I sat up gasping, out of breath. I looked around, realizing I was in the bathtub. Did I fall asleep? No, another dream. Another nightmare. I quickly got out of the tub, dressing in my usual pajamas without bothering to dry off. I emptied the tub, then left the bathroom, walking down the hall to my room. When I laid down in bed, I dug my fingers into my eyes trying to get rid of the images in my head.
God they felt so real.
This time I was in a business meeting, three piece Armani suit, tailored to fit me. The board members sat around the table, unhappy with my latest decision. But I didn’t care, I was going forward with it. I was stepping down as active CEO, taking a back seat, letting someone else run the daily functions, while I maintained my position on the board. I’d still make money, but it was time for me to take a step back. I didn’t want them to know I was slowly losing my mind with visions of myself doing–
What was I doing? I don’t know. In these dreams, I could feel myself struggling with reality and fantasy, I was struggling maintaining the company, I was struggling in every relationship I had, but I couldn’t figure out why. Why was I struggling? What visions was I having?
I sometimes had memories, within these visions, of me as a child. I would remember empty bottles of Jack Daniels on the counter tops, with chipped, dirty glasses and dishes everywhere. I would remember pain, searing, debilitating pain, but I would never cry. I would remember yelling “dad” at the top of my lungs, to distract the man that was hitting a woman.
But that wasn’t my dad.
That wasn’t my family. That wasn’t how I grew up. But it looked just like me. It sounded just like me. That’s what I looked like growing up. But it wasn’t me. I was going crazy. In my dreams and in reality. No matter what happened, no matter where I was, I was going crazy. Sometimes I wondered if when I the billionaire CEO was my reality. If when I thought I woke up, I was really dreaming then.
I sat on my twin bed, looking around the small room. I looked at the dresser that had only four drawers. Those four drawers didn’t have many clothes in them. I live a simple life. Simple, but good. My parents where great people. Amazing people. And they loved me fiercely, never laid a hand on me. Our house was always clean, all the dishes were washed and put away after we used them. My father kissed my mother before leaving for work every morning, and kissed her when he came home. They loved each other.
They loved me.
They passed away almost two years ago, but I can still feel their love. It keeps me going even on my hardest days. I seem to be having a lot of hard days. The nightmares keep me up, give me headaches, make me sick. I can’t keep doing this to myself. Every time I fall asleep, I wake up drenched in sweat. I can’t take it anymore. I live a good life now, good but simple. Before the night terrors, I would wake up and be happy, ready to start my day. I’d get breakfast at the cafe downstairs, near my apartment, and go to work. My job isn’t a fun one, I don’t make a lot of money, but I enjoy it. I’m a nurse at a nursing home, and although I like my patients, I don’t like the duties that come with working with the elderly. It can get gross. When I come home, I make a small dinner, and relax. Read a book. Watch TV. Nothing special.
I check the clock and see that it’s almost six in the morning. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I took a bath hoping to relax. It obviously worked since I fell asleep, but more time passed then I thought, and I need to be up in an hour anyway for work. I decide to just get up.
I take off the pajamas that I just put on, and put my scrubs on. I look in the mirror, seeing my short blonde hair a mess, even though I’ve run my fingers through it to try to clean it up. The bags under my eyes are getting worse, my green eyes and pale skin looking worse for the wear. Not good.
I try to keep my routine, to keep my sanity. Before I go to the little cafe in the downstairs, I grab the mail that I forgot to get yesterday, then grab a cup of coffee and a muffin.
“Conner, hey!” I turn and see a friend of mine that lives in my apartment building, Mason. He’s around my height, just over 6 feet tall. While I’m light all around, Mason is dark. Dark skin, short black hair, dark eyes that look more black than brown. He’s wearing a business suit, compared to my scrubs.
“Mase, man, what’s up?”
“Nothing, just thinking I might propose to Clara tonight.” He runs his fingers through his hair, and I can tell he’s unsure.
