Last night I dreamt that my parents and I went on a vacation. In a process that seemed quite natural, we paid for transport back in time to the 1950s. I sat down by a window in the living room of the house I grew up in.
When we arrived, I saw a Kennedy brother jump up and grasp the rope ladder attached to a zeppelin taking off from our yard. I was worried for his safety, but he called out, beaming “It’s alright! I’ll be fine; I’m a Kennedy!” The zeppelin left and for a while, I shared a perspective across from Mr. Kennedy, who still hung from the rope ladder, above New England scenery, buffeted by the wind. The sun in his eyes, he seemed manic yet completely in control—the wide face and crow’s feet dug deeper by the wind. Above us, another brother was grappling with a young blonde woman in a bikini. She teetered over the railing; he pulled her back. I lost sight of her and returned to my perspective at the living room window.
It was raining outside and red. I tried to hide tears. My parents would occasionally approach me but I would stand and change windows, and with each move the tears came with more force. At the fourth window, my mother reached for my shoulder, made contact, and I could hold back no longer. I fell into forceful sobs.
Outside, my yard was no different than it is currently constructed, yet was chopped into alternating sheets of rain and red light. I told my mother and my sisters, who had now arrived (one telling the other not to change any numbers she saw written anywhere for fear of cosmic consequences) that if I could, I would do nothing other than travel backwards in time. I wasn’t sure if it was to mourn or to learn, but mourning seemed the vanguard of the moment. I ran around Cambridge streets staring at faces, straining to fix their features in my mind, knowing that with the effort of increased perception I was hinging dangerously close to forcing myself awake. I told my family, between spasms and flashes of young Kennedy boys chasing a dog across a manicured New England lawn, that the hard part was in knowing everything here was dead in our time.
As I pulled myself together and my breath steadied, I realized that everything was not dead, but rather would die and in that, there was no difference from every storm, sensation and cataloged feature of the present. There was no warning; I awoke.
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”