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fiction



by Norie Suzuki



Lizard Dreams


 

When my husband, Sho, told me bearded dragons have dreams, I let it slip by me. Like other small talk he had shared over dinner during the past two years—the discovery of the first planet outside the Milky Way, the excavation of the complete remains of a woolly mammoth in Yukon, mushrooms using “words” to communicate.

 

His small talk never stuck with me, so I was surprised at myself when I asked Dr. Yamada whether he believed lizards have dreams.

 

“What did you say?” he asked, checking the monitor beside my baby’s bed. Fluorescent red and green waveforms undulated on the display, my daughter’s only language. He touched Maya’s tiny hand, which did not respond, and typed his observations on his iPad.

 

When I repeated my question, he looked lost but immediately recomposed his professional demeanor and said, “I’ve never considered it.”

 

“There was an article in a science magazine my husband gets at school. I haven’t read it, but if lizards can dream, does Maya have dreams, too?”

 

He looked at Maya, who had been in a coma since birth, and said, “I don’t think so. I’m not a dream expert, but the five senses are deeply related to the mechanism of dreams.”

 

Seeing me frown, he tapped my shoulder and mumbled, “Who knows,” and moved on to the next patient, who was new to the ward. The occupants of the three beds in the room changed quite often. After a while, I had stopped trying to remember the children’s names and only bowed at their parents when our eyes met.

 

Maya occupied the bed by the second-floor window where a cherry blossom tree in full bloom stretched its branches, almost touching the glass. When a breeze blew, the petals floated in the air. I extended my arm from the open window and caught a few for Maya.

 

“This is spring, my sleeping beauty.”

 

I placed the petals in her hand and resumed my daily routine of massaging her arms, fingers, legs, and toes, praying for some reaction. A slight reflex. A twitch of an eye. Whatever. But Maya kept to her world.

 

“You’re such a stubborn baby. This world isn’t that bad, you know.” I placed my mouth close to her ear and sang nursery songs about Madagascar monkeys and toys marching out from a treasure box.

 

On my second singing round, my wristwatch vibrated, telling me to have lunch. The watch was Sho’s idea. Seeing me lose weight, he set the timer so I wouldn’t miss my lunch.

 

“What are you having today?” he asked over the phone. Behind him, I saw a whiteboard detailing the schedule of a field day.

 

“The usual.” I placed my phone over a white plastic bowl of udon noodles.

 

“Eat something more substantial,” he said and shifted his camera toward the bento box he was eating from. It contained Korean barbecue and some cucumber pickles.

 

“You better gargle with ultra-strong mouthwash before your lab class.”

 

We laughed, although nothing was funny.

 

I bought a chocolate bar before returning to the ward. I held it under Maya’s nose, telling her this was how sweet smelled and tasted.

 

That night, I had a dream. Or should I say a dream within a dream? I became Maya. I was in her body. Since her eyes were never open, I couldn’t see the white walls of the ward or the pink curtains billowing. But I heard the whooshing of the mechanical ventilator, smelled a whiff of chlorine rising from Dr. Yamada’s scrub, and felt the gentle rub that eased her/me into a matryoshka of dreams.

 

In her dream, Maya floated in space like an astronaut, weightless. She played house with plush monkeys, mammoths, and tin soldiers, served them milk and chocolate bars. When a bearded dragon wearing a silk hat asked, “May I join you?” Maya clapped her hands and giggled, her beautiful brown irises reflecting the smiling lizard, which then turned into a constellation.

 


 

Norie Suzuki (she/her) was born and educated bilingually in Tokyo, Japan, where she currently writes and works as a simultaneous interpreter. She received an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Extra Teeth, Suspect, Archetype Journal, Cutleaf, 34 Orchard, Baltimore Review, and elsewhere. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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