“That’s great, man. Clara’s awesome,” I smile and hug him. We chat a bit more, more small talk, and promise to get together to watch the football game this Sunday before moving on to work.
When I get there, I see my best friend at work, Melissa. We both smile as we greet each other. Melissa’s a doctor at the nursing home, and I work with her sometimes. Mostly, I work with another doctor, Dr. Jude Ramirez.
I can see the concern on her face as she looks me over. She puts her hand on my forearm as I’m checking into work.
“Conner, are you still getting the nightmares?” She asks softly. I look down at her, because she’s much shorter than me. Her blonde hair is a shade darker than mine, and pulled up into a ponytail. Her blue eyes stare up at me, sympathy shining through her eyes. “Why don’t you come into my office and talk about them?”
I just sigh and nod my head, yes. I go to the locker room. As I put my mail in my locker, a letter falls to the floor. When I pick it up, it’s addressed to me, but I don’t recognize the return address. I open it, then can feel myself frowning.
I hope this finds you well. You don’t know me, and there is no reason you should. I should start by saying a couple months ago, I started having dreams. Dreams of a better life than the one I had. Dreams of being a nurse and working with the elderly. I’m a CEO for a Fortune 500 company and have never been to a nursing home. Ever. I started looking into my background, and found things I couldn’t possibly believe. I have put copies of those things in this letter. One of those things is my birth certificate, and yours. It turns out that we are twins. You were given up for adoption by our parents, but they kept me. I never even knew you existed until I started having these dreams. I want to come visit you. Please, call me. Let me know if we can meet.
I pull out the copies of the birth certificates, the adoption records, everything that proves that I have a twin. I have a twin. One that has been having dreams, while I have nightmares. He’s a CEO, and he’s dreaming of being a nurse, while I’m a nurse dreaming of being a CEO. What the hell is going on.
I leave the locker room, in search of Melissa, with the documents in my hand. Maybe she can help me. I find her in her office, sitting at her computer. I knock on the door, and I can feel panic starting to bubble in my throat. Panic I’ve never felt before.
“Conner, please, come in,” Melissa smiles, and I tell her about my dreams.
“The nightmares are getting worse, Melissa. I’m barely sleeping,” I pull my fingers through my hair. “The worst ones aren’t the ones where I’m wearing clothes I’ve never seen before, or where I’m in a city I’ve never visited. It’s the memories of being abused. And I know-”
“Conner, we’ve talked about this.” And I know I won’t tell her about the letter I received. “You need to take your medicine. It’s going to help you,” she says softly. It’s comforting, but a lie.
“Melissa, the doctor gave me sleeping pills. They just keep me trapped in these nightmares for longer. I can’t take it.” I look at my watch on my wrist and sigh, “I’ve gotta get back to work. I’ll talk to you later.”
I get up and go about my day, while wondering about the letter, and about Colin.
At lunch, I sit in the cafeteria with my cell phone in hand and text the number that was in the letter.
Me: Colin? This is Conner.
Colin: I’m so glad you got in contact with me. Would you be willing to meet with me?
I wait a few minutes before he responds.
Colin: I’m in town. Near you. I had hoped you would want to meet.
Me: I work at the nursing home on Walnut. Want to meet me there? We can grab dinner. I get out of work at five.
Colin: Perfect. I’ll meet you there.
I breathe out a sigh of relief. And I wait until it’s time for me to clock out.
My day moves slowly, the time crawls, and I can feel anxiety knot in my stomach. I try to push through it, and focus on my patients, but it’s not easy. I keep checking the time. It’s obsessive, and I know it. I can’t help it. It seems every five minutes, on the dot, I am checking the time. First the clocks on the wall, then my watch, then the clock on the wall again. At 4:58 I am in the locker room, grabbing my things and the mail that I put in there earlier. Before I can leave to clock out, Melissa stops me.
“Conner, we need to talk.”
“Melissa, please not now. I’m meeting someone.”
