Introduction: After a long hiatus, during the last week I finally got back into a consistent meditation routine. As usual, this helps me remember my dreams better, and to also have lucid dreams. Last night that combined with something else I had thought about casually recently: Wouldn’t it be nice to be young again, and if I was young again, what would I do differently?
After falling asleep, I wake up in strange apartment. Looking around I can’t figure out what’s going on, but having been in this situation dozens of times before, I find the bathroom, turn on the light, and look in the mirror. I’m pleasantly surprised to see a much younger version of myself. My face is young again, and my hair is longer, soft, and as dark as ever, with no touches of gray. Realizing I’ve been given a second chance, I vow to make the most of it.
After I figure out the apartment situation, I decide to go for a walk and see what the neighborhood looks like. As I walk down the road and enjoy the new scenery, a speeding car comes around a turn. I try to get out of its way, but it hits me hard. My body flies through the air and crashes hard on someone’s lawn as the car speeds away. Lying on the ground, my face pushed into the lawn, I look at the blades of green grass in front of me. I try to hold onto it in my mind because I know that my second chance at living a younger life is coming to an abrupt halt. The green grass fades into darkness.
I wake up briefly to see some paramedics trying to figure out what to do with me, then fade into darkness again.
I wake up again while I’m lying on my back, being pushed down a bright corridor. I assume I’m on a hospital cart. I see people on the side of the cart, but I can’t say anything, and I fade into darkness again.
I open my eyes, look around a little bit, and realize I’m laying in a bed, a hospital bed in a hospital room. I can move my eyes, but nothing else. Eventually a nurse comes in, and then a doctor. They tell me that after what’s going to be a long period of rehabilitation I may be able to move again, maybe even walk. I fade to black again.
Some time later a nurse sets me up so I’m sitting on a long bench seat against a long stretch of windows. She tells me to enjoy the view and not try to go anywhere, that she has to do something but she’ll be right back. It feels like my legs are working a little bit, and I feel like maybe I can walk, or at least stand, so I try to get up. A moment later my legs and lower body are splayed on the ground, and I’m holding onto the bench seat with my arms for dear life. The right side of my torso is pressed against the bench, my right arm is over the top of it, and my left arm is mostly useless but also trying to hold onto the bench. As I hold on it feels like someone is behind me, so I turn to my left to see a young girl in a hospital gown standing there. My guess is that she’s not a teenager yet, or if she is, she’s just barely a teen.
“Welcome to St. Elsewhere,” she says.
“Uh, yes, thank you,” I reply.
“Why are you here?”, she asks.
“Got hit by a car,” I reply, not considering that her question might have more than one meaning.
I was about to ask why she was here when she says, “You know, you can let go.”
I realize that I’m still holding onto the bench seat like someone trying not to drown, when in reality I can loosen my grip on it and relax, and my body won’t slide away.
“Thanks,” I say. I still want to ask why she’s here, but then my nurse comes around the corner, and I know I’m about to be in serious trouble.
“See ya,” the girl says.
Over the course of my therapy the young girl and I become friends. She was badly hurt in an accident, but my intuition tells me that she tried to commit suicide, or that she’s a suicide risk. At times she strikes me as a young girl, but then every once in a while there’s a sadness about her that seems like it goes deeper than her injuries. Nonetheless, we never talk about that, we just talk about life, and our recovery processes. I find that it’s nice to have a friend you can just talk to, and I hope she feels the same way.
One day she asks why nobody ever visits me. The truth of the matter is that when I wished I could be younger, it didn’t occur to me to wish, “I wish I could be younger, and when I’m younger I wish X, Y, and Z could be there with me.” So I’m younger here, but on my own. After a pause to think those thoughts, I tell her that I don’t have any family, and I just moved to this area when I was hit. I don’t want to lie to her, and that’s as close to the truth as I feel I can get without telling her that I’m an older man who wished he was younger, and that’s how I got here.
Several times in my recovery process I come across a large, strong man who always looks angry. I try to engage him in conversation, but he barely ever says hello. The little girl says she doesn’t know much about him, and that he never talks to anyone.
One day I find myself on the floor again. I don’t remember how I got there, but with my legs barely working I know I’m in trouble. As I try to figure out what I’m going to do about my situation, I’m suddenly hoisted up off the floor and on my feet. I know I’m not standing on my own, so I turn my head and see that the large man is holding me up. “Thanks,” I say.
He doesn’t say anything, but helps me over to a bed, places me down on it, and says, “You should be careful.” Then he walks away.
Another time later on someone from the hospital is trying to help me stand up and try to walk, and it doesn’t work out at all, and I fall forward and to my right. I don’t know where he came from, but the large man comes from somewhere on my right side and catches me before I fall. He doesn’t say anything, but lifts me back up and hands me back to the person who is supposed to be helping me. I see a look of disapproval on his face as he hands me to that person.
Later that day as I’m eating dinner in my room, the large man walks in. “I’ll work with you,” he says.
“What,” I reply, not knowing what he means.
“I’ll help you walk,” he says, “but you have to be willing to try.”
“I am,” I reply. He turns and leaves without saying another word.
At first he assists the hospital’s therapist, but then he takes over completely, becoming my own personal trainer. Over days and weeks and maybe months, our scenes play out like the exercise scenes from a Rocky movie, with him pushing me harder and harder to try to walk again. It’s grueling work and I fail again and again, but over time I do make progress, and I know I would never have made this kind of progress with the hospital’s therapist. Where a therapist would stop after I protest for a while, the large man pushes me relentlessly.
From time to time as he’s working with me I look at some of the nurses, and I can see that they’re smiling. Not at me, I think, but at what this man is doing for me. What I’ve learned from the nurses is that he went into a war as a very large but nice man, and came back as someone else; someone lost, and angry. Very angry. For a long time he didn’t talk to anyone, but for some reason he took me on as his personal patient. One of the nurses told me that as he opened up to me, he opened up to some others as well. The nurses were smiling because of his recovery, not mine. Or perhaps both of ours.
One day when I’m able to stand on my own, the little girl finds me in a hallway. “I’ll be getting out soon,” she says.
“You ready for that?”
“I think so.”
“Think so, or know so?”
“Know so,” she says cheerfully. Then she leaps in and gives me a big hug.
“Stay in touch?”
“Stay in touch!”
Some time later I’m walking slowly down a hallway and I come upon the large man. “My time to go,” he says.
I try to say, “Thank you for everything,” but I barely get out the “Thank” part before I begin to cry, thinking about everything he’s done for me.
“Thank you,” he says, pulling me into a bear hug. “Stay in touch,” he says. It almost sounds like an order, but I know he means it kindly.
“You too. Let me know if you need anything. Anything. You saved my life.”
“And you saved mine.”
Some time later I’m in my hospital room, sitting in a chair, looking out the window at the large lawn, and some birds flying back and forth between a few trees and some feeders that the nurses set up. It’s fun watching them, and it briefly occurs to me that I’m smiling.
The moment is interrupted by a knock at the door, and I turn to see a doctor and nurse walk in. I stand up to greet them.
“Looks like your time with us is over,” the doctor says. I want to give some sort of reply of immense gratitude, but I feel that familiar feeling of being pulled away, and all I can get out is a “Thank you” before I fade into darkness.
I open my eyes, and find myself in my bed, back here. I lay there for a while thinking of the little girl, the big man, and what to make of my second chance to be young again.
Epilogue: Last night, after a long meditation session, I went to sleep just before midnight. When I woke up at 6:30 this morning I was still tired, so I went back to sleep for a while. This dream happened between that time and 8am, when I woke up again. After that it was time to start a regular work day.