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What Dreams May Come

For the 3am Challenge

By Hannah MoorePublished about a month ago 8 min read
What Dreams May Come
Photo by mali desha on Unsplash

Her face fills my vision, contorted in rage, spittle forming curdy globules against the waxed red of her mouth.

“You think you’re so smart don’t you, so fucking smart, you little fucking gobshite. You’re a fucking idiot”

My ears contract against the shrill of her voice, and I breathe out hard, pushing back the smell of something sour layered over something sweet on her breath, like the orifices of my body are trying to close against this onslaught. The slap of her hand against my cheek turns my head and I fall to the floor. I turn to reach for her but in her hand is the handle of something, a long, thin cylinder of wood, pivoting away from me, allowing the part I cannot see to swing towards. I curl away, foetal, protective, and I feel something impact my back, knocking the breath from my lungs and spreading pain blazing across my shoulder blades. At the same time, a warmth spreads between my legs, settling about my downward hip before turning rapidly to cold, and amidst the smell of whisky and smoke a new sharpness enters my nostrils.

“Jesus Christ you disgusting little shit.” I feel another blow, to my kidneys this time, and another, less hard, on my upward hip, and then I hear my name, a softer voice, coaxing.

“Liam. Liam you’re here with me. Liam, you’re safe, you’re safe. I’m here. Liam?” Now her face fills my vision, a different “her”, brow pinched in concern. I think for a moment that I am going to hit her, that my clenched fists are going to rise up and lunge towards her, and it would not be the first time that it happened, but they do not, and I realise that I am wet, sweat slicked, the tang of urine persisting in the air, and I start to shake.

She touches my arm, pulling it to unfurl, but I shrug her away and so she sits, and she murmurs, and I kind of want to tell her to fuck off, and I desperately want her to stay, and I lay on my side in my own piss and I shake until the energy is gone, until there is no fight left, and she turns on the shower and guides me in, and I stand under the warm water and I listen as she strips the bed, as she opens the cupboard, as she flicks out new sheets in the 4am lamplight, and I cry in silence, afraid of being caught.

*

I don’t go to work the next day. I don’t ring in to say I’m sick either. I’m not sick. Or I am. Not the kind that gets better in a few days though. Not the kind you can put on an answerphone. I hear her in the kitchen, making breakfast, drying her hair, radio low to keep her company. I hear the click of the door closing behind her, and I fall back into sleep. When I wake, there is a cold cup of tea on the bedside table. I don’t remember her bringing that in. My stomach feels too sour for it anyway. I go through to the living room, open the window, and light a joint, feeling tendrils of smoke curling down my throat, wrapping softly around my nerve endings, clouding the harsh light of my mind. My phone rings and I ignore it. What would I say? Time shuffles through in a sultry fug, and I wonder if I could keep down a sandwich yet, if someone were here to make it for me.

When the phone rings again, it is her, and I pick it up.

“Are you up?”

“Yeah. Kind of.”

“Have you eaten?”

“Yeah.”

“Did you ring work?”

“Yeah. No. Yeah. I sent an email.”

“Ok. I’m going to finish at 4 today. I’ll be home before 5. What do you want to eat tonight?”

“Um. I don’t know.” She’s irritating me now. I know she’s worried but I don’t want to talk about what we’re going to eat. I don’t care what we are going to eat.

“Ok. I’ll pick up some meat and I’ll do us a chilli or something.”

“That sounds good.” Another lie. “Are you going to the big shop? Grab a couple of bottles of wine?”

She hesitates. “Ok. Liam?”

“Yeah.”

“I’ll see you at five?”

I finger the scar running up my arm to where I hold the phone against my cheek. “I’ll be here.” I make it sound light. We both know it isn’t.

Hanging up, I see the email from work. The subject line, “Performance Meeting”, comes as no surprise. I do not open it. Instead, I open Facebook.

I can track her, my mum, from the photos my cousins post. My mum at a barbeque, a flute of something cheap and bubbly in her manicured hand, smiling for the camera. My mum sitting in front of a Christmas tree, a little boy perched on her knee, all dressed in their Sunday best. My mum in a restaurant, my cousin, my cousin’s husband, my cousin’s children, my uncle and a man I don’t know all raising a glass to the camera. My mum on a lawn, in a hat, holding a purse, laughing with a light grey suited man who might be the same as the one in the restaurant, or might be different, it’s hard to be sure. She was never short of men, my mum. She was beautiful, the life and soul of the party, the flame about which moths would flutter. I was the fly, too close, trapped in the melted wax. Well, I got away in the end, didn’t I?

I was sixteen when it stopped. I’d been taller than her for two years, but that made no difference. Whip a puppy hard enough and the dog never realises it has bigger teeth than the master. The apprenticeship was ninety miles from home, but my grandfather said it would make a man of me, and I believed him. “I’ll pay his rent for two years” he told my mum, “make sure he has enough to get by. It won’t cost you a penny.” It was years before I wondered what made him so keen, and I loved him more for it, and hated him more too. I have to believe my cousins don’t know. How could they know?

*

By the time she hands me the plate I am ravenous. I haven’t eaten since last night, and the smell of the chilli cooking has brought my appetite flooding back. Though perhaps it was the glass of wine. She has chatted while she cooked, filling me in on office gossip neither of us cares about, telling me about things she heard on the radio on the way home. I don’t feel irritated with her any more, not now she is here, in our kitchen, cooking our meal, talking to me, not seeming to mind when I don’t say much back. It’s like I can feel my legs again.

