For a long time, I had no car and no phone. I lived about two miles from my friend Bob, who had a phone but no car. He had been at my house in the late afternoon, on one of the coldest days of the winter – temperatures easily fell below zero – and he left to walk home just before dark.
Bob has asthma and allergies; more than once, he has had to go to the emergency room because his airways closed almost completely. Needless to say, his inhaler is a very important thing for him to have. He had used it, in fact, while visiting me … and, after he had been gone for nearly an hour, I saw that inhaler sitting on my table.
Well, crap, I thought. It was so cold outside. It was such a long walk. He hadn’t been sick at all – no colds, no bad allergy attacks. I didn’t have a phone, but he did: he could call someone to bring him back to my apartment. He lived, actually, just four blocks from the emergency room, and he could get there more easily than he – or I – could cover the distance between us on foot. I felt extremely conflicted, but I decided that he was not in any danger, and that it would be better to stay in out of the cold. What were the odds, after all, of him needing his inhaler so desperately this particular night? He hadn’t had a bad asthma attack in months.
I felt conflicted, but ultimately I decided to go to bed.
In the middle of the night, I had a dream that Bob came into the house. He walked across the living room to the table where his inhaler still sat; he picked it up and walked out again. It was such a vivid dream that I even noticed the time – 2:00 am.
When I woke up the next morning, I saw that the inhaler was really gone. I figured that, at 2:00 am, Bob really had come into the house and picked up his inhaler. I felt bad, because he wouldn’t have done that unless he was having trouble breathing, but I thought how strange it was of him to walk all the way back two miles to my apartment instead of walking four blocks to the hospital.
When I saw Bob later that day, he asked me if he had left his inhaler at my place. I looked at him strangely and said that he had. He said that he had had a vicious asthma attack in the middle of the night; he had looked through every pocket and searched his house, but his inhaler was not there. He checked all the pockets of his coat repeatedly, but it was not there. Well, he decided, he would just try to breathe through the attack, and if he really could not, then he would just go over to the emergency room. He sat, weak and breathless, struggling to get air into his lungs and trying to weather this storm. It was 2:00 am. If he was still struggling at 2:15, he thought, he would go to the hospital. He sat, knowing that he must have left the inhaler at my house, and tried to visualize it – he saw himself walk into the house, pick up the inhaler off the table, and leave again. This visualization, born out of a dream-like state of fatigue, panic, and lack of oxygen, was so vivid that when he opened his eyes he wondered if he had really somehow crossed town and fetched his medicine without realizing it. But no – the clock said 2:05 am; he had only closed his eyes for a moment.
It had been so real, though.
He decided that he should look in the pocket of his coat again – the pocket he had put the inhaler in at the end of his visualization, the pocket he had checked a dozen times ten minutes earlier.
There was the inhaler.
It’s the weirdest thing, I suppose, that’s ever happened to me.
It’s certainly nothing we’ve ever been able to explain.