This morning I woke up early, early meaning it was still dark outside. And, you know, with Daylight Savings Time, it’s light out around 6 a.m. So, yeah, for a Sunday, that’s early. But I was having a dream, really more like a nightmare. And, the funny thing about it, it was one of those dreams I chose to just wake up from. (I’ll explain this later.)
The dream took place in a school, I’m assuming the school where I work. I was in a classroom and looked up. This man was standing in the window. He was an older looking black man, with a scruffy looking beard, wearing a grey oversized jacket and holding a knife in his hand. He’d been standing there waiting on me to look up so he could hold the knife up for me to see, a nonverbal threat to me.
Fear surged through my body. I remember feeling like if I didn’t get away, I was going to die. So, of course, I tried to escape, only I couldn’t run fast enough. I opened my mouth to scream, to call out for someone to help me and no sound came out. Every time I opened my mouth to scream, no words escaped through my lips. I’d lost my voice.
So, I just woke up. I sat up in bed and decided not to go back to sleep. I graded a paper or two (I keep them on the bed where my writing notebooks used to be), read a few more pages of Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings. I eventually got up and cleaned the kitchen, checked the pot roast I’d left in the slow cooker over night; I did everything but think about that dream. I didn’t want to think about that dream.
But then while I was driving my daughter to work, I found myself puttering around in my head. Was it just a dream, I asked myself. Or something more. And I started thinking about how I feel like I’ve lost my voice. In many areas of my life, I have no voice. At least that’s how I feel. I have been unhappy with certain things taking place in my life for a while, but I feel helpless, like I can’t change. For instance, I can’t just quit my job. What I can do and have been doing is lying in bed every morning dreading the fact that I have to go back through the doors of that school. Wondering how so much can change in a year’s time. I used to love going to work. But when you have an attorney running a school district and a new principal who doesn’t know his staff or students and shows no interest in getting to know them, a school where parental involvement means missing every parent meeting, coming up to the school only to clear suspensions, and coming up to the school to threaten and call out a teacher despite the fact that your child is consistently late, consistently does not complete assignments and doesn’t seem to have any interest in learning…and then to top it all off, after you’ve created a scene, cursed said teacher out, the principal somehow manages to take the parent’s side and throw the teacher under the bus. Yeah, that’s the type of place that make some people feel as if though they are suffocating. Because it always has to be the teacher’s fault, right? It has to be my fault. And, that, well that’s just one example of the unhappiness I’m currently feeling. I feel like I’m stuck in a muddy puddle that smells like shit but that’s weighing me down like quicksand. I’ve been yelling out and no one has heard me. And, so now, I feel like I have no voice.
By the time I’d dropped my daughter off and made it back home, I was trying to compose a poem to explain how I feel, but all I saw was a blank sheet of paper. The white sheet of paper, I guess, is a symbol for my silence. I have no words. I have only the feeling of hopelessness and helplessness. I feel stuck and I can’t even yell out.
Since I couldn’t come up with the words to express how I feel, Langston Hughes’ poem came to me:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
And, I also have an answer to my question. No. No, it’s not all a dream. But even though I was able to just choose to wake up and distract myself with other things this morning, I don’t seem to be able to wake up like that in my own life. Even if I could, who would really hear me?
Peace & Love,