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You may tell yourself, this is not my beautiful house.

I awoke in an unlit, unfamiliar room, lying on the couch in a house I didn't know. I was alone, and the house was dark and seemed unoccupied, except for me. I didn't know where I was but I didn't want to be there.

A key tumbled in a lock. A knob turned, a door squeaked, and I heard a hyperactive little dog's paws prancing on a tile floor. A man's voice said to the dog, "Get down, Gretchen." The voice sounded grumpy, and I was on that man's sofa, about to be discovered.

Everything was ridiculous, and I thought, "This has to be a dream," so I willed myself to wake up, but I didn't wake up. I scrunched my face and tried harder, and then I literally pinched my arm. When I still didn't wake up, I bit my arm, and hard, but still I was in some stranger's living room.

OK. So this was reality, a shitty reality. My arm hurt from the bite, and I listened in the dark as a man walked around in his house, petted his dog, went into his kitchen, and rattled some dishes making something to eat. Any moment, he might come into the living room to eat his sandwich or whatever and watch TV, and find me on his couch, and then I'd have some explaining to do, to him and to myself.

He walked right past the living room, though, without noticing me in the dark, and went into another room. I heard him put a plate down and open a beer or a Coke. If he was settled and eating there, I thought I might be able to sneak out of the house.

My heart pounding hard and fast, I very quietly got up from the couch, and took tender, oh-so-quiet footsteps down the hall, toward the door. The floorboards didn't creak, the dog didn't bark, the man didn't come out of his bedroom, and I carefully, quietly closed the door behind me. I had escaped.

Relieved but still desperate to get farther away, I walked halfway home before shivering and remembering that I'd left my jacket on the couch, in that house I didn't know. And my wallet was in the pocket.

I stood on the sidewalk, terrified and trying to decide what to do. At any moment, that man might wander into his living room, find my jacket on his couch, with my wallet inside, and he'd call the cops, or maybe just come to my apartment and beat me up.

So I'd have to return, sneak inside his house again, breaking & entering and tiptoeing around while he's in the next room, and get my jacket, and sneak out a second time. What else could I do?

I started walking back to that stranger's house, but circumstances were so ridiculous that I told myself, again, it had to be a dream — an impossible, insane dream. I'd never sneak into someone else's house. And if I did, I sure wouldn't fall asleep on their couch like Goldilocks. And if I got away, I wouldn't forget my damned jacket. This is not plausible.

And that's when I woke up, in my own recliner in my own apartment, still panicked but now also furious because I'd known it was a dream, and told myself to wake up, and bitten my arm, but nothing had interrupted the nightmare. I clicked the lamp on, looked at my arm — no bite marks, no pain. I'd only dreamed of biting my arm?

Even after typing all this, my heart is still racing. I'm almost as freaked out as when I first woke up, thinking I might get caught red-handed doing something I'd never do and didn't do, wouldn't do. Hell, I probably wouldn't go to someone's house even if I'd been invited.

But mostly I'm angry because — Aren't there rules in Dream Land? It's completely unfair, when you know it's a dream, to still be stuck in the dream. I am pissed off about it, but I'm an atheist so there's no place to file a complaint.

 

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