Waking Tears


The vivid dreams of Timothy Sweath (preferably pronounced Sweet) are vastly documented in 51 spiral bound notebooks that lie in a box in his closet below his dress pants. He doesn’t write down every dream, how could he? Only the ones that really stand out as either great, odd, or downright frightening.

Timothy first started tracking his dreams, and marking them Red (for the great), Blue (for the odd) or Orange (for the frightening), when he was twelve years old and had a disturbing dream in which he lived in the distant future and, while cooking dinner for himself and his roommates, was visited by Lucifer, who had come to collect the soul Timothy had supposedly sold. The two battled over said soul and, in the end, Tim won by kicking Satan off a cliff. This dream was understandably marked Orange. Since then, his slumber life has brought him to foreign countries, distant worlds, and various points in time. He’s been a hero, a monster, a murderer, a savior, a god, and, many times, a confused mid-twenties artist trying to figure out why whichever “she” was most prevalent at the time didn’t like him the same way he liked her. No matter what the case, two aspects of his dreams are always the same, they’re incredibly realistic and Timothy remembers them as clearly as he remembers what he had for breakfast – sometimes better, as usually during breakfast, he is deep in thought over what he experienced while asleep the night before.

This morning was one such morning. He would not be able to tell you if you asked, but he had Special K with Red Berries for breakfast while pondering the tears that were streaming from his lock shut eyes as he awoke violently from a moment he wanted to hold onto forever.

The day before had been just another day – he woke up, wrote down a dream about a deer and an arctic hunter that had accused Timothy of cheating on a high school midterm (this would be a Blue dream), sent a few emails, called his mother to make sure she had taken her medication, and sat down at his computer to work for the afternoon. Before bed, he watched two episodes of Superman The Animated Series (a current compulsion he could not escape), brushed his teeth, had a spoonful of Cherry Garcia and laid his head upon his jersey cotton sheets.

It had been years since Timothy had left New York and said adios to the restaurant business, but there he stood, in the center of a monstrous trattoria housed in the bottom floor of a midtown hot-spot hotel interviewing for a manager position. The owner and his beautiful wife smiled at Timothy with their perfect Grecian teeth, and somehow he felt this was completely right. He shook their hands and agreed to take the job. A small transaction over starting date and salary would take place at a later date. For now, Timothy left feeling good, yet nervous, about his decision – and also confused as to how and why he was in New York. And more so, how he was lost in midtown. Suddenly nothing was familiar, and after making one turn, he found himself right back in the perfectly happy eatery, where his soon to be boss was laughing and joking as he floated through the dining room, teasing and appeasing his guests. Timothy was spotted and the unnamed Greek sprinted towards him and wrapped one arm over Tim’s delicate neck.

Out of the restaurant the two men strode, the restauranteur boasting of the future the two would have working together. Timothy half listened but was distracted by the grandiose lobby packed to the gills with beautiful, model-like women, all of whom were overtly flirting with the two men. One after another passed Timothy flashing smiles and winks and small waves beckoning attention. And then Timothy realized it, every single one was a prostitute. His eye caught glance of one that reminded him of an actress he had a crush on two weeks prior but that had faded after seeing her in an interview. He walked up to the British madam and while she smiled coyly, she leaned in and kissed him. Tim was awestruck and the Greek grabbed him, laughing and commenting on her specific beauty but also mentioning she’s not his taste.

The second level to the lobby was less difficult to maneuver, as the number of solicitors was far fewer. However, Timothy found a new point of confusion; his ex-girlfriend appeared as though out of thin air. Tim had not seen her in nine months since she explained to him that his near-daily habit of tracking his dreams “freaked her out.” But, there she was, and she was happy to see him. The Greek shook her hand and bid them both adieu. Tim’s ex led him to a table in the main lobby, where they were to have dinner with a large, businessman named Frank and his date for the evening – the same British madam that reminded Timothy of the actress he had recently desired. The meal was cut short when something was said that upset the Brit, and she stormed away from the table. Her John named Frank ran after. Tim’s ex blamed him for ruining the dinner before they had even ordered. She started brooding and yelling, and Tim was suddenly reminded how awful dating her was. Another hooker approached and stood over the recently returned, though similarly angry girlfriend, and, in a very un-lady-like manner, lifted up her skirt, ran her hand through her underwear and wiped something into Tim’s ex’s hair. She was escorted out by security and Tim’s ex ran off, furious and disgusted.

Tim, while taking a large bite of his Special K with Red Berries, believed this to be his subconscious’ way of getting back at his ex for causing such depression and anger.

