I keep shaking my head. Trying to wake up. Trying to claw my way back to reality.
I’m driving down streets that are similar, eerily similar, to those I knew in my childhood, but not the streets I have known and driven for the past several decades. I see buildings that remind me of places I have seen and been before. Long, long ago. They are more worn. As am I. They have changed, sometimes drastically, sometimes very little at all. I know where I am, but I do no know where I am. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why I am here. Back here. In this place. This place from my past. Driving these streets. This is not where I belong. I must be dreaming.
I can’t wake up.
Nothing feels normal. Or right. I go to unfamiliar grocery stores with foreign names that didn’t exist where I live – or back then, when I was a kid. I see restaurants that I remember from that long ago time and I’m amazed they are still open. But there are many, many new establishments that have sprouted up in this dreamscape. New streets too. I get gas at stations that weren’t around in time past and pay ridiculously exorbitant prices. In fact, everything is more expensive than it was in the place where I made my home for most of my adult life. I am confused. I don’t know what I’m doing here, in this small city where things cost more and jobs are even more scarce than in that other land, that metropolis I called my home. Where am I? Why am I here? Am I here?
What has happened to me? Why can’t I wake up and return to my abnormal normality?
I drive into the driveway of a house that is not mine, but the garage door opener that is clipped to the visor of my car causes the heavy brown door to slowly rise. There is a space for me to park. Some of my things, things I recognize, are in the garage. It’s a very small, orangeish brick house with few windows. I do not like orange brick. I don’t like small, cramped houses. But my two dogs are inside, waiting for me, glad to see me. Yet they are even acting slightly strange. They also seem to be somewhat confused. Discombobulated. We attempt to comfort and reassure each other. In this house that is not ours, but that holds many familiar things. Not everything is here. Much is missing. There was no room, you see. Not enough room for my other world. In the dark little house with few windows. Things have been fitted in like pieces of a puzzle. Carefully arranged. Placed. To make the space livable. It is not a bad place. It just isn’t home. Not my home, with its many windows, high ceilings, arches, pleasant angles and plenty of room. I find myself wondering how I got here, willing myself back to that familiar reality. But this existence persists. This “reality” remains. I rub my eyes for the thousandth time and shake my head yet again. I don’t know how to get home. I no longer exist in a place where I belong. If I exist at all.
There is a front license plate on my car. The car I have driven for the past 15 years. With only a rear plate. An inspection sticker was placed on my windshield. And my driver’s license no longer has a blue banner. It’s light yellow. It came in the mail (where I live, they issue it on the spot, printing it at the license bureau when you go in every 4 years to renew). Why did it change colors and why weren’t they able to issue it immediately? It is as if I have been sent to a foreign country where I do not speak the language and where different and unfamiliar documentation is issued and required.
It’s colder too. Ten to twenty degrees colder than what I’m accustomed to. I moved to a warmer climate for a reason, oh so many years ago. Because I despise cold, rainy weather. I crave heat and sunshine. Freedom from umbrellas and waterproof footwear. A minimal time where coats are required for warmth and protection. It’s July and I still have windows open, what few windows there are here. I am bewildered. I don’t understand what has happened. Again, I shake my head, hoping to clear my brain and force myself back into a familiar reality.
There is a me that I know, who has lived a life I can place in time and space. And then, there is this other me who wakes up in my bed, but in a strange bedroom. Who sits on my couch, yet not in my living room. The carpet is not my carpet. My pictures hang on the walls, but those walls are a foreign color. The angles are all wrong. The floor plan is odd and awkward. I have been transported to a different dimension where nothing is the way it is supposed to be, nor is anything where it belongs. Everything is off. Surreal.
I am dependent on assistance here. In my real life, I took care of myself. Poorly at times. Barely. But I made my own way. I do not understand this person who has nothing, who has lost everything. Who has nowhere to go. Who doesn’t fit or belong anywhere at all.
Everything shifted a few degrees with disastrous results. Reality slid and is now skewed. Broken. Horribly rearranged. I can’t seem to regain my balance. I keep looking for myself, my world, my planet, but the portal has closed and I am trapped here. Trapped in this life that is not mine. This life that is now my only option. In this place that is not mine. I’m stuck in an alternate reality where nothing makes sense and where nothing is as it seems. Where even the familiar is unfamiliar. And where I am not the person I have been, nor am I am who I am supposed to be.
Someone switched the channel. Then destroyed the TV. I’ve been left to find my way in this strange world where I do not belong. Displaced and confused. Forever altered. I can’t wake up. And there is no way home because “home” no longer exists.