She looks at me and sighs.
“Conner, I found this in my office. You dropped it after you left,” she holds out the copy of my adoption record. “Your not taking your medicine, and I’m not talking about the sleeping pills. You’re not talking to Dr. Ramirez. I’ve seen you check the clock all day. This is a problem. I’ve spoken to Dr. Ramirez, and he’s going to meet us in my office. Let’s go talk to him.”
“No, Melissa, you don’t understand. Those records are proof. I have a twin. I was put up for adoption. He’s been having the same dreams as me. But of my life. Look,” I pull out the letter and show it to her. She looks at it and bites her bottom lip.
“Come with me,” as we walk out of the locker room, I look to the front door and see him. Colin. He smiles, but I can see the bags under his eyes, just like mine. I smile too and wave him over.
“Melissa, look. This is Colin. I told you. I have a twin.”
Melissa looks at the both of us, and I can see more concern crinkling her brows. She says “follow me” to the both of us, and we go to her office. Dr. Ramirez is waiting for us there. He’s tall, but not as tall as I am. His skin tone is darker, but not like Mason. Just tan, but a natural tan. His brown hair is cut short. Close to his head. His brown eyes look over at me and are filled with worry. Colin and I make our way into the office but there’s not much more room. He motions for me to sit so I do, while he stands in the back.
“Look, I know I haven’t been taking the sleeping pills–”
“Or any of the medication,” Dr. Ramirez interrupts.
“I don’t need it. Look, you see Colin? He sent me a letter. He told me he’s having nightmares too. He told me we’re twins.”
“Conner,” he sighs again. “We’ve talked about this. You’ve talked about this with Melissa. Those nightmares are your memories. They are not your twins memories. You were the one being abused.” I shake my head.
“No, no that’s not true. In my nightmares I’m a CEO. But I’m a nurse.”
“Conner. You were the CEO for one of the top marketing firms in the country. You couldn’t handle it anymore. You’re not a nurse.”
I keep shaking my head.
“Colin is real. He’s right there.” I turn around to look at Colin, but he’s not there anymore. I shake my head to clear it and look, and there he is. He’s got his hands in his pockets, and he’s wearing a suit.
“Conner,” Melissa says. I turn around to look at her. “There’s no one there. You did have a twin but he died a long time ago. You were both abused by your father, and he died because of that. You went into foster care, and found a loving family. They adopted you when you were fifteen. You went on to become very successful, but when they passed away two years ago, you had a breakdown. You were admitted here, to this hospital, to help you get better. You’ve been here for two years. When you first got here, you were saying that Colin was alive, that he was a nurse somewhere in the mid-west. You wouldn’t listen to anyone. You were making progress with the medication, but you stopped taking it when we trusted you to take it on your own. That’s why your having nightmares again. That’s why you’ve brought Colin back from the dead.” On her desk, is a little cup with medication in it, and she pushes it towards me.
“Conner, you need this to get better. So you can leave. Colin is real, but he’s no longer alive. If you don’t take the medicine Melissa gave you, then you will be monitored again. All day, every day.”
“What about Mason? He’s my friend. He was going to propose tonight. He works in the stock market. We live in the same building.”
“Mason is another patient here. His room is on your floor. Clara is a nurse. They’re not together.” Dr. Ramirez states this matter-of-fact. I put my hands to my temples. What the hell is going on?
“Conner,” Melissa says. I look up at her and she gives me a small smile. “Take the medicine. If you don’t, you will not be able to ever get out of here. Talk to Dr. Ramirez and myself. We can help you. We want to help you.”
I see Colin move out of the corner of my eye. Melissa and Dr. Ramirez don’t look in his direction, but I hear him speak softly. Almost a whisper.
I take the medication, and they both smile. As I leave, making my way to the cafeteria, I can feel the medicine kicking in. I lose my energy as I slump into my chair. The words Colin spoke repeating in my head.
Take the medicine. Get out of here. They’re lying to you.