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[Readings]

Fever Dreams

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From accounts of dreams reported during the novel coronavirus pandemic, collected in March and April by Erin Gravley and Grace Gravley on their “i dream of covid” website.

I was wandering around a medieval city looking for a nice place to get ice cream and found a store with many flavors, but I only wanted watermelon. Some flavors resembled the coronavirus structure—a ball with little spikes around it—while others looked like the inside of a mouth. I took my watermelon ice cream, paid with pencils and little holy images, and left.

My family arrived in the city, the center of which was a massive neon supermarket with rigid shopping rules. We were each attached to a cart, which hovered a foot above the floor. The products were floating at eye level, like treats in a video game. We were only allowed to purchase the food that we passed, like Pac-Man.

Every time I picked up an item to place it in my cart, it coughed or sneezed.

My cat instructed me to buy a certain brand of chicken, but I told her it was too expensive. At checkout, the cashier said, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but you’ll have to submit the paperwork for your chicken later. The system can’t find the part number.” I apologized and asked where I would find the part number on a chicken carcass. She said not to worry, to just provide a description and photos, and the store would figure it out.

I helped a woman carry some bags to her car. When we finished, she turned to me with a menacing smile and reached out to thank me with a hug. I thought it was a joke and started to back away, but she followed me. I tried to run, but she was too close. I pushed her away and yelled, “You are killing me!”

I began dating a wonderful woman. She was going to break up with me unless I got a decent haircut. I despaired. It was impossible!

I engaged in inappropriate physical contact with several co-workers at a long-term care facility. I exchanged casual kisses with married staff members during breaks, moved another into my house, and instructed a female colleague as to how to properly pleasure herself with a Snickers ice-cream bar.

A friend and I were sitting on the veranda of an old building overlooking a big field with trees and red flowers. The flowers whispered to me that we had died from the virus and would return in spring as red flowers.

I arrived at a center for mandatory instant testing, waited in a short line, and when my results came back positive, I was instructed to get inside a six-by-two-by-two-foot wooden box, in which I would be held in isolation until the pandemic was over. The boxes were stacked in a gigantic trench.

I informed my surgeon that I was canceling my elective surgery to remove and then reattach my hands.

I was in a hospital gown. My fallopian tubes were in a jar that was infected with the virus. The doctor was explaining how they were going to put the tubes back in my body. I cried and couldn’t catch my breath.

I was watching a video on social media depicting two dying women, covered in blood, who had just been shot. In the background, I heard cheering and clapping, and people were calling them heroes, but nobody was helping them.

I was watching a news report about spring breakers who were not taking social distancing seriously. The report showed a horse-drawn hearse carrying stacked caskets and mourners traveling slowly down the streets of New Orleans. Several students jumped on top of the caskets, intending to surf on them, and crashed through the windows of a restaurant where people dressed in funeral attire were dining. The caskets broke open, with dead bodies and splinters flying everywhere, exposing everyone to the virus.

In church, I saw ladies I knew, and they were wearing awful white wigs with curls flat against the bouffant. “We’re all at home now,” they said. “We can wear our hair however we want.” Then it was night, and people in mourning were standing around outside, lit up by a vague glow. It was as if they were illuminated by a bonfire, but there was no flame. A friend with a shawl over her head looked gloomily in the direction the glow should have been coming from.

I returned to the city in Romania where I had been living before the outbreak. I ran into a bunch of people from my high school English class working at a coffee shop that I liked. I asked why the shop was open. They said that the city had cut itself off from the rest of the world because it had zero cases. We could do anything as long as we stayed within the city limits. After walking the streets, my friends and I ate Crown Fried Chicken on a bench outside a Communist memorial and cried for our old lives.

I was at my grandmother’s house cleaning piles of personal protective equipment and NBA uniforms. The gowns, head coverings, booties, shorts, and jerseys were not made of standard materials, but of heavy, silky nylon in beautiful colors. As I wiped a Phoenix Suns practice jersey with disinfectant, Jimmy Butler of the Miami Heat walked in the back door and surveyed my work. He flashed me a grateful smile.


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July 2020