My Brother Died Twice

I don’t understand why I see the things I do in the middle of the night. I just know that they petrify me. The bits I’ve managed to remember alone terrify me and I’m thankful for what I’ve forgotten.

My brother, almost 3 years my senior, was in a basement with a bullet that had pierced through his stomach. The wound had perforated his body creating a massive crater in the middle of his body. Inactive, silent. Just a gaping, crimson hole. It was as if a massive bullet – a menacing and oversized Bullet Bill – had crashed into his back and with full pressure, thrust itself out the other side. Like a jar of packed jam. The glutton ruining its perfection by scooping the insides with his three plump fingers, licking them voraciously, staring at that gaping, crimson hole, a testament to his greed.

A man, a sacerdotal man, sat beside my brother and tended to his wounds. He was sleeping, somehow alive, perhaps comatose. Stretched out on a makeshift hospital bed in a dim room with pale green walls the color of sickness and despair.

Fade to wakefulness.

My brother, again, sleeping, somehow alive, perhaps comatose. This time, a bullet to his head. This time, I approached the religious man tending to his wound, and angrily yet fearfully exclaimed, “If you don’t save him, I will kill you!” I felt utter desperation. Looking at my brother, being watched by a man of God with no discernible medical training, in an inexplicably puke-green room, no indication as to how my brother became injured or who the other man was – nothing. I was simply in a situation, reacting to it, not understanding it, and experiencing great fear through every second of it.

And somewhere in between everything, my favorite mirror broke. No, shattered. I touched it as I usually do, and it simply fell apart. A thousand little pieces of magnified glass crumbled with the utmost ease while the other side of the mirror was none the wiser to the destruction of its other half.


They say in Lebanon, that if you dream that someone died, you have renewed their life. Last night, my brother died twice. Today, he will live twice more.

© Leila Chammas, December 31, 2016.


A Boxer, a Van, and a Tortoise.

I was standing in an open garage and looked out to the front lawn to see a white plastic table, about 3 feet tall, with a huge tortoise on top of it. It was hidden inside its shell. To the right, a dusty, emerald-green minivan parked at an angle. Not accidentally or with any indication of emergency. Rather, it was parked calmly and eerily with intention at an angle. An aging boxer was remarkably sitting in the driver’s seat, the fur on his face had faded to white around his eyes and jowls.

I walked over to the van and the boxer jumped out of the open window and stood, barking at me. Two cars passed by – one red, one blue. I don’t think there was any significance in the coloring of the vehicles; I just happened to remember them. I tried to coax the dog to approach me so that I might grab his leash. However, in a flash, he had jumped into another car, crashed it into the side of the garage, and was running through the open garage door and into the house, an excessively long leash trailing behind him. Meanwhile the tortoise, still hidden in its shell, had turned itself to face me as I watched, in shock, a dog I could not command run with a speed I could not match, through a house I was not in. Inside, they shrieked and screamed.

I wasn’t afraid of the boxer. I was worried he would get hurt, confused by the tortoise on the plastic table, and mystified by the parked van.

I then woke up, stressed, as I often do.

© Leila Chammas, December 22, 2016.

Aztec Nightmare

I was driving down a main street and I distinctly remember thinking it was dark out far too early, even for wintertime in New England. The sky was vast and charcoal grey. But it wasn’t just dark, it was empty. There was a contagious feeling of hopelessness permeating the atmosphere, one that was unmistakably signified by a sun that had refused to rise. An Aztec nightmare coming to fruition. The feeling seeped down from the sky, a godless abomination clawing its way into me. Trickling down from my head to my toes, I was filled with angst and the kind of sadness that floods the body and morphs into depression with heavy determination.

I was the sky.

I was driving towards doom, into a dim sky. Everything was stopping. The sun had not risen. It wasn’t temporary; we knew that that was it. The sun didn’t just not rise, it had stopped rising altogether. That was the end and I was somehow existing beyond it.

In my sleep, I felt it all for a mere few minutes but remembered it for days.

© Leila Chammas, December 14, 2016

A Beach in New Orleans

Last night, I was on a beach in New Orleans. The sand was warm. The water was warm. The sun was shining brightly against a clear, blue sky. The radio warned of a storm of sorts but there were no warning signs at that moment.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the calm ocean waves began to rage. Over a mile high, curved like a snail’s shell, thick and blue, powerful and daunting. One wave after the next. Massive and forceful. Curling up in preparation of a brutal smack down on the sand. The sky had turned a deep, deep shade of navy blue. It almost looked sad, heavy, sorrowful at having to preside over such a tragedy. Beachgoers were being swallowed by the waves. Some would attempt to out-swim them. Trying to speed towards the sand only to have the wave drag them there anyway. That’s silly. I watched for the approaching wave and, as it got closer to me, I held my breath and plunged towards the bottom and straight towards the oncoming wave. The key is to let the wave wash over you, not let it grab hold of you. I dodged wave after wave, successfully avoiding being thrust, limb by limb, to the watery sands. That was silly of me too. I awoke from a faint to screams. People were bustling all over the beach, running in every direction, collecting their loved ones, collecting their things, fighting the waves in an attempt to gently make it to shore or giving in to them and risking being thrown violently towards the sea floor, into a boulder, into someone else. I don’t know if anyone got caught in the wave’s current but, if they did, I hoped they could swim well and were strong. Each wave pulled from the shore in preparation for the lunge, clawing at the shore’s sands with two large oceanic, bony hands, dragging clumps of sand back into the waters to fill its gullet for the push. And then the buildup; to get caught in the midst of that power struggle would be a death sentence for a weak or inexperienced swimmer. Their limbs would be pulled in whichever direction, defying gravity. Up would become down and down would become nowhere in particular. It’s happening so quickly there’s no time to think where the air might be. The water is so powerful it takes effort to hold your nostrils shut. And then the sprawl happens. A massive wave, pent-up energy, a colossal undulation barreling towards the sand, taking with it anything caught in its body, to be splayed out, loudly and violently on the shore like paint splattered frantically on canvas. Not many would survive that.

