top of page
Hide and Seek

A Grammar of Dreams




'A Grammar of Dreams’ is a series of short stories based on a sequence of vivid and intense dreams I had, while undergoing treatment for chronic migraines. The dreams are paired with grammatical phenomena from the English language and quotes by Wittgenstein. The first three stories were published in enbloc magazine in 2022. Here you can read one of them. Enjoy!




A few nights ago, I dreamt about the big earthquake of ’78. I wrote it all down on the notebook I keep next to my bed and sent it to the man I love who does not love me back. He was not very keen.

‘Stop sending me your dreams and just read the goddamn book,’ he said.

I have no idea why he gave me the book. All I wanted was for him to love me. But I did as he said and kept on reading, until I found something that seemed kind of relevant.

Like everything metaphysical, the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.

The events of the night of the earthquake are clear on my mind. There was a sea of cars flooding the streets of the city, as people attempted a quick getaway. There was talk of a building that had collapsed, trapping everyone inside. I was thirteen. That year I had experimented with losing my virginity – a disastrous affair. The young man, a mere four years older than me, had concluded the penetration hastily, though effectively. My lack of any second thoughts before the event or any remorse after it, led him to believe that I had lied about being a virgin. Only when I pointed at his fingernails, dirty with my blood, was he finally convinced. At that time, I could not suspect that I was destined to be surrounded by insensitive morons throughout my entire life. I thought he was a one off and next one would be better. But no such luck.

That was the year I decided I was going to have an adventurous life. And I did, much to Mum’s dismay, as she disapproved greatly of adventure. The man I love who does not love me back says I did it because of the dead baby. My mother, before having me, had a baby girl who was born dead. She and Dad were devastated. When she became pregnant with me, she had a dream about Jesus ascending to heaven – it seems that all the women in my family rely more on dreams than we do on reality. In her mind, the dead baby would be resurrected. I grew up under the burden of being God’s gift – my goddamn name, Theodora, means God’s gift. When puberty came along and I came down from my pedestal for a roll in the mud with the moron with the bloody fingernails, it was the end of the little miracle that had been my life. And because people rarely die when their dreams die, I exchanged the dream with another one. A life of adventure, a walk on the wild side!

If not the events and decisions of that year, at least the earthquake warranted a dream. It was a good earthquake, went on for thirty seconds, which is a mighty long time to be shaken about. Mum screamed non-stop. That was really something. I think she mostly screamed because a bottle of olive oil fell out of the cupboard and spilled all over the floor. There was really no reason for all that screaming, Mum had a maid who did all the cleaning up for her. Dad came soon after with my brother and we abandoned the crumbling apartment. Sometimes I think back to that night and I remember how the walls cracked and the plaster from the ceiling fell on our heads like cosmic dust. My life resembles that crumbling place, an easy, well-appointed life that is coming apart at the seams. We spent the night in the car, the streets were utterly blocked. In the morning we managed to leave the city and made it to the country house by the sea, where we remained the entire summer. Eventually, we forgot.

But in dreams nothing is ever forgotten. So there I was, in another wonderful instalment-of-happiness dream, standing in the street, looking at all those cars that were going nowhere. Every now and then the cars inched forward at a maddeningly slow pace. Then a car drove up next to me and - what do you know - it was my Dad’s old black Citroen. I don’t think Dad had ever loved anything more than that car. It was a symbol, more than anything.  He had beaten poverty, had escaped death during the civil war, survived the years of torture in the hands of the communists in a labour camp in Albania. What a life Dad had, and here I am, complaining over nothing. Dad had been born in a small mountain village of Greece. His father was a teacher. There were no more than ten students at a time, so they were all grouped together, in one class, and the older ones helped the younger. The village women nursed their children until they were four years old. Where would they have found cow milk, it would have been impossible to survive otherwise. During the civil war, Dad was a lieutenant in the Greek army. On the last day of the war, he was captured by guerrillas. All the prisoners of war had to walk the whole night, until they crossed behind the Iron Curtain, only to be delivered to the communist regime in Albania. Dad wrote a book about it. Seven years of being tortured by fanatical bastards would be enough to drive anyone into a dream world for good.

