Houses of Rain
Tiff Holland

I woke up happy, or he said I did. He said I wasn't myself, that I smiled at everyone, that I called the nurses "honey." Most likely, this was the drugs, but I don't remember, and he didn't say if I woke up like that every time or just the last time, the time I remember waking up.
For weeks, every time I woke up I was Frosty the Snowman: "Happy Birthday to me!" It was as if I was born each time I woke.  This is why Bill kept repeating what had happened, telling me where I was, assuring me I would be all right.
For months afterward, I slept soundly, the effects of medication and exhaustion, the brain trying to heal itself. I didn't dream. I was a robot or computer that kept resetting, whose hard drive was reformatted every night. Slowly images started to form.
In the first dreams, I was in darkness. I was lost. There were no people. I  would wander small, dark buildings. Sometimes, slivers of light would invade, indicating the buildings were made of wooden slats. The buildings reminded me of the chicken coop in the back yard when I was a kid. One night, I got down on my hands and knees, looking for the chicken sized door, the plank the chickens walked down to get out.
I couldn't get out of these dreams. There were no doors, no windows. The answer seemed to lie in knowing who I was and where I lived. A voice, my own? Would ask me where I was, who I was, where I lived. Some nights I offered possibilities: Warren, Ohio; Mississippi, Texas -- I had moved to Texas? But mostly I struggled for the words, let alone the answers. What is that long tube that goes into cups and glasses and we drink from it? Why do I keep thinking "tongue depressor, toothpick" when I see one?
One night I dreamed I was in a house of rain. The exterior walls were rain and inside, between rooms, small waterfalls. The noise calmed me. I didn't worry about who I was or where I belonged. Instead I looked for a bed. I wanted to sleep. Finally, I found a small white couch, and I rested.
The houses expanded. The building materials became more solid: wood, water and finally stone and brick, but the bigger they were, the more complicated, maze-like and almost always unfurnished, unless I stumbled once again upon the small white couch where I could curl up and watch the endless rain.
The houses ran, yardless, right up into the streets in the beginning and then, later they would dangle off cliffs. There were no people to ask who I was or where and then there was. I'd offer clues: "remember? We brought you a casserole once? I had a Border Collie? I wrote poems." But usually the neighbors, mostly farm folk, did not recall.
Finally, one night, I answered the questions correctly. Yes, Texas. I pushed the dark edges of my brain which were where black letters floated like dust motes: Valona. . . Valona-something, and then the whole address, and I was outside. I stood in the middle of a large green yard. I waved at neighbors hanging clean laundry on lines that stretched across the whole world, like telephone wires, carrying words I was slowly starting to remember.