You wake up in a strange apartment but you haven’t been sleeping. Where am I, you think, while sitting still and calm on a sofa so as to not spook the person sitting on the other sofa. You see the world as if through a camera. Everything looks just a little bit further away than it should be. Your vision feels framed like looking through a viewfinder.
You live here, you tell yourself. This is your apartment, you reassure yourself. That is your roommate, you remind yourself. No, you rebel, this isn’t right. You look around and see nothing that belongs to you. The books are not yours. The tv is not yours. The dvd rack is not yours. The coffee table and coasters are not yours. Coasters on the coffee table? You’ve never owned coasters.
It’s your roommate’s stuff, you remind yourself. She lived here before you and has nicer stuff. Slowly, then quickly, the last seven months unspool into your mind. Meeting your roommate. Moving in. Last week’s movie night. The world tilts back closer to level. This is your apartment. You live here. That is your roommate on the other sofa reading a book. You belong here.
But you remember not belonging here a second ago. A minute ago. Half an hour ago. An hour ago. It haunts you. That vague undefinable feeling that everything you know might not be so. This could be a dream, you think. You’ve had dreams like this before. Everything seems perfectly real, until you wake up and find yourself here. Here which no longer seems completely real. Could all those dreams have been dreams within this dream. Are you closer or farther from reality here?
You study the seams. Look for cracks in the lie. Can you trust your senses in a dream? Can you test a dream with reality tests devised in the dream? Reality tests work to separate dream from reality. But reality tests can only tell you if you are in a world where they work. If we accept the dream as real and construct reality tests around it, then the dream becomes our reality.
You decide to accept this place as real. You can’t seem to wake into a more real world. Everything seems consistent and the minor inconsistencies are probably just your bad memory. You’ve been here long enough for the feeling to begin to fade. It becomes a faint whisper in your mind that you learn to ignore. Everything is perfectly normal again.
Then one day, you wake up on a sofa in a strange apartment but haven’t been sleeping.
Author’s note: This was written about a year after moving into a new apartment. I was mostly settled in but I had this small nagging feeling of not belonging in that place. Around that same time, I went through a period of depression. It all compounded and intensified the feelings of derealization I sometimes get and this story was the result. This theme of “reality is unreal” is one I have returned to several times and probably will again in the future.