Prophecies came casually at first, events she couldn’t tell she dreamed or remembered, déjà vu more powerful than before. Then she reached up to her ear knowing her earring was gone, and soon every lost thing announced its departure just as she sought it. She felt absence an instant early. Of course, for a while, she disbelieved.
She told a girlfriend, “Everything feels so familiar lately,” and left it at that.
When her father died in an accident on another continent, she dropped to her knees to allow the wave of recognition to break over her. Then her phone rang. She knew not to say what she saw. Maybe anticipating her dad’s death avowed a special connection, a case that wouldn’t repeat.
The failure of her marriage arrived more slowly, like a hiss she heard long before it became audible. In some impossible to isolate moment, it asserted itself as certainty. She sensed a new attachment, and she didn’t need missing hours, strange perfume, or unnecessary fictions to divine his affair. Long before he confessed, before he pronounced his lover’s name, she heard a name in her head.
Her calm shocked him, but then, she’d known. She planned to deny him the satisfaction of recrimination and emotion. She packed him efficiently and dispassionately as if lists of his necessary possessions existed before him.
An empty house was nothing new, being the state she long expected, a loneliness to which she’d resigned herself. The television her husband bought the year before sat idle on the altar assigned to it. The thought of turning it on opened floodgates to what she was certain to see, and she sighed and sat down at her spot on the sofa instead. Books she started contained chapters she’d read. Mail arrived from predictable places and piled up on the dining room table, a stack of messages already answered.
Her life felt neater. She perceived her friends’ concern forming on the horizon, so she prepared for their rescue, clearing everything away before they appeared and making her living space as neat as a cell. That’s what life was, a sentence to fulfill. For a time, she looked for liberation, a morning she might awake to a real and vivid life. Yet the future, which seemed otherwise perfectly intelligible, denied that one expectation. The path she walked went on and on with no visible end.
Her boss gave her an amazing evaluation, wondering at her calm, efficiency, and foresight. His only hope, she saw clearly, was that she do her job as if it were already done, and she arrived each day with a simple plan—complete the expected and go home. Work was a to-do list—the only remaining item was to check off tasks completed.
Most people barely feel a desire for surprise. Accidents follow insensible, alien rhythms. Lives resemble chaotic fireworks, going off in random order, sometimes distant and beautiful, sometimes close and threatening. But, knowing gunpowder might ignite in a purse or pocket, you move tentatively, grateful for unencumbered steps. Or you court willful ignorance in hopes of remaining bold.
She did neither.
Late at night, she replayed her past because it still lived, and she could re-examine choices, tracing branching limbs of possibility the future didn’t offer. She clothed memories in thick coats of imaginary leaves, romanticizing and embellishing without regard for what actually happened. She saw no harm in doing so. She might make a forest of them. She might live in that forest. She had no mights left in life and guarded stories like visions. In comparison, prophecy was a flat and empty plain where every inch of earth faced relentless sun.
And she waited for fatigue to take her, dreams her only other solace. In dreams, her role remained unwritten, and she could say lines never heard before. In dreams, her expectations replaced everything expected of her, and she moved with strange freedom she never lived elsewhere.
“Tonight,” she thought, “I will dream an end to this, a change to make everything new.”