An Interpretation of Dreams

posted in: Memoir | 0
Stephen Dixon self-portrait

Excerpts of a short story by Baltimore writer Stephen Dixon from the 2016 Passager Open Issue.
5 minutes


According to the late Baltimore Sun reporter Ernie Imhoff, “The most prolific author in Baltimore divides his 40 years of writing into three periods: The Olivetti Period. The Royal Period. The Hermes Period.” Those three periods, of course, referred to the brands of manual typewriters this author used. The most prolific writer in Baltimore to whom Imhoff referred was Stephen Dixon.

The Washington Post said that Dixon published well over 500 short stories in the Paris Review, Playboy, Esquire, and legions of small magazines across the country. His first book didn’t come out until he was 40, but he made up for lost time, publishing 35 more novels and story collections. One of the small magazines Stephen Dixon published in was Passager

Here’s an excerpt from his story “An Interpretation of Dreams.”

This is a dream. We made an agreement, my wife and I. We agreed to meet up in a dream of mine every night after she died. We agreed to this a few days before she died. More than a few. Twelve, maybe thirteen. We made the agreement the night before she went into the coma she never came out of. I didn’t dream of her during those twelve to thirteen days. To get the exact number of days she was in a coma, I’d have to look in the notebook I have. It has all the dates of her final sickness: when the ambulance took her to the hospital; when the doctors there told me she’d have to be transferred to a hospice because there was no hope for her in the hospital; when she refused to eat and drink and take any medicine and oxygen and said she wanted to die at home; when the ambulance took her home; when we agreed to meet up in my dreams every night after she died; when she went into the coma and died. 

So this is the dream I had tonight. 

I’ve dreamed of her just about every night since she died. If I missed a night, then I dreamed of her in a nap the previous or following afternoon. So I’ve had at least one dream a day of her for the last four years. Four years and a month today, in fact. Sometimes I dreamed of her more than once a night. And a couple of times I dreamed of her in my afternoon nap, which I take almost every day for about half an hour, and twice that night. And one time I had three dreams of her in a row at night before I woke up. I‘ve never had more than one dream of her in my afternoon nap. Usually, though—almost always—if I had more than one dream of her at night, I’d wake up after the first dream, pee, write the dream down in my dreambook which I keep on the night table by my bed, maybe drink a little water from the bottle by my bed, and go back to sleep and have another dream of her and do the same thing after I wake up from it: pee, write down the dream, maybe drink some water. 

But tonight’s dream. 

It’s possible that after I write this dream down in my dreambook, I’ll go back to sleep and have another dream of her. It’s only three o’clock. That’s something I also always do after I wake up from a dream and turn on the light: look at my watch, which is on the same night table the dreambook and bottle of water are on. But for some reason I don’t think I’ll ever dream of her again. I think that’s what that last dream meant. I hate to say it, but I think that’s what has happened. 

. . .

“An Interpretation of Dreams.” By Stephen Dixon, from Passager’s Issue #60.

To subscribe or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can also download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts, and various other podcast apps.