Before Sylpha had any children, she used to train her dreams.
After dinner and before bed she sat on the edge of her comforter and breathed deep for two minutes straight. She towed the air in through her mouth and hooked her lips closed so it would have nowhere to go. She hoped it might bulge under her skin, and she’d look like she’d been set to a boil until the free space inside her met the free space inside her and she grew so big she tore through the roof and the house got tight around her waist.
Then she’d be big enough to pick her dreams up by the scruff of their necks, those big wild things that won’t stop snarling and scratching and splitting off and growing in every direction until you get so tired of tracking their limbs that you figure it’s easier to just wake up.
It’s a Haitian thing. If something big is gonna happen to you or someone close to you, good or bad, you’ll feel it even when you’re closed shut, asleep. If it’s big it’ll be clumsy. You won’t need your eyes or your ears to know it’s coming. Your dreams will give you hints about it.
Sylpha’s great aunt Fiona has three sets of twins, and she told Sylpha that before she found out she was pregnant with every pair, she dreamed of two yuca roots as thick around as her head. That when she dreamed she found herself clinging to the walls of a house with no floor, used nails as sharp as talons to cut into the hard cement and to climb across into the first room she could find. It would always be a bathroom, and the two roots would always be on the counter, so big they curled into the sink bowl, one on top of the other.
And Sylpha’s wanted twins ever since she first realized that’s what her cousins are. The thought that a body had made two of something just because it could… there was something cocky and beautiful and ridiculous about it that had Sylpha looking at each set of twins, even when she was little and much younger than any of them, with the insomniatic intensity of somebody who wanted something so bad they’d taken to waking up in the middle of the night to see if they’d gotten it yet.
So, Sylpha used to train her dreams. She tried to force it. Whenever she and Arlo were finished having sex and they’d taken their shower, Arlo would try to stay up with her, let her cord together her love for Sade and her “obsession” (that’s what Arlo loved to call it, but he was wrong. He was! She only watched it whenever it came on because she liked to critique it) with Voyager in explanations that only made sense to her. But he never could. So she’d get some time to sit there and make herself big before she slept, so she could grab her dreams by the backs of their necks and make them take her to the house with no floor.
But when Cari comes, she comes alone. Cari has a full head of hair and these pretty beauty marks that stumble across her marble-round face like it’s accidental. Sylpha thinks of black seeds spilled across a cherry wood tabletop. Sylpha lays on her side and stares at her daughter all night, sleeping small inside her hard plastic case. The door’s shut up so tight the light from the hallway can’t squirm even a single finger through the space between the hinges or the spot between the sill and floor. The only flashes that stumble into the room to interrupt the dark come from the moon. They scatter across the linoleum between her bed and her daughter’s crib like quarters. It’s like Sylpha can hear them. The baby hears them too and she wakes up to cry.
When Sylpha holds Cari, she is heavy in her arms though she weighs nothing. Sylpha realizes that it must be her, not the baby, because her blood’s too stiff. It feels like what she feels when she looks at Arlo or her cousins, like love but hardened over. Is it ever supposed to feel like this? She’s so dense she knows if she moves around too much she’ll fall through the second floor and take the whole hospital with her. There’s no way she can hold love like this for more than one thing at a time but it’s like she can’t help it, she can’t help but wonder what would have happened if Cari had a twin. If she’d made another person for her.
Juliana Lamy is an author university student finishing a bachelor’s degree in history & literature. She plays with realism in her writing primarily through engagement with characters who dance along the line of legality/absurdity. She is originally from Haiti, and is venturing into writing in English.
Photography by: Abe B. Ryokan