By Chris Dankovich
I’ve fallen asleep alone every night of my life. For half my life there’s been another person in the room, but that’s not the same. While I don’t have anyone lying next to me to keep me warm, I’ve imagined someone there every single night. My arms around my pillow, fingers weaving between the sheets, I imagine a lover’s hand, hair, face. I’ve woken up kissing the pillow, embarrassed, the next moment scraping lint and dust off my lips.
My dreams are more than just a spectre I imagine to calm me to sleep at night. I’ve never had much expectation that I ever even could fulfill my dreams, but still I keep dreaming. Sometimes I like to think of my hope as a trait that I’m tough, unbroken despite these years I’ve lived as less than a person. Yet when I truthfully evaluate myself, I understand that it’s really that I just can’t help it. I consider myself, at this point in my life (almost 30 years old) a pretty rational person, and my mistakes and my surroundings essentially eradicate any reasonable hope to have hope. But still it hasn’t died, as long as I’ve been alive.
I learned how to cook in prison and became a pretty awesome chef, if I do say so myself (and I would gladly prove it to anyone). I had never eaten a plum, peeled a banana, tried tuna fish, tasted corn bread, sauteed an onion, whisked some cake batter, or baked a cookie — before coming to prison. Now I dream of opening a restaurant, which would become a top rated hit, the best in town. I would cater weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs ….
My favorite food, admittedly strange for a suburban white kid who grew up in prison, is hummus — and I’ve learned how to make it. The prison staff has said that the hummus I make is the best they’ve ever had. My hummus would be in stores across the Midwest … [I said this was a dream, right?] and the ethnicities who regard hummus as their own would henceforth regard mine, and the unity in hummus would spread to peace in the Middle East…
My products might not be sold in the Midwest, however. I don’t live in Michigan by choice, and never have. I’m frankly a warmer-weather type of person. I never had a choice of where to live when I was on the outside, it being against the law to live on my own. And I’ve been a prisoner in this state since then. Was I given a choice, I would prefer Florida (or perhaps more adventuresome, a Caribbean destination). I would be happy living on the beach, in a cardboard box if that were my only alternative to my current life. I dream of the waves of the beach that I remember from my childhood, echoes that I reinvigorate with a cassette tape of nature sounds I often fall asleep to.
But I really don’t actually desire to live in a cardboard box. I would really like to live in a house of my own, take care of my lawn, renovate, paint, customize some place I could call my home (a concept I’ve never known). I’d be happy with just a one-bedroom apartment though. Sometimes my dream-bubble enlarges a bit though. My restaurant, catering, and hummus businesses take off and make me millions, and I can build my dream-home. A mix of modern architecture and Victorian styling… mildly reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright, but the “Falling water” will be over the grotto in my indoor pool. And when you walk in, the beautiful Titanic staircase crosses over… wait for it… an indoor river, which travels from the pool across the house to surround the dining room to give ambiance (is it obvious that emotionally I may still be around 15 years old?). This is where I’d serve my guests home-cooked meals from my gigantic, full-service kitchen.
And I dream of having my guests over often, those people who have been there for me. My father I would cook for every day. The amazing woman who has essentially fostered me. My aunts and uncles, my grandmothers if they could make it, my good friends who have been there for me. And my wife, whomever she would be. I calculated that the house, as I imagine it, would cost about $2.5 million, not including the land.
I don’t really expect to make $2.5 million. I don’t really expect much of anything. There are many days I don’t even necessarily expect to make it through the day, the week, the month, the year. I never expected much growing up. I don’t expect much now. But still I wish, still I hope, still I dream… of a $2.5 million house… of an apartment to call my own… of living in a cardboard box on the beach, the sand as my pillow with the sound of the waves… of working a legitimately productive job, one that puts smiles on peoples’ faces… of telling a woman I love her and meaning it, of holding her hand, kissing her neck and lips, falling asleep next to her. I dream of being responsible. I dream of being loved. I dream of being able to grow up, grow out, become a man who is a real man.
I dream of the opportunity. I dream of a dream.
Chris Dankovich #595904
Thumb Corr Facility
3225 John Conley Dr
Lapeer, MI 48446