The only way I know I’m awake is if I’m wearing a red shirt.
In dreams, color is muted and blurred so red stands out. It reminds me of safety. Bright and stimulating. The color at the edge of a perfect sunset. A surefire path to a warm reality.
See, I spend my day in dreams. Mostly other peoples. Some folks think it’s strange I wake from my own slumber to return to sleep for strangers, but people have memories they want cleaned. That’s right: cleaned. We don’t say erased. Cleaned is more pleasing to the ear and more importantly the soul.
Slipping from one consciousness to the next, I identify the memory in question through the dream and get to work cleaning it into something palatable. It manifests differently in every person and takes a well trained eye to sniff out. I’ve been at this for half my life so I can spot a bad memory in a quick shake. They have a blackish haze to them. Not a glow but a dim–that’s how I like to explain it.
Such keen training means the haze others mistake as the confusing smog in dreams is a crystal clear sign to me. So much so that lately I’ve been seeing those dim shimmers in my own dreams. Like a shadow stalking through my otherwise whimsical interludes, clouding the depth of emptiness between rest. They’ve spread, stretching like a fungus over everything. Unfortunately, cleaning isn’t something you can do to yourself. And frankly, it doesn’t come cheap. I may make a pretty penny for my skills but you’d be surprised the premium a clean conscious comes with. So I try to ignore them.
The fog is everywhere now, though. Last week, when I went to the city for a show, the shadow loomed over the buildings, taunting me with a question. I took second glances at every blur. I know it’s just my aging eyes, but I can’t help but look again at every possible blur. Even now, during my lunch breaks, as the otherwise bight room flickers with darkness I wonder…am I awake?
But no, this is what’s real. I know because each time my red shirt is there to welcome me with a different hue. Maroon. Scarlet. Brick Red. Crimson. Each color a friendly wave, a happy reminder. I find it strange, however, the day I dive into a dream and discover my one link to reality still draped over my skin. I know I checked into the lab. I know I linked into the dream. And yet, inside a vast chasm of a millionaire’s thoughts, I am still wearing red.
Stranger still, I don’t feel the panic of being un-tethered from reality. I feel relief.