23-1

My mind continues to work overtime in anticipation of my future. I worry and obsess… and not in a good way. It is not about details, I’m not in that frame of mind; I’m more in a panic mode than anywhere near the clarity one needs to get into specifics. I’m not sleeping well and I’m dreaming a lot more than I ever remember dreaming in the past. In fact to call them dreams is to minimize the issue. They are nightmares, pure and simple.

In the epidode this evening, I found myself in some kind of classroom. I don’t know where, or why, and I can’t really make out the faces of the ten or so other students. The subject, though, is advanced math. The one person I do recognize in the group is Mark Triffon, a friend of mine from medical school, but I can’t really tell you why Mark is there. We did not attend the same college and he is not the main focus of the dream; he is only someone I do happen to recognize.

The main focus is a male who I can not see and remains unidentified.

The instructor of the course is David Smith, who was the Chairman of the Division of Plastic Surgery at the University of Michigan, when I trained there as a resident. I can’t for the life of me even begin to explain why Smith would be teaching math, or why math is the subject. I suspect my mind chose math because it was my favorite and because of the finiteness associated with it.

In this particular instance, Smith has “zeroed in” on Mark. In typical Smith fashion he has asked what appears to be a “no win” scenario. I’m watching Mark squirm to provide the answer Smith is looking for; but worst,  as I’m watching my friend struggle with the puzzle, I am confronyed with the reality that I, myself, don’t even understand the question. What is Smith asking? What is he getting at? I’m in way over my head here. The course might as well be in Hebrew.

That’s when another of the unidentified males in the class stands and begins to take over. He is literally lecturing. He has effectively dissected the nature of the question, and is in complete control of the information. He’s also looking directly at me with a diabolical smile of superiority, but the voice is all wrong. It is way too condescending. I have yet to speak and so his degradating posture seems wasted on me.

At the completion of his monologue, he sits down and glares at the rest of the class after making it perfectly clear that, compared to him, we are all deficient slackers, bordering on the stupid, who shouldn’t even be in the same room with him.

Smith then takes over and begins to explain to all of us what he expects in this class. I simply get up from my chair, walk directly over to my unidentified colleague and berate him, shamelessly, for his tirade. Smith looks on but oddly does not interrupt. “What’s wrong with you?” I scream to my colleague. “What’s up with the attitude?”

I get no reaction from him except the continuance of that diabolical smile, and silence. Sitting next to him is the most “tight-ass,” arrogant, entitled woman I have ever seen – and I’ve seen more than my share of them – who appears to be taking delight in the whole spectacle. I never see her face but I realize my unidentified friend’s antics have all been for her.

The tension continues to escalate, and predictably, I become more and more aggressive. There is anger beyond what the circumstance deserves, and yet I cannot control it. In a sense, I empty years of frustration on this character. I have now encroached upon my unidentified friend’s personal space, but his expression has not changed.

Smith intervenes. He understands the competition (and my insanity) but he insists we are a tight-knit group, solving the same, common problem.

My unidentified colleague takes that opportunity to apologize. For what, I am not sure. Am I upset with his command of the subject, or my lack of it?

As consolation, much like a team that has worked out its internal problems, we all consent to dinner together.As we exit the building, I am walking with Mark who, being his usual self, takes the opportunity to lighten the mood. He explains the shortcomings of the car he drove in that day. He laughs unapologetically at himself.

We decide to take the subway into the center of town. My unidentified colleague continues to be apologetic. He and I become involved in conversation, and there is a flash of bright light. He screams for me to move, I turn and there is an oncoming train. I wake up, startled and afraid…

And that’s how it’s been the past few nights. I get up from my bunk and look across the empty day room floor for the clock that sits out above the floor officer’s desk. The chair is empty; it’s 3:53 in the morning. I suspect the guard has retired to the safety of the tower, a place where he, or she, can sleep uninterrupted. I return to the warmth of the covers and stare at the bottom of the bunk above me.

I have no idea why I am dreaming, or what the dreams mean. I do know my release date is coming up and I’ve been worrying more and more about what to do. Maybe I should call Smith. Maybe I should just forget about it. I lay there in silence, in the dark; until I hear the medication nurse and the guard come through the day room door.  “Man…are they loud. They are certainly not trying to sneak up on anyone.” I grab a cup and fill it with water in anticipation of their arrival.

 

Today the upper tier has “unlock” first, and so I’m making my bed in preparation for my one hour out of the cell. Niko, my celly, is wiping off the sink and pauses to look out the cell window and then calls me over. “See that guy there?” he says.

“What guy?” I ask.

“The one reading the paper.”

“Yeah?…”

“That’s Combs.”

“O…K…, I’ll bite,” I say. “Who’s Combs again?”

“He’s the guy involved in the murder of the councilman.”

“Oh yeah.” I said, “I remember”. Then I watched as “the guy” meticulously went through each section of the paper, clearly a lot more thoroughly than most people.

At first glance, I got to tell you, he didn’t look menacing, or particularly vicious, to me. In fact, even after my third or fourth take, I was convinced that Niko must be wrong. That couldn’t be him. The man I was now staring at across the day room floor, at least from this vantage point, was no tough guy. He actually looked pretty passive and dimwitted. For this place, he struck me as pretty close to the bottom of the food chain. I’d run into quite a few killers in here and this guy wasn’t one of them. “What’s he doing?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Niko offered. “I guess he’s reading about himself.”

“If he is,” I said, “It’s a horror story… he and his buddies are going to fry. The reporters are telling this warm fuzzy story about Councilman Garcia, his family, his grandmother… By the time they get to court, Combs and his friends are going to look like animals, if they don’t already.”

“He does it every day now,” Niko said. “He gets the paper and goes to a table by himself.”

“It must be ‘hell’ to read. I’m sure the press has him sprouting horns by now…. I wonder what he thinks about all of it. He must really be feeling like shit about now.”

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