Don’t Talk to Me About Sleep

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One night I ask Yvette what she thinks about when she can’t sleep.

She says she thinks about her brother. And then about how the best reason for parents to only have one child is to avoid the damage siblings can inflict on each other. Then she changes the subject, as she always does when her brother comes up.

She would rather talk about dreams. But not her dreams. She hasn’t been getting enough sleep to dream. Instead she tells me about symbolism in our dreams.

If there’s a raven, it means a big change is about to occur in your life.

A rainbow is good luck.

When someone appears in your dream, it means that person’s been thinking about you.

If you dream about kissing someone, that person loves you but they’ll never tell you they love you.

If you dream about kissing someone, that person loves you but they’ll never tell you they love you.

When you dream about being on a speeding train, it means something bad is going to happen to someone you love.

I don’t ask if she dreamt about being on a speeding train before she lost her brother.

Instead I tell her I have this dream sometimes where the woman in the apartment next door is screaming for help but I don’t do anything. The dream usually wakes me up and I go into the hallway to make sure it isn’t real. I never hear anything in the hallway so I go back to sleep.

“Well, I don’t know anything about that,” Yvette says to me. “Why don’t you help the woman in your dream?”

I tell her a story my mom told me a long time ago. About a friend of hers who intervened when a husband was hitting his wife on the street. My mom’s friend managed to separate them and restrain the husband. His reward was the wife pulling out a blade and stabbing him in the back nine times. My mom’s friend went to the hospital and nearly died.

“Oh,” Yvette says. She turns away from me in bed and doesn’t say anything else.

I ask if she wants me to stay over. She doesn’t care, she says. If I want to.

I decide to go home. She’s told me that my presence doesn’t make things better at night.


Yvette wasn’t so bad right when she lost her brother. It wasn’t until two months later when a man came to her office to speak to her entire company.

She described the man to me. Mid-50’s, white mustache, tall but almost as round as he was tall. Yvette said it seemed like he was new at giving these talks. The man wore a lilac colored shirt and a silver tie, but it looked unnatural. Like he had just bought the shirt and tie off a sale rack the day before. Yvette said he seemed uncomfortable. That he would have been much more at home wearing a belt full of equipment and a badge.

The man started out by asking if anyone had a friend or loved one who was a victim of a mass shooting. Yvette was the only person who raised her hand. The man said she didn’t have to stay if she didn’t want to. She stayed anyway.

The man talked for thirty minutes.

He said there were three things they needed to remember if there was ever an active shooter in the building:

  1. Avoid
  2. Barricade
  3. Confront

These were their choices, he said.

Avoid was simple. Avoiding can save your life, he told them. Just stay away. Stay low. Hide yourself. Don’t make any sudden movements. Don’t make any noise. Don’t let them know where you are. If they don’t know where you are, they can’t get you.

The man talked at length about the countless lives that had been saved by avoiding.

Barricade was more work, he said. Get to a secure location. Then take the heaviest thing you can find and block yourself in. Put it up against the door. Lock the door if it has a lock. If it doesn’t, use a couch. A big chair. A desk. Whatever you can find. And keep yourself shut inside.

Confront was the final option. Not something he recommended. But sometimes, you don’t have a choice. If you’re going to confront, you need to be tactful. You need to utilize the element of surprise. You need to catch them off guard. Try to get as close as you can without them knowing. Then try to stun them. Hit them in the head really hard. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes confronting can work.

Confront was the final option. Not something he recommended. But sometimes, you don’t have a choice.

The man found Yvette after the talk was over.

“I’m so sorry,” he said.

“Me too,” she agreed.

They hugged for a long time and then the man gave Yvette his card. He knew some good grief counselors, he said.

Yvette never called.


There’s a half-finished painting hanging on the wall directly above Yvette’s bed. She started it just before she lost her brother, around the time we first met.

The painting was going to symbolize transformations. Different stages in our lives. The people we were and the people we become.

Yvette loves the ocean. The limitless depths. The fact that we know more about the universe than we do our ocean.

The painting is only half-finished but it features a woman in the dark ocean depths, reaching out for something. But the woman is reaching to the side of the painting that’s unfinished.

I don’t ask Yvette about the painting, but she mentions it sometimes. That she wants to get back to it. That she needs to finish it.

She hasn’t been able to paint since her brother’s been gone.

One time when Yvette brought it up, I asked if she thought it was ironic that her unfinished work was literally hanging over her head.

“Yeah,” she said. “It doesn’t bother me. I need the reminder.”


When I first met her, Yvette had a list of goals posted on the wall in her room. When I stayed the night at her place, I stole glances of the list and managed to piece it together:

Be a good person

Be kind

Make one million dollars and give it all away

Make someone smile when they’re upset

Help when it isn’t convenient

Help when it hurts you

Get to know a stranger

Get a good night’s sleep

Eat more chocolate

Drink more water

That list has been gone for a while though. And now when I look at the perfectly empty wall near her dresser, I would never know it had been there.


On the last night we’re together, Yvette told me she didn’t want to talk about sleep.

I’d rather talk about dreams, she said.

“I’ve never dreamt about you, have you ever dreamt about me?” I ask her.

“Yes, I’ve dreamt about you.”

“Did we ever kiss in your dream?”

“Once,” she said. “Just once.”

I didn’t want to be in love with her because I knew she wasn’t in love with me. For a long time, I was stuck trying to pretend I didn’t love her. And she was stuck awake at night.

After we decided we couldn’t go on together, the last thing I told her was I hoped she would finish the painting above her bed. She told me she would call to let me know. Maybe I could come over and see it when she finished.


Yvette invites me to coffee on the two-year anniversary of her brother’s passing. We haven’t seen each other in months.

She doesn’t mention the painting but she says that recently she gets really tired around eight-thirty at night. She used to stay up very late, but now she’s exhausted before ten. So she listens to her body.

But she says that whenever she tries to go to sleep at such an hour, everything besides her bedroom becomes frightening. When she’s locked away like that, the rest of her apartment is a place she never wants to return to. A place she can’t imagine inhabiting. She tells me maybe it’s just the way we feel when we’re disconnected. But then she says that maybe her apartment was actually this way the entire time and she just never noticed.

Then she asks me what I think.

I stay silent and wait for her to answer her own question.

Charlie Scaturro was born and raised in Brooklyn and resides there today. His work has appeared in Star 82 Review, Bending Genres, Palooka Magazine, and was short listed for The Best New Writing Anthology 2017. Additional work has also appeared on, ,, and various publications on Charlie is currently working on a collection of short stories in addition to a few other projects.

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Issue 8

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