CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN continued
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I'd fallen asleep, and found myself once again in the same terrible nightmare I'd had several times before....
The landlord limped, leading me and my four children up the cracked steps of a rickety mansion. "Isn't it beautifully aged?" he croaked, showing us room upon room. It was awfully foreboding with peeling wallpapers and furniture that must have been over one-hundred years old. The place reeked with a musty, unkempt odor, yet I ended up renting the house.
The children and I had grand parties there, with friends, family, and various acquaintances. No one ever commented on the smell, or the corroded house and furniture. Instead, everyone seemed impressed--even jealous. And as we sat in the front room, I'd always crawl with nerves: Hoping no one knew my secret. Desperately laughing at ill-humored jokes. Coaxing noxious words from previously dying conversations. Wishing anything would keep their minds from what lay hiding behind the couch--in that same living room--where everyone cajoled for hours, in MY wretched house.
And when everything was quiet. When my treasured guests had finally left. When my children rested fast asleep in their beds on the second floor, that's when I would creep down the creaking stairs, round the bend, to the couch where moments before, everyone had sat, thinking I led a charmed life.
The couch was quite Victorian, wooden, old, and impossibly heavy. I grew so eager to move the velvety piece, no amount of weight could stop my ambition. I shoved with all of my might, then after little reward, the couch suddenly slid, and purpose filled my movements. After all, this was no ordinary house. This was no ordinary dream. And what the couch concealed was far more than one would expect. There, inches above the floor gaped a barrel-sized hole. It led completely through the wall, muddy with jagged roots spiraling down, down as if an enormous jack rabbit had dug it himself. Except this burrow was far more sinister than any jack's dwelling. I had traversed its walls many times before. I looked around making sure none of my children were awake, then crawled down into the depths.
My legs slid several times, becoming filthy, caked with spider webs, dirt, and rat droppings. Yet still I trekked forward knowing that this tunnel--twisting from the bottom of my rented house--hid all of the terrible secrets of my life. No one knew what my romantic relationships had really been like. No one understood the depths that my insecurities rooted from. But here they were, for me to inspect and paw over within the safety of my own nightmare. And as much as I might have wanted to wake up from the most horrid memories of my own life, I couldn't. I saw The Schmuck, telling me he'd been with his wife the same day he'd been with me. I watched myself cowering in the corner instead of standing up in the most trying times of my life. I inspected the skeletons of a past where I could have done more, tried harder, stood stronger. And when I had sufficiently wallowed, it was time to crawl up through the hellacious catacombs, wandering blindly forward, always up, toward the hole in the wall, hidden close, where everyone I held dear would often visit and obliviously sit, as I hoped they would never find out what terrors were hiding under my own home.
So I would burst from the hole, hair flying, nails coated with mud. And my eyes would dart around, a coward, hoping no one--especially my children--had seen me. And once my fears were eased by my own loneliness, I would shove the couch back against the wall, run up the faded stairs, and take a shower. Only after feeling sufficiently clean, would I kiss each of my sleeping children, and then go to sleep myself, the whole time wondering if anyone else truly knew what rested inside of my heart.
That was the end of my dream....
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