But Dad had a good grip on reality. He returned, safe and sound, the only thing troubling him for the rest of his life being the terrible headaches, from having been kicked on the head too often by men in boots. And then, instead of becoming a whimpering idiot like me, what did the man do? He set out to win mother’s heart of steel – and won it! What an achievement!

That was precisely what the Citroen meant: victory. I have been victorious, Dad said, every time he sat behind the wheel. He was not much of a driver either. After Dad died, we did not know what to do with the old car so we parked it somewhere in the street and tried not to think about it, until a lorry crashed into it and smashed it to bits. We threw it away in a car dump and that was the end of that.

In the dream, the old Citroen looked shiny and new. It was packed, of course, with all the dead in the family. Most of them were loaded in the trunk, for they were just a bunch of bones, having died a long time ago. The ones I knew personally were travelling in luxury, inside the car, and appeared to me as they had looked in life. Uncle George, who died first, was sitting in the back. He was a tall, handsome man, a doctor. The people in the village locked their girls in when they saw him walking down the street. He broke so many hearts, until his own heart betrayed him. Next to him was Aunt Eleni who died of bone cancer. Such was the destiny of a woman who had not touched anything or anybody for half a century. She always used a piece of tissue to turn door handles. Once, when I was a kid, I went to shake her hand to wish her happy Easter and she gave me a little stick and I shook the stick. My mother had told me the story of Aunt Eleni. When she was young, she fell in love with a man, who was deemed by the family to be socially beneath them. They forbid her to marry him. She went crazy, lacking a layer of skin, as some of the women in our family apparently do. She started dressing in rags and wearing men’s shoes and screaming in the cobbled alleyways of the village. She was given a series of electric shocks, which was the usual treatment in those days and those had amazingly cured her partially, apart from causing a persistent case of germaphobia.

The funny thing is that she got her revenge in the end. She convinced the family, after they moved to the city, that their house in the village had to be destroyed, as it was haunted by the ghosts of the past. They demolished the lovely old house, probably out of guilt for having destroyed Aunt Eleni’s life. Now we have nothing in the village, just a family grave. Aunt Eleni remained single and a virgin – at least one of us managed it – and went on with her life barricading herself behind tons of tissue paper, which she used for turning door handles. She would also buy huge rolls of bubble wrap to wear inside her clothes, which is why she crinkled when she walked.

But she could not protect herself, no one can. The enemy got her from within. She was looking straight ahead now, in the dream, avoiding my eyes. What could she say? I fucked up? Most of us do anyway. Mum was there too, in the passenger seat, holding the dead baby. Her hair was immaculate, as usual. Dad was driving the car, of course.

‘Hey, Dad,’ I said. ‘Where are you going? Take me with you!’


Dad turned and looked at me and his face was sad and yellow. That is the last image I have of my father, his sad yellow face, when they brought him home for the funeral. What a day that had been! I remember a very tall, thin man like a scarecrow, all dressed in black, who came up and sprayed something on Dad’s lips. ‘There,’ he said to me, ‘now his mouth will stay shut for good,’ and my Dad’s mouth is now shut for ever. So it was my mother who turned and spoke to me, though she spoke in my father’s voice, because in dreams this shit happens and nobody bats an eyelid.

‘There is no room in the car. You are supposed to stay here. Try not to make such a fuss. You should be fine.’

Mum would always come up with those phrases, containing modal verbs. You should, you could, you might, you can’t…She knew better than anyone what was possible and what impossible, what probable and what improbable. What were the probabilities that I would be fine, I wondered.

They drove off and left me standing there. I could not single out our car anymore because they all looked the same. They were going nowhere anyway. Big deal.

I have had enough of this dream world. I am so tired I wish I could give up. That is what I wanted to say to the man I love who does not love me back. But we went to bed instead. He had finished reading the diary of dreams and was slightly annoyed at my general lack of direction and self-confidence.

‘I want to treat you badly,’ he said and that thrilled me. He stroked my tongue with his finger until saliva started dribbling on my chin. He said he liked it when I looked vulnerable. Then he proceeded to hurt me methodically.

In a life riddled with pain, this was the least of my worries. I even welcomed it, in a way. What is truly difficult is to connect the real to the unreal. Modal verbs don’t help much, they mostly express unreality.


Probability is a thorn in the grammar of dreams.

bottom of page