while she dreams

"No! Stop, I don't want to do this!" Rosie moans the words in her sleep before she bolts upright. Sweat has collected on her collar bones and soaked her hair at the back of her neck. It's the middle of summer and her air conditioning works just fine, but somehow her dreams have caused her to perspire like she's laying out on the hot pavement, not in her bed where the sheets not more than a few inches away are cool to the touch. She fights to catch her breath, feeling like she just finished running a marathon. She feels an ache in her belly and her hands go there, clutching at her skin, bunching it in her fists as she swallows down the bile that threatens to make her throw up her late dinner. As soon as she's awake, her dreams flee. She can't recall what she was seeing behind her closed lids. It wasn't good, though, if it woke her up in this frantic state.

She takes a moment to catch her breath before she turns and settles her bare feet on the hardwood floor of her home. It's empty save for her and in more ways than one she suddenly feels unsafe. Every shadow thrown across her room from the dim street light outside her curtains makes her think someone is there, watching her. She talks herself out of her fear and crosses the room to her bathroom. She relieves her cramping bladder and splashes cool water on her still hot face. She holds herself up by the rim of the sink, staring at herself, trying to regain control of her erratic heartbeat.

This is the second time this week she's woken from dreams that drench her in sweat and kick up her heartbeat, making her feel like she's just come out of an aerobics class. This isn't the kind of rest she's aiming for when she goes to bed at night and it's still worse that she doesn't know what the dreams are about. How can she control something taking root in her subconscious and only coming out in dreams? She pops a couple of nighttime Tylenol and takes herself back to bed. She lays on top of her sheets, spread eagle, and watches the shadows of branches swaying on her empty bedroom walls. Anyone could be watching her, giving her this unfounded feeling of dread that sits in the middle of her chest like a chronic illness.

When the chill of her air conditioning manages to turn the hair at the nape of her neck into ice, she pulls the sheet over her and rolls onto her side, tucking the pillow beneath her head. Her eyes grow heavy, further confounding her. This ability she has to slip right back into sleep seems so at odds with the frantic dreams that rouse her in the middle of the night. But as she drifts off, her arms slips around her middle and she thinks to herself that she should really do what everyone else around her has been doing and get herself a dog. At least that way, she would know if someone really was watching her or if it was just her overactive imagination once and for all.