightly. Tylenol PM and his Garfieldesque distaste for mornings meant he'd be knocked out for at least another three hours.
I flipped onto my side, still groggy and lost, intent on forcing myself back to sleep. I wanted to go back because I couldn't shake the feeling I exited too soon.
My eyes were closed and my head rested on the back of my hand. I could've been a drawing of a peaceful sleeper.
I waded back towards it. I paddled the murky waters of a half-remembered dream cut short by the onslaught of September sun. I drifted, lighter and lighter until I could almost reach out and grope its frayed edges. The dream was still fresh, but I wasn't allowed back in. So I floated along the sidelines and I watched, intently.
Everything was familiar—a rerun—as it played out in front of my glassy gaze. It rushed back like that song you know you know, but can't remember the first note of. Until you hear it and the klaxon blares and the flood gates open and water clogs your lungs.
So there I was. In that weird store. There was no real way to tell, but I felt like I was in Brooklyn. Which struck me as strange because I'd only entered that particular borough on a handful of occasions. But it didn't matter for long because the dream said, "Hey, this is Brooklyn," and yeah, I suppose it felt right.
I looked pretty. Prettier than I ever looked awake. My hair was long, rich, and smoky. The ends were curled and sat on my shoulders in thick bundles. I was wearing a red hat, and I thought myself bold for it. I'd never wear a hat that red in the waking world. Who was I? Greta Garbo? I was also sporting a smart jacket. It was black and classy. I made a mental note to try and remember the outfit because it was a good look for me. I knew when Sam and I ventured out later, to pick up groceries or get dinner, I'd be in a faded hoodie and Vans.
But the dream unraveled once more and I was in a claustrophobic little store that seemed to be filled with random bric-a-brac. Try as I might, I couldn't quite manage to browse. I just couldn't see it all properly. It was too hazy, and I got frustrated watching myself not see things. That's when I realized I was actually back in the dream, not just remembering. It was all the same as the first time. The puckered linoleum rose under my really cute riding boots, and as I looked up, I saw the woman behind the cash register shift. Her blonde hair tumbled in front of her face and she didn't move to push it away.
As I slowly circled the idea of leaving, I realized I didn't know how I got into the store to begin with. It made me panic. So, like I did the first time I dreamt it, I walked to the front of the building. As I approached the big front windows, I noticed the floor change to a chestnut brown hardwood. I looked around to see that the front portion of the store was actually a butcher shop. It was jarring. The light from the floor-to-ceiling windows was sharp and true, not like the streaky illumination of the area behind me.
Women clamored around a high counter, reaching and stretching. They stood on tiptoes, arms extended. "What a funny hipster deli," I mused. There was plenty of room to navigate around the crowd, but I thought better of it, instead opting to double back and look for an alternate exit.
The light was is very bright at the store's front, and I had a nagging feeling that it didn't empty onto a Brooklyn sidewalk.
I passed the raised platform that housed the cash register and the blonde woman, whose face I still couldn't see. Right beside it was a small opening blocked by what appeared to be a slatted saloon-style door. It was crooked and white paint peeled off it in strips. I pushed through, and it creaked in response, snapping back behind me.