You get into bed. You try to relax, but your legs keep shaking. This is you trying to keep your mind off that joyride you had with Pa’s car—the one that ended with a busted taillight and a visit from the cops. Or your breakup with Jackie—the one that broke a few plates and a window and kept the neighbors up. Those seem miles and miles away as you try to close your eyes. You wish for a nice dream to come take you away.
A boy lies in the dust of a village in a far-flung land. A gust of wind kicks up the dust around him. The dust scrapes his back, some large bits leaving bloody scratches on his skin; it was as if the dust was eating him alive, much like his hunger is scraping the insides of his stomach. He looks around and sees that his family could not take the scrapes anymore. He closes his eyes and wishes for some bread. The bread is soft, crumbling at the boy’s touch as he tears off a piece to eat. It is sweet, causing the boy’s tongue to drip saliva at first contact. The bread goes down the boy’s throat without so much as a sound. The scrapes have stopped. The boy wakes up. The bread was but a dream. All he has to eat is the hard bits of dust blown into his mouth by the wind, tearing at his teeth and gums as he flexes his jaws and drying what little spit is left in his mouth. The scrapes continue.
Not too far away, a soldier lies in the corner of a house torn apart by bombs. The walls don’t offer much to shut out the war raging outside. He grips his rifle tight, but it’s cold and dry to the touch; after all these long years of fighting, his only friend greets him with a chilly welcome. He closes his eyes and longs to go home. The walls shut out the noise of the outside world; he can barely hear his neighbors arguing. He sees his daughter run up to him and give him a hug. It is the warmest thing he’s felt in years. He gives his wife a kiss. Her lips are moist and sweet, and remind him of apple pie. He wakes up, something warm and moist trickling down his arm. He looks at the red, gaping hole in his arm. He licks the blood away, the sour, metallic taste upsetting him. “Certainly no apple pie,” he muses.
Across the seas, much closer to home, a thief ducks into an alley, in a desperate attempt to escape from his quarry. He sighs with relief as the red and blue lights whiz by. The police haven’t gotten whiff of his position. He slumps onto the wall, his legs wobbling beneath him. His sweat trickles down his neck, doing little to help him keep his head up. He lowers his head and closes his eyes, and sees a clean and silent hospital room. His young son lies on the bed, his skin white as the sheets covering him. The silence is broken by a rough, raspy cough from the child. The thief looks into his bag. His money is gone, and in its place, bottles of medicine. He opens one and helps his son drink a tablet. The silence is again broken, but by a soft, gentle chuckle from the child. The thief wakes up, and sees no red and blue light in sight. He turns his gaze toward the dark alley and scurries off into the night, not heeding the trembling in his legs.
You wake up, still in your bed. You realize that you’ve been dreaming the most vivid dream you’ve ever dreamt. You get out of your room, you say sorry to your father or you call Jackie up to apologize, and you go up to your room once more. You realize that the “problematic” life you’ve been living pales in comparison to the world of hunger, pain, and fear that some people live in. You now no longer treat dreams as getaways from your problems, but symbols of hope, because now you know that for someone out there, dreamland is his only home.
Daniel Valbuena is a Davaoeno studying writing in UP Diliman.