Afraid to sleep - By Mizeta Moon

“Why did you scream?” The nurse asked as she inspected my bandages and checked my temperature. The orderly stood by the door with muscles flexed like he expected to confront an intruder. When he saw there was nothing wrong, he shrugged, and walked away. “I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s those nightmares again. I’m afraid to sleep because they get more powerful each time and I’m not sure whether I’m awake and they’re real or just bad dreams.” 

“Would you like a sedative?” 

“No. That makes it harder to focus when I wake up.” 

The nurse’s short gray hair was tousled and her red-rimmed tired eyes showed a burning desire for that which I feared. I knew the small hospital’s staff was stretched thin by the pandemic and treating the victims of a suicide bombing was pushing them to the brink of collapse. I felt bad for requiring her attention. She might have finally had a moment to rest before I screamed. 

“I’ll be okay,” I said. “I’ll try not to bother you again unless I really need something.” 

She smiled, rose, and ran a soothing hand across my forehead. “Thanks. Someone will look in on you in a while.” 

After she left, I lie thinking about how I got there. I should have thought about pleasant things to reduce my trauma but images of recent events were too powerful to ignore. If we’d gone somewhere else for lunch, I wouldn’t be partially paralyzed and my wife and kids wouldn’t be dead. Every thought of them brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t try to stifle them even though I could raise my hand to wipe them away. 

The kids wanted pizza. I wanted a big juicy burger but my wife sided with the kids and we went to Sal’s. Parking wasn’t easy to find but the short walk back to the restaurant was made pleasant by autumn colors and a bright sunny day. The kids would be back in school come Monday so my earlier grumpiness about not getting a burger dissipated as I watched them eat what they referred to as their last meal before going back to the torture chamber. Little did we know how prophetic such words were. According to the news I watched when I finally came to, a disgruntled employee Sal fired three weeks earlier packed his car with explosives and drove it over the curb into the huge window we were sitting by. The roar as the bomb went off and the sounds of agony from injured diners still ring in my ears. Broken glass was everywhere and smoke filled the air as flames from the damaged pizza oven spread. I couldn’t move my legs. Evidently, the car ran over them as it smashed into our table and killed my family. I could move my head enough to see their broken bleeding bodies covered with shards and debris. My daughter’s favorite stuffed dinosaur lie stained in a pool of her blood. Eleven people died and a dozen were injured that day. Now, I’m faced with a long rehab and a lonely existence when I can go home again. I do best when I don’t fall asleep because I can eventually focus on something like raindrops on the window for comfort. While dreaming there’s nothing to stop horrible images crowding in. 


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