I still dream about them, even though I don’t want to. I’ve tried everything—therapy, yoga, hypnosis, meditation, making lots of money—nothing works. I still go back there when I sleep. And the dream is always the same.
The house was on a half acre of land on the outskirts of Fresno, set far back from the main road. My dad had four huge mutt dogs, and they barked at anything that pulled into the gravel drive. There was nothing in our front yard—just muddy sunken dirt, tire tracks, and patches of scrub grass. There used to be a lovely row of poplar trees bordering the property but for some reason the neighbor had them all chopped down. They were probably left over from when the area was farmland.
My brother and I were teenagers when we first moved there—punks straight from Venice Beach. I had a bleached blonde Mohawk and my brother had a buzz cut. It was cruel to moving us to the middle of nowhere looking like that. Some of the guys at my school actually wore cowboy hats. My dad didn’t think about it, though. We were just being dragged along on another one of his impulse marriages. This one was to a Fresno-born new-age hippie momma named Star Lily that he met at a crafts fair in Taos. He was selling Persian tribal rugs, and she was selling hand woven pillows filled with herbs, and their booths were right next to one another. They were married within a month.
Thank God the land was once farmland and there were still some remnants of agricultural beauty to be found. My brother and I used to walk into the almond orchard across the road. The trees were at least a hundred years old, and in the spring they were full of white blossoms. When the wind blew, the air would fill with petals and it looked like it was snowing. We used to sit on the lower branches and imagine we were somewhere far away, like Europe—anywhere but where we were.
In my dream, my dad’s four mutt dogs are always starving. Their bodies are gaunt, and you can see bones through their skin. Their water bowls are empty and there’s no food in the house. I frantically try to find something for them to eat, but the cabinets are all empty.
In this dream, my dad is always gone. I mean really gone. He has flat out left us. The house is rundown and abandoned looking. I can’t find my brother. Everyone is gone, and I am alone. The garage door is wide open. The front door is unlocked and I can’t lock it, because it’s broken. If someone came into the driveway—a stranger, a robber—the dogs would not be able to chase them because they are starving to death.
That’s when I wake up.
In reality it didn’t happen like that. In reality the mutt dogs managed to do just fine. When they got hungry, they began hunting wild hares in the orchards. There was also a canal in front of our house, so they always had a fresh supply of water. No, the dogs were all right.
In reality, my brother and me began to starve. Star Lily ran back home to her parents after the fights started, and dad just flat out left. One day we came home and there was a note on the table. “Staying at Wali’s for a while, taking care of business. Call if you need anything. Love, Daddy.” There was nothing in the house to eat but a sack of potatoes, a jar of rice, and oranges from the tree behind the house. I remember those oranges well. They were the most delicious fruit I’ve ever tasted. Their flesh was deep in color and they were always juicy. We lived on fried potatoes, steamed rice, and oranges for weeks, and never got sick of them.
But the oranges don’t appear in my dream. Just the dogs. The forever starving dogs.