nancy conger

June 1, 2007

Hello. My name is Andrew and I’m nine years old and I live in Chicago. I know you won’t believe me, but my dreams and my life are getting mixed up. I am trying to find clues that I can use that will always tell me if I’m in a dream or in life. The doctor my mom took me to said it would be a good idea to write my thoughts and ideas down so that’s what I’m doing.

One test I figured out for sure is that if I ask my mom what her favorite color is in real life she always says yellow, but if I ask her in a dream she might say black, or spaceship, or she might just disappear, or she might turn out to not even be my mom. Except it doesn’t work unless she’s around, or in my dream, so I’m trying to find more tests that I can do without her, but it isn’t as easy as you think. For a while I thought that if birds flew away when you ran towards them, and then were still birds when they were in the air, it meant real life. But the other day downtown I ran towards some pigeons and they just stayed on the sidewalk pecking at a Twinkie like I wasn’t there, and then for a while I didn’t know if I was in a dream or not. Luckily I was with my mom so I could do the color test. Maybe I need a new test for birds. Or maybe they’re just too unpredictable, unlike my mom.


June 4, 2007

Hi, it’s Andrew again, and I think I may have found a new test. Last night I dreamed that I couldn’t find my mom, and every street I was on was a dead end, and none of them connected to any other streets. Also, sometimes when I looked down the streets everything was so black that everything else was invisible. I don’t think any of these things happen in real life.

I think in real life streets connect to other streets and also even at night you can always see something once your eyes get used to the dark. But the dream was scary because I never found my mom, and I couldn’t figure out how to even look for her because there weren’t any phones. And my eyes wouldn’t adjust to the dark. Maybe that could be a test too. Eyes adjusting.

When I woke up, though, my mom was in the kitchen making eggs and she told me that she would never go anywhere where I couldn’t find her. She also told me that I should try pinching myself to see if I am dreaming or not, but I only remember to do that when I’m awake. When I’m in a dream and I need to know if it’s a dream I can never do that so I told her I don’t think it works as a test.

I got this journal so I can write down my dream clues but since it’s my journal I can write whatever I want. How about some facts about myself?

1. I am adopted.
2. I was born in Laos.
3. I like living in Chicago because we have lots of neighbors who wear long dark clothes and long beards.
4. In real life Chicago animals eat things like Twinkies and Squagels. Squagels are square bagels that my mom gets me when I’m sick.
5. I like Squagels more than round bagels even though I know they taste the same.
6. I am an only child
7. My bike got stolen once because I forgot to bring it upstairs to the landing.
8. I got to skip first grade.


June 6, 2007

I think that this is real life because I’m writing in this journal but I never made that a test so I don’t know for sure. I think I can't write in dreams and I might not even have this dream journal. Mom told me that people can’t read in their dreams and that probably means that people also can’t write, but then I asked her what her favorite color was and she didn’t answer and now I don’t know if when she told me before what it was that was a dream or real life. I’m writing this right now so this must be real life but I guess I’m really not sure.


June 7, 2007

In my bedroom there are bars over the window because that’s where the fire escape is. At night, I can always hear sounds outside like car doors shutting, sirens, high heels on the sidewalk that sound like my teacher walking down the hall at school. I can sometimes hear people laughing or yelling, cats talking, tires screeching, or the bus going by, which is really loud. I like the noises. Once we went to my grandma’s house in Ohio and it was so quiet, even with the windows open, I couldn’t sleep.

I didn’t have any dreams last night so I couldn’t test out my new theory, which is that in real life pretty much everything makes noise. Like if I throw something, or trip, or someone crashes their car, or drops something into the dumpster, you can always hear it, if you’re close enough. Also, I can always talk if I want to in real life. I’m not sure yet, but I don’t think that is always true in dreams.

Yesterday my dad came over to eat dinner with us. I was excited because I hardly see him since he moved to a new apartment. But then he told me that dreams are fake and don’t matter. I know they’re fake, but I don’t think it’s true that they don’t matter, especially when you don’t even know if what is happening is a dream. I asked him what he dreams about and he said nothing but I don’t believe him. I used to hear him walking around the house at night.

I have never had a dream about him, but once he took me somewhere in the car and we were on the highway and all the cars around us seemed like they were going too fast, but they weren’t really making sounds and there was no radio and he hadn’t said anything since we left and I started to think I was in a dream and I wanted out. I asked him his favorite color and he said green but it didn’t matter because I didn’t know his favorite color in real life anyway. I don’t think I can use my dad as a dream test. Especially because he isn’t usually here.


June 8, 2007

These are things I like: writing, wizarding games for the computer, riding my new bike down the slide at the park even though I’m not supposed to. I like pad thai and Superman and frogs, which I hardly ever find, and I like the smell at the laundry mat and folding hot towels and mom’s hands because they’re never sweaty, and my Transformers, even though they’re old because they used to be my cousin’s. Also I like dollar coins and big paper, and elephants.

These are things I don’t like: hot dogs or Kool-Aid, except grape flavor. I don’t like the sandbox at the park because a bunny had babies there once and some kids touched them and the mom never came back and they died and I think their bones might still be in one corner. I don’t like dark chocolate or milk or seeing lost shoes or socks on the sidewalk. I don’t like how dad never talks enough and mom sometimes has to talk too much. I also don’t like the Hulk, hackey sacks, or the Fourth of July. And I also don’t like not being able to test my dream theories.

Tomorrow mom is taking me to the zoo, the big one you have to take the train to get to. Oh yeah, I also like taking the train, and I think I also like the zoo, even though I’ve never been before because the day we were supposed to go for school last year it rained and we watched The Lion King instead, which was boring even though it had lions in it. And I’m going to take this journal with me, because it is another thing I like.


June 9, 2007

I’m at the zoo and it’s getting dark. I can still see things.

I was with my mom and we were looking at the monkeys before and there were a lot of people around us. The monkeys were all just lying around not doing anything except one threw a piece of lettuce. I don’t know anything about monkeys but I thought they were active, so if they aren’t being active maybe it means it’s a dream. But also, it was hot out, so maybe they were just being lazy. I’m wondering because when I got tired of watching the monkeys I turned around to get mom but I didn’t see her and I pushed through the crowd and still couldn’t find her and I called her name to test out my sound theory but my voice worked even though I hoped it wouldn’t, even though it was kind of shaky, but maybe you can talk in dreams. I tried to find her but the paths in the zoo seemed like circles because I kept passing the elephants, kind of like the streets that don’t connect to other streets, and the elephants weren’t making noises, and neither were the zebras, which was good, and the curvy paths were good, and then I saw some birds and I ran towards them and scared them and they flew away really fast and it made me sad because I was really hoping they wouldn’t move, but then I remembered that that test isn’t accurate and in real life and in dreams birds stay put sometimes and sometimes they fly away, so that made me feel better, but I also still couldn’t find her, so I pinched my arm, hard, it hurt. But maybe that can happen in dreams too, I never found out and I don’t think I have enough tests, but I still can’t find my mom, so that makes this like my dream, but nothing else is really like my dream and I think that this is real life because I’m writing but I never made writing a test so I don’t know for sure, and I don’t know which side I’m on and I want it to be a dream and it’s getting dark and I’ve been in the same place for a long time, which doesn’t usually happen in dreams but it has to be a dream because in real life my mom promised she would never go anywhere where I couldn’t find her.


Nancy Conger is a graduate of Naropa University's MFA program. Her work has recently appeared in Opium Magazine online. She lives, works, and writes in Indianapolis.