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“Jen Michalski’s second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one.” – Ploughshares


“Jen is an astonishingly sensitive writer.” – HTML Giant


“Jen Michalski excels in subtlety that is made possible by her nuanced understanding of voice.” – The Rumpus


“Jen is a writerly heavyweight.” – Nate Brown, American Short Fiction


“We’re lucky to have Michalski before the rest of the world discovers her. But they will.” – Baltimore City Paper

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Living the Dream

I dreamed that my mother and I were shopping in a boutique store. We dabbed perfume on our wrists from something resembling a Crabtree & Evelyn display. To my subconscious disappointment, the perfume had no scent. (I had hoped my mother was sending me a message from beyond the grave.) Suddenly a bunch of refugees from another planet came into the store. They were white, of Scandinavian-looking descent. A village people, perhaps. They just wanted to go home, they explained, but Chakotay from Star Trek Voyager had the unenviable task of explaining to them they'd lived their life in a simulation, they were refugee holograms from the Enterprise's holodeck, and this would be their reality now. We all boarded a train. Two older women, their white hair drawn back in ponytails, comforted each other. One kissed the other on the lips, and I could feel her cold, small lips on my own.

My mother and I were sad for the refugees. What difference did it make that their life was a dream? If they were happy there, why couldn't Chakotay send them back to the holodeck? Why couldn't I stay here in my own dream, where my mother was still alive and we did the things we liked?

I remember learning about Descartes ("I think, therefore, I am") and the "brain in the vat" as a freshman in college. Later in life, I've read the Toltecs and the Buddhists, and modern "philosophers" who posit that our lives are our own creation, that God is in inside and our beliefs determine our lives. But can we really design the life we want, free of pain, of suffering? Can we really live in a dream? Is it all in how one views oneself, one's life, or is it something greater?

Some days I wish I never had to wake up from my dreams. What difference would it make that they weren't real? Who can say this waking life is?