With his new boss back at work and his ex most likely washing something out of her, Timothy wandered alone through the lobby. Most of the ladies had found their dates and the room had started to thin when he spotted them – at the top of the stairs, there were Timothy’s best friend and his grandmother, whom he called Nonna. He sprinted up to them, amazed and confused to see them both. He hugged Nonna and embraced his best friend. He asked and asked what they were doing there but Nonna ignored him and simply pointed out that “there are a lot of pretty girls here, Timothy.” He blushed and nodded until she followed with, “but you know they’re all prostitutes.” Timothy and his best friend, Brian, burst into laughter. He could not believe she had noticed, but even more, that she had said it so matter-of-factly. The laughter was only disrupted by another surprise guest. Someone Timothy had not seen in well over a decade and had never expected to see again – his grandfather, Nonno, who had died Tim’s senior year of high school. He walked up from behind Nonna and put his arm around her as he always had.

The four of them exited the hotel and began to head south on Seventh Avenue, which was oddly vacant. Timothy reveled in the company and could not subdue his ear to ear smile.

They approached a construction site and nearly crossed the road to avoid the back-hoe that was crawling towards them. But, something about the Larry Bird jersey that the driver was wearing made Timothy hold course, thinking it could be another old friend who was rarely seen sans Celtics garb. And as though Timothy were controlling the actions of the reality he was experiencing, Greg, another if his closest friends, jumped out of the back-hoe.

Nonna stared at the massive construction site, watching the giant sky-scraper crane move entire stories at a time. She pointed out the insurance costs on a job like that must be astronomical. She and Timothy neared the fence as Greg ran to tell his new boss he was taking the afternoon off. Just as his boss said ok, and Greg was returning to the group, the crane snapped and dropped a giant block of concrete. It swung and bounced into a neighboring building, which almost immediately crumbled under the strain. Timothy ran, in what seemed to be slow motion, to step between the collapsing building and Nonna. Brian, Greg and Nonno were far enough away that the flying debris was no danger, but Timothy and Nonna, while discussing insurance and construction costs, had moved too close. Timothy grabbed her and opened his coat just as Superman had done for Lois in the episode Tim had watched before bed. He shielded her from the fragments of building that bounced off his navy blue jacket.

As the debris settled, everything was covered in dust, but everyone was alright. And suddenly a surge of excitement overtook them – they had just seen a building collapse. Timothy went on and on about how numb and casual everything can become after years in a city like New York, that after a while, you feel like you’ve seen it all. But not a building collapse. That was rare and incredible, scary and exhilarating. They were abuzz over the jaw-dropping event.

They turned a corner onto Thirty Third street and saw Greg’s brothers standing in front of a small pub. Both had cigars in hand and offered one to Timothy, who took it, pointing out it tasted just like a Corona. Music exploded from inside the bar and a crowd of frat boys and rappers spilled onto the street. Four of them surrounded Timothy and engulfed him in a dance, and even though he normally has no rhythm whatsoever, it took him over. Laughter and cheers whirled around him and he lost himself in the party, until he noticed he hadn’t seen Nonna or Nonno since arriving at the small pub. He tore through the crowd, screaming their names, searching every group, every corner, every drainage pipe nearby. He couldn’t find them, and the loneliness he felt after Nonnos death surged upon him once again. How could he have lost them after so many years apart?

Timothy finished breakfast and set the bowl in the sink. He slammed his eyes shut and remembered running through the crowd, searching and screaming, panicking, sweating, nearly crying. And then, again, as though he was controlling his dream state, the crowd opened before him, and there stood Nonno. He was slouched and wandering, lost and uncomfortable. There were tears streaming down his ragged face. Timothy ran up and hugged him, his tears matching Nonno’s, asking what had happened, where he had gone, where was Nonna? But before Nonno could answer, before he could even clear his eyes, Timothy’s waking life and dream life met, and he awoke.

He smashed the dishes in the sink just thinking about the warm, tear stained embrace, wondering what it means, if it was real somehow and why it ended before he could learn where his Nonna had disappeared to.

He rushed to his notebook, number fifty two, which laid atop his keyboard, and he feverishly scribed the tale of the hotel, the prostitutes, the building collapse, the bar, the loss, and everything else he could remember (which was nearly all of it). And when he was done, even though the dream had scared him and confused him to the point that it deserved both a Blue and Orange marking, he had just hugged Nonno for the first time in over ten years. And that, above all else, made this dream Red.


2 responses to “Waking Tears

  1. This story touched my heart. Really beautiful, fun to read full of vivid
    description . Syfy with a real heart.

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