“I keep having dreams about my teeth falling out.”
Sadie kept her eyes down, looking into her coffee. “It’s my oldest dream, I think, and it changes. Sometimes my teeth crumble away, other times they turn into powder, and still others they fill up my mouth like half-chewed food and I can’t spit them out—”
She looked up. Her boyfriend sat across from her, phone in his hands. He ran his thumb across the screen every few seconds. “This last time, they fell out whole,” she said, a little louder. “They were covered in cavities like…like they’d been sprayed with bullets or something.”
A pattern of light and darkness waltzed across his face, illuminating it with colored lights followed by sudden shadow—white then black, blue then black, red then black. He paused. The screen glowed white. He smiled, straightened up a little, and began rapidly tapping the screen with his thumbs. Sadie frowned.
“Is everything okay?” she asked in a would-be nonchalant voice.
“Mm?” He glanced at her. “Oh, yeah, it’s nothing—so what were you saying?” He finished his text, darkened the screen, and put his phone aside. Sadie’s eyes lingered on the phone for a moment more. She exhaled.
“I was just talking about this dream I’ve been having a lot.”
“Oh yeah? Good dream?” he smiled. Sadie shook her head. Beneath the table, her hands were balled into tight fists in her lap.
“No—it’s more of a nightmare. I was saying about my teeth—I dream they’re falling out in all these…different ways. I always wake up pretty freaked out.”
They sat in silence for a moment. Her boyfriend was no longer looking at her, but glancing around the coffee shop where they typically had their dates. It had been a while since their last one. Sadie had to set this one up. She’d called texted, trying to firm up plans, but it wasn’t until the night before that he had responded, asking when and where she wanted to meet. They’d spent most of the date talking about him and catching up on his life. Once they’d exhausted that subject, he’d lapsed into silence—checking his watch and phone every few minutes.
“I’ve done a lot of research on what the dream is supposed to mean,” she said. She reached for her coffee and took a small sip, grimacing slightly at the bitter taste of the lukewarm mocha as it washed over her tongue. Her boyfriend raised his eyebrows, prompting her to go on.
“Most sites say it means I subconsciously feel like I have no control over my life.”
“Yeah, well, everybody feels like that, don’t they?”
Sadie cast her eyes down to her coffee again. “Yeah, I suppose they do… Have you ever had a dream like that?” Silence answered her. She looked up to find her boyfriend with his phone in his hands again, his thumbs racing across the surface.
“It means other things too,” she went on. “But the whole idea of not having control, of being invisible in and to your own life makes the most sense to me. Like God is telling me the truth when I can’t drown Him out. Like, I think I have control over myself and my actions, but I really don’t, and something deep within me knows it, reminds me of it…” He nodded as she spoke, but she knew he wasn’t listening to a word she said. She looked around the coffee shop, suddenly feeling embarrassed.
“Can’t you—can’t you put your phone away? You never used to have it out when we’d hang out.”
Her boyfriend looked up at her. He smiled, but his lips were tight. “Yeah, Sade. I’m sorry. I’m being totally rude.” He darkened the screen again and placed his phone in his pocket this time. He looked at her, expectantly, and she blushed.
“It’s okay,” she said, trying to smile. “I know you have a lot going on, but—”
“Hah—yeah. So, what about your teeth or your nightmare again?”
Sadie swallowed and sat back in her chair. “Oh—I just thought, you know, maybe there’s something to it you know? The different explanations and all…I just, I try to plan out my days because I’m afraid and I just want a little structure, but I don’t have any. No matter how hard I try, I can’t control anything—not other people, not even myself—and the more I become aware of it, it just scares me, you know?”
Her boyfriend watched her as she spoke, a look of skepticism playing on his features.
“And,” Sadie continued, “I just feel like maybe these dreams are these not-so-subtle reminders that I can’t control the chaos in the world. I shouldn’t even try. It’s like God tells me this in the gentlest way He knows how, but it’s terrifying. Even in the dreams I tell myself, ‘It’s real this time—this is really happening.’ And I wake up so scared, feeling my jaw and licking my teeth just to make sure they’re still there.”
Her boyfriend stared at her as if waiting to see if she was done talking. “That’s funny,” he said after a moment. Sadie furrowed her brow, looking nonplussed. “It’s just,” he said, half laughing, “You talk about chaos and the world and God in the same sentence. It’s contradictory.”
“What I’m saying is—”
“I know what you’re saying, Sade, but maybe you’re reading the dream all wrong. I learned about this in my psych class. Most of the time, those dreams just mean you’re afraid of getting old or ugly or something. They aren’t that special.”
“You don’t think there’s more to it than that?”
“Nah, I don’t. They aren’t a big deal. They’re just one of those dreams, you know? Like falling or flying or giving a presentation naked or whatever.” Sadie said nothing. Instead, she grabbed her coffee just to have something to hold.
“Anyway, did I tell you about this internship I’m looking at? I think it’ll be really good for me—here, look,” he extracted his phone from his pocket and pulled up his email. Sadie saw him clear his notifications of four new texts before proceeding. “It’s here somewhere…”
Sadie watched him scrolling past hundreds of digital words and pages feeling dumbstruck as if her mind had jammed. She glanced at his face and felt suddenly cold at how unfamiliar he seemed as if he’d become some poor artist’s rendition of someone she once loved. He paused in his scrolling as his screen lit up with an incoming call. A look of giddy panic crossed his face.
“Woah, hey—Sadie—I’ve gotta take this. Give me a minute?” Without waiting for her reply, he pushed his chair back and walked out of the coffee shop. The door chimes tinkled, but they could hardly be heard over the din inside. Sadie watched him smiling into the phone before he turned his back on her and leaned against the shop window.
She stared into her coffee cup and saw that her hands were shaking.
There is no chaos without control…no control without chaos…the world is chaos and I have no control. The coffee shop seemed to get louder as if the people inside were now yelling their conversations. No…there is control. You can control yourself—take control. He’s giving you control.
Sadie buried her face in her sleeve, emerged a second later. She glanced at the window again, saw a man she didn’t quite recognize laughing into his phone. You can take control… Sadie pushed her coffee away from her, slung her purse over her shoulder.
The chimes tinkled again.