I woke up to screaming. Soaked on the sand under a navy blue sky, the background a possessed ocean. I ran towards the chalet – a white, brick building with three floors where vacationers stayed during the summer and few lived year-round. I somehow made it to a third floor balcony and hid behind the massive red and white pinstripe shade. I could see each wave thrashing and felt splashes of water hit various parts of my body as the water began to cover my toes. I wasn’t safe there. I was trying to dodge the waves but still got soaked. I looked towards the sky and saw that the sun, at the height of all the chaos, had turned a bruised shade of purple. It was the most bizarre thing I’d ever seen. In the waters below, a dark ship floating almost menacingly behind the waves let out black steam that drifted towards the sun.

I don’t remember how but I made it to the building where people from the beach had been escaping for safety. It was beginning to rain in New Orleans. Dozens of people crowded in this grey, cinderblock building – drenched, scared, shocked, and on the verge of hypothermia. And the rain… . The nightmare we collectively experienced wasn’t just at the beach; a part of it followed us here. It was raining and the water in the streets was bright red and foamy. Something was horribly wrong. This was unnatural in every way. Katrina was back to taunt the city. I was afraid, petrified, cold, wet, nervous. I walked down a dim hall, passing several people, all somehow dressed in grey, sitting or standing outside doors, anxiously waiting for something or someone. The soaked carpet squished under the pressure of my footsteps.

She was sitting at a table with four other colleagues discussing who-knows-what but I needed her help so I interrupted and asked if I could see her for literally just a few minutes. Please. We walked into her office and she folded her arms. She’s a psychiatrist; she’ll understand. “Please, I’m freaking out. I need some Klonopin. Just a few pills; I can cut them up. I just need a small amount, just in case I have a really bad panic attack. I… it’s… everyone’s scared.” It could be days before everything dries up. Even in sunny New Orleans. There’s water just about everywhere and it’s more than the human mind can tolerate. She gave me a big, white, plastic, oval-shaped container the size of both my palms put together. I opened it to find massive blue pills, some smaller purple and green ones too. “I don’t need all this. I should be fine with just a few Klonopins.”

“They’re the same thing,” she says, and puts a bunch of small white flowers in with the pills. “These will help you relax.”

I woke up shortly after only to fall back asleep. I woke up again on the same beach, from what seemed to be sedation, to find that a female (a dentist, I presume) at the beach had performed a root canal treatment on me without my consent. According to her I needed it, but I certainly didn’t want it and, at that point, there was no use arguing.

© Leila Chammas, October 31, 2016




Cold Shower

Two nights ago, in one of my more benign dreams, I was awake, at home, taking a shower. Everything was normal and, in the moment, there wasn’t any indication of anything about my surroundings being unreal. For all intents and purposes, I was awake.

I’m standing in the shower and the water is pouring over me, around me, through me, and under me. I’ve turned the valve to the right for hot water but it’s still cold. This has never happened before and I somehow know it’s not a mechanical issue; the shower’s reluctance to grant me warm water is almost malicious. I have no idea why, I just know that I’ve turned the valve increasingly to the right and the water’s temperature has not yielded one degree in the right direction.

I’m cold, I’ve showered cold, and then woken up agitated yet fully aware that the distress I experienced in my sleep is mild. I’ve experienced worse and worse is yet to come.

© Leila Chammas, October 25, 2016

Different Styles of Insomnia

I don’t actively remember ever sleeping well. When I was a baby, sure, even through my teens maybe. But as of my 20s, sleep has often been a problem, one that has taken various forms.

There’s the inability to fall asleep at a normal rate. Within about 20 minutes of placing my head on the pillow, I should be surrendering to the Sandman. But no, for whatever reason, I am awake -almost wide awake- with an odd restlessness plaguing my mind. It’s almost as if something is happening, somewhere, something I should be bearing witness to but instead I’m in bed, uselessly. I’m waiting. Waiting to get up, waiting to fall asleep, waiting for my mind to let go of the alternate reality it has chosen to drift off to without my consent, leaving me with only the feeling one gets when they’ve realized they’re late to a meeting and have decided to simply not go at all. A lingering sense of angst remains for the duration of what would have been the meeting, as one guiltily carries on with other things. Then it’s 2 PM and the meeting would have been over if it had ever happened so the mind slowly rests knowing that, at this point, there’s nothing it can do.

There’s the inability to sleep without waking up multiple time for no obvious reason. I’m in and then out, in and back out. Of sleep. Up, then down. Up and back down. I don’t know why. I’m not stressed, I’m not hungry, I don’t need to pee. Yet here I am, at 11.30 PM, 1.15 AM, 3.46 AM, eyes slowly open for no obvious reason whatsoever.

And then there’s the worst of them all: the inability to sleep without dreaming, vividly and torturously.

These are my collection of nightmares.

© Leila Chammas, October 25, 2016