When I woke that morning, all the signs pointed to one lesson — I don’t belong. From the song playing on the alarm clock, to the angry neighbor who growled at me for stepping into the hallway.
I ignored the signs as just my overactive imagination and went to class.
When the Dragonfly buzzed into the classroom, he hovered over each student until flying over the stage at the front of the room and transforming. The iridescent purple and blue of his dragonfly form carried over into the costume he wears today which, miraculously enough, isn’t that unusual. He’s wearing blue flannel pajamas and a purple nightcap.
“We have different experiences in sleep, don’t we?” he said, touching a finger to his cheek in a strangely curious manner.
He glances around the classroom and nods toward one particular student near the far corner of the room. The student, a new kid many of us have never seen before, seems to be in a world of his own.
Teacher calls us around him and we approach the sleeping student. The kid, his round head resting in some kind of pretzel position on the rolled-up backpack on his desk, is breathing deep, regular breaths that would make any insomniac jealous.
“Do you think he’s dreaming?” Teacher asks.
I shrug, as do many others. Irreverent Ivan is more vocal. “Don’t all people dream?” he says, not caring if his voice wakes the sleeping student.
“You would think, wouldn’t you?” Teacher says. “We all are, after all, working or learning after we nod off to sleep.”
He steps away from the kid and signals us to return to our seats. “Let’s let him continue his studies.”
But as we walk back, the room transforms into some kind of barracks with row upon row of single beds.
“What, dear students, do you do when you sleep?” He grabs a pillow and sits, legs crossed, at the end of a bed that has been placed on his stage. His bed, however, is not a military-style single. The mattress he sits on is thick and it’s sitting on top of 20 others so that he towers over us.
“You’ve heard the story of the Princess and the Pea, right? If the girl sleeping on the mattress piled one on top of the other could feel the small pea placed under the stack, then she was a real princess.” He rolls his head and steps off his bed, landing, without a sound, at the foot of his bed.
He reaches under the head of his mattress and pulls out a pea. “I mean, really. This is so annoying.”
He flicks the pea across the room and it bounces off the sleeping student’s nose, waking him. “Good morning, sleepy head. How was school?” Teacher’s voice is as sweet as a kindly grandmother’s.
“What?” the dazed kid wipes drool from his chin and glances around at all of us watching him.
“How was school?” Teacher asks again. “Did you have dreams? Were they vivid and lifelike or more like something out of a Manga fairy tale?”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the kid, still dazed, shrugs. “I won’t do it again.”
“Oh, my boy, what you don’t understand is that you are the lesson today.
Some of us snicker, assuming Teacher is playing a joke on him, but he’s not.
“Did you have dreams?” he asks again.
“Um,” the kid runs a hand through his matted red hair. “Yeah, I guess.” He pauses, but when Teacher refuses to interrupt, he takes the hint. “I was at a football game. I was an Offensive Lineman, you know, the guys who protect the quarterback. But I was naked.” He shrugs, an embarrassed smirk on his face.
Teacher pops next to him, in a new costume. He’s wearing a purple wool business suit. In his lips, he holds a purple pipe that is emanating a trail of smoke the same color as the pipe. “And then we woke you up?”
Teacher changes again. Now he’s dressed in blue army fatigues. In place of the pipe, a purple cigar. “At ease, soldier.”
He marches across the bunks in the classroom-turned-barracks.
“Do you all dream?” He barks the question.
Many respond in the manner they believe is appropriate, “Sir, yes sir!” But I can’t, so I don’t.
“Writer! Your response?”
I shrug because, really, I didn’t sign up to be a soldier. “Sir, I barely dream.”
Then Teacher-turned-army-sergeant laughs. He waves his arms and the room in transformed once more into the classroom we know and love.
“Of course, you don’t, my dear. That’s because you remember the lessons.”
He walks up the steps to his stage and turns to the class again. “When you sleep, you return to us in that world on the other side of the veil. You visit and you learn and, if you think you won’t be able to remember, you progam a dream into your memory.”
He turned to the board that has become an old-fashioned black chalkboard. White chalk in hand, he proceeds to write our homework assignment with a flourish, complete with a cliché squeak of the chalk:
- Keep a dream journal of EVERY dream you have
- (Even if you have to wake up at 3 in the morning to write it!)
- Then analyze the lessons for each!
My arm inadvertently shoots into the air, but he ignores it. I wave it harder. Finally, he turns.
“Yes writer, even you.”
“But I don’t dream,” I say, my voice barely audible. I’ve always felt abnormal because of my lack of dreams, now I’m feeling even more so.
As my classmates start their dream journals with lessons they remember from the night before, Teacher skips down the steps toward me.
“My dear, I know you don’t dream, but there are other signs. There are feelings and synchronicities set in place to remind you of the lessons from your Night Walks. Have you noticed any of those today?”
And then I remember.
“Teacher, why don’t I belong?”
“That is a question for you to answer yourself, my dear. Only you can answer that question.”
Until next class, my friends, I remain, faithfully,
The Dragonfly’s Student