I sit still and alone in the waiting room. It’s so unnaturally quiet that it begins to make me feel uncomfortable. In as much as my ears try, they fail to hone in on any sound. Nothing at all – no faint murmurs from another room, no footsteps, no audible activity. I start to imagine that there might not be a single soul in the entire building besides myself.
The four walls around me contain only a white rectangular desk central to the room with old car magazines and outdated newspapers and an ashtray on it, the chair I’m seated on and an identical one beside it, and a fuchsia-coloured cactus inside a white vase in one corner of the room, about three-feet in height. There’s a fairly large window on the wall opposite me, and a door to my left.
I hold my breath as I rise and step towards the window. Peeking out of it from about eight floors up, I’m struck by the notion that I may be the only human being in the entire street. The window doesn’t open, I even try to bash it a few times. From my limited point of view, I can’t see any pedestrians or moving vehicles. I can’t see any sign of life. Just the desolate streets, overcast by the dense grey clouds above. I can feel my heart pummel against the walls of my chest, though I keep calm and try to think of logical reasoning as to why I can’t see or hear a single other person within the building or outside (though it’s to little avail). Perhaps there’s a diversion on the street due to hazardous roadworks going on, I think. Though it doesn’t explain the silence in this building. Has there been an evacuation of premises that I’m unaware of?
All I can think to do is continue waiting. I return to my seat, withdraw a pack of cigarettes from the chest pocket of my shirt, and light up. The ashtray on the white desk leads me to the assumption that this is not an act of offense.
3:49 my wristwatch reads. He’s late.
I stare at the vase for some time as the smoke from my cigarette clouds up above my head. I can only reason the plant inside to be artificial – how anyone would think of, or why anyone would even want a fuchsia-coloured cactus is far beyond the realms of my comprehension. I direct my eyes to the door on the left. The door which I expect him to emerge from at any moment and invite me into. This of course begs the question: if that is the only door and it leads into his office, where, then, had I entered from? How and when did I even get here? Had I forgotten to take my medication before I came to see him? That’s all irrelevant right now, I tell myself as I ash my cigarette. All that matters now is this appointment. All I should be concerned about is the fact that he is now almost 25 minutes late.
After waiting for what seemed like hours, he eventually decides to show. He opens the door and invites me in.
“Step inside my office,” he says exaggeratedly, smiling as though impressed by his own wit. I say nothing, only giving him a blank stare for a solid four or so seconds and searching for the slightest hint of contrition.
“Am I?” he responds with his back turned, then, sweeping the matter under the rug, he asks, “You got a spare cigg’?”
I hand him my last cigarette, he gives a Thanks, sport! kind of wink before signalling with his hand for me to take a seat on the two-seat sofa opposite him. I analyse his outfit: plain marsh-green polo tucked into grey suit trousers, beat Adidas trainers, coffee-stained beige blazer. The sofa I’m seated on is very much like the one I had in my old apartment.
I give the rest of his office a once over. I very quickly become cognisant that this office of his has the exact same – and I mean the exact same – set up as the main room of my old apartment. Minus the brown leather sofa he is posted disorderly on, every detail is the same. Even down to the framed photo of my ex-wife which I kept hung to the left of the antique pendulum wall clock we got as a present from her mother.
At this point, my reasoning becomes so erratic and damaged that all my brain can reason to do is chuckle under my breath. I close my eyes and rub my forehead slowly. What’s he playing at? Is this all some kind of joke? The silence, the barren streets, the replication of my old home, this is all far too extreme and unnecessary for someone simply trying to mess with my head. Or is it that my head is already messed up? I’m left totally muddled, to say the very least.
It’s a dream, relax, I begin reciting to myself in my head. It’s simply another dumb dream. That explains the fuchsia cactus and the missing door and the office. Just a dumb dream. Relax. And watch.
He wriggles his left forearm out of his sleeve and rests his elbow on the arm of the shiny leather sofa as he smokes away.
“How is she? D’you know?” he begins, right leg crossed over left, coolly blowing smoke into the ceiling fan.
Lucid dreaming, I think it’s called. Dreams are never quite the same once you’ve realised you’re really dreaming them; you begin to try control the course of the dream once you remember that anything’s possible in the world of dreams. But to what extent can one really control their dream once they know they’re in it? Is it a skill that requires continued practice, like shaolin training? Or is this consciousness still subject to simply observing the world which the subconscious mind has built? My feeble guess is that it all depends on the degree of lucidity, or something like that.
He’s sat more causally than I’d ever seen him. He looks like he is in the process of finishing off his final appointments for that afternoon before jetting off to Barbados for a week. I mutely glare at the photo beside the clock.
“Well?” he persists.
As I had imagined and eventually come to confirm, it really was just a dream. The following morning I look back in hindsight and try piece details together whilst boiling my usual morning eggs. The dream had a lot more to it of which I can’t remember. He was Julian, my old psychiatrist, for the most part of the dream, but then turned into someone else somewhere along the sequence of the dream. It happens, doesn’t it? One minute you’re with so-and-so in your dream, then the next, they’re somebody totally different. But the strange part of it all is not so much that they change, but that it doesn’t seem to go noticed, or disturb the discourse of the dream whilst you’re actually dreaming it.
Dreams are a funny phenomenon. I never could settle on what to think of them. Do they hold some significance to reality, or are they just your subconscious toying around with a few random details and memories you’ve stored in some crevice of your mind over the years? Or both?
Don’t ask me.
Thank you for reading. As usual, any criticisms and feedback are welcome.