We eat in front of the TV. She keeps the remote. There are things I don’t want to see. Songs I can’t hear, not without feeling the thwump of a fist beneath my ribs, not if I want to keep breathing. She’s quick with the remote. Not as quick as my amygdala. But quick. It can’t be very relaxing. We watch Game of Thrones. It’s odd, the things I don’t want to see. Brown floral carpet. Spindle legged coffee tables. That kind of thing.

*

“You need to go back to therapy.” I should have known this was coming when she poured me a third glass of wine.

“I know.”

“This is the third time this month Liam, plus that thing in the supermarket.”

“I know.”

“That kid was totally freaked out.”

“I’m sorry, ok, I’m sorry I freaked the kid out, I’m sorry I embarrassed you.” I’m snapping, I can hear it.

“That’s not what I’m saying.” Her tone is harder, and some part of me knows it’s true but there is something flaring inside me that wants it to be false, that wants her to admit that I embarrassed her, that wants to have it out now, that she can’t stand this anymore, that she’s leaving me, that I’m not going to ruin her life just because I can’t get a grip on mine.

“You don’t have to stay you know.”

“Liam, stop being so fucking ridiculous, I stay because I want to not because I have to.”

I want her to hold me. “You stay to make yourself feel better, you stay because you don’t want anything on your conscience.” Abject horror slices across her face.

“Jesus Christ Liam, you’re a fucking idiot.”

And I am there again, curled on the floor, braced against the blows, the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. But she is gone. I am alone. I lay on the floor, my knees to my chest, tears mingling with the vomited chilli beneath my cheek.

*

I find her in our bed. She has been crying.

“I’m sorry” I tell her. She gathers her hand from beneath the covers and places it in mine.

“I’m sorry too.”

“I’ll go back to therapy.”

“I don’t know how to help you.”

“You do though. You help me all the time!” I hear desperation in my voice. If she gives up on me, I know I can’t survive.

“Will you go this time?”

“I promise.”

“You promised before.”

“I wasn’t ready before. I didn’t know what it would be like.” There is a space she does not fill, waiting for me to say more. “It made it worse.”

“I know.”

“The dream, the one I had last night, I had it four times in a week.”

“I know. But maybe you have to, you know, go through that a bit to move past it. Stop burying it. Maybe it has to get worse before it gets better?”

“What if it doesn’t get better? What if it just keeps getting worse?”

“What if it stays like this?” I look at her, this woman who keeps coming home to me, this woman who is strong when I can’t be, this woman who lays in our bed, curling around her own pain, holding my hand. It can’t stay like this. She deserves better. I hate myself for hurting her. I hate my mum for hurting her through me.

*

“It’s alright, there’s nothing to apologise for.” I blow my nose. “What we are going to do is start by building up a kind of toolkit of things you can use when you start to feel that distress rising, things we can do to remind your body and your brain that you’re safe here and now.”

I lift my face and notice that this woman, who I didn’t know this time last week, is still meeting my eyes, is still looking at me with kindness. I see no distaste in her face, no disappointment, no disgust. I see no fear, no mockery, no pity. And for a moment, something softly warm creeps through my belly, seeping across my chest. For a moment, I feel safe. Here and now. With tears still wet on my cheeks. More than that. I feel brave.

About the Creator

Hannah Moore

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Comments (13)

  • Angie the Archivist 📚🪶about a month ago

    This is so realistic. Glad he’s got some support and help with working through his issues.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    wow.. so real so powerful and well written. I have more to say but nothing that will do justice. Good luck with the challenge.

  • L.C. Schäferabout a month ago

    Thanks for making me bawl my eyes out today 😭

  • Caroline Janeabout a month ago

    This is a story you can really feel and I thank you for that. The details you have woven into the narrative give it real body and soul. Great work.

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    Oh ffs Hannah. I mean that in the kindest, most respectful way. Like...seriously. This is just brilliance. Tears in my eyes and they are well gotten. You handled this all so well...expertly written....sensitive...but without sugar coating anything. A real positive example of therapy and what it can do, in such a short amount of words those last couple of paragraphs...the relationship between Liam and his wife. Just...everything is well done. Believeable...authentic...not sensationalised at all...the right balance of it all. I was shocked and Ruth's own experience of her mother...I know how well you described it all. His fear...his trauma...just...okay. I could keep going on and on and going around in circles. Sorry. But, this is just why I love your gift, your skill for writing. You are a writer, never ever let that not be known. Anyway, yeah. Well done.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Gosh my heart broke so much for him. His mom is such a monster! May she rot in hell when the time comes. He is so lucky to have such a strong, wonderful and supportive wife. Loved your story!

  • Katarzyna Popielabout a month ago

    It's all so real. Masterfully written!

  • Amy Blackabout a month ago

    Powerful, and insightful. I could feel his trauma and pain.

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    A great story; you opened it slowly like a book, built the suspense, throwing in small hints and then Opened it all the way. Great job! Glad counseling was his way.❣️

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Hannah. This is a writing master class. I absolutely loved this. You write with such empathy and heart. Epic.

  • John Coxabout a month ago

    As someone who spent two years in therapy, I can safely say this is a story of extraordinary heart and empathy. Absolutely sensitively and beautifully told. This story deserves a wider platform than Vocal, that’s for sure.

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    Wow, Hannah! This was riveting! From the big pieces of the dream to the ultimatum like convo with his partner, the closing scene with the therapist, to the little tidbits like the looking up pictures on facebook, the grandfather dynamic, and the little acts of care from his partner, every aspect was impactful!

  • Novel Allenabout a month ago

    I have never been to therapy. Wonder what its like. Problems everywhere, the cause and effect. The causer trying to fix the effect.

Hannah MooreWritten by Hannah Moore

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