Melissa | The Dreamweaver

I had returned to my former elementary school, DeWitt Clinton, on Chicago's north side, to accompany my wife who was called in to substitute teach.

We said goodbye in the main office and agreed to meet up downtown at lunchtime.

I decided to have a walk around the school to rehash old memories and see firsthand all of the changes and renovations the 1920's-era building had gone through over the past five decades since I graduated.

I walked over to room 111, which was my fourth grade room and met a young man who was waiting for the period to end.

The young man told me he was always early so he could get the same chair.

I told him that in my day we had assigned seats and our old wooden desks were bolted to the wood floors and even had the original ink wells from the days before modern pens were used.

The bell rang and the classroom quickly emptied out and I followed the young man inside.

He invited me to sit in the chair beside him and asked if I wouldn't mind him asking me some questions of how the school was back when I was a student there.

Just then, a handsomely dressed young woman entered the classroom and the boy told me she must be a substitute as it was certainly not the regular teacher who the boy said was a matronly older woman. I told him that my room 11 teacher, Mrs. Marcia English, was also old and matronly!

I stood up and followed the young woman to the front of the class where I introduced myself as having been a student at Clinton in the late 60s and 70s and was now a retired teacher.

I told her my wife was also a substitute teacher at school that day and asked the woman if she minded if I "audited" her class.

She asked me what I meant by that and I told her it was a word we used in higher education meaning to observe the class without the right to participate or receive a grade.

She said it would be fine and I introduced myself and she replied by telling me her name was Melissa.

When I returned to my chair next to the young man, I noticed that someone else was sitting there.

The young man said he wasn't sure if I'd be coming back to his table so he let a friend sit beside him.

I told him I didn't mind that I would be going and coming back later as the substitute had said she wouldn't mind my spending the day in her classroom.

I decided to go downtown for breakfast and walked out of the school only to find myself in unfamiliar surroundings.

I followed a sidewalk that passed beneath a viaduct and I soon realized I had strolled into a seedy part of town where drug dealers were present on every street corner.

I turned around and headed back the other way and came to a gas station.

I decided to go inside where I would feel safer and call for a taxi to take me downtown.

I sat down and a young Black man pulled up the chair beside me and reached out to move his chair away from mine though I mistakenly interpreted his actions as the man trying to take my phone.

He immediately assured me it wasn't what I thought, but he said he didn't blame for my reaction all things considered. He mentioned he also had an iPhone 12 similar to mine but didn't like it because he found it to be too big.

He told me he was with his White boyfriend who was standing in line to pay for his gas.

He mentioned that he was a make-up artists and manicurist and was pleasantly surprised when I told him I was a barber.

The man's boyfriend finished paying and as the two men wwere walking towards the door I told the boyfriend, who had long disheveled hair, to come and pay me a visit at my barbershop.

The two men laughed and said they would both come to my shop for haircuts.

I went to the bathroom and when I walked back to the waiting room, I found myself in a hospital waiting room.

A nurse came up to me and told me my room was ready and told me to follow her.

I was taken to my room and the nurse told me to change into the gown that was on my bed.

Just then, an older man accompanied by a young woman entered the room, greeted me and introduced themselves as being the other occupants of the room.

A few minutes later, I needed to use the toilet again and when I walked into the bathroom I noticed the toilet had been used and not flushed so I decided to walk through the ward and find a clean toilet.

Then I woke up.

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