I emerged from the claustrophobic depths of the forest to a light and open clearing. Two beams of sunshine illuminated the grove, filtering through the full, leafy trees. A path wound through the tall but well-manicured grass. I stepped forward onto the path, and my foot sank down into a deep, brown liquid. I lifted my foot out of the gooey mess and swiped my finger through the liquid dripping from my shoe. I brought my finger up to my nose and tentatively tasted it. “Chocolate!” I exclaimed. “How on Ear-?” Before I could finish my thought, the rest of my surroundings hit me like a punch in the face. To my right was a pink pond…Pink! I kid you not. At the end of the path was a house, not even quite a house, more like a cottage, like something out of a fairy tale. And the whole clearing had this familiar smell, like I was a kid again and my grandma was baking cookies in her tiny kitchen. Then another realization. I wasn’t smelling someone baking cookies inside the house. The house itself WAS cookies!
By this point I felt like I was going completely out of my mind. Chocolate paths! Pink ponds? Cookie houses!? I nearly had a heart attack. I didn’t know what else to do, so I just continued down the chocolate path, taking slow deliberate steps, sinking down into the chocolate with each step. As I neared the pink pond, I couldn’t resist the urge to leave the path and venture to its shore. I walked across the lush green grass and leaned over the bank of the pond. The liquid was an even deeper shade of pink up-close. I scooped the pink liquid up in one of my hands and sipped it slowly. More childhood memories flooded me. It tasted just like Kool-Aid.
“How can this be?” I thought as I stood back up and got myself back to the chocolately path. I surveyed my surroundings once again. I decided to go up to the house and investigate. The curiosity was unbearable. As I neared the house, the delicious smell got stronger and my stomach began to rumble. I was almost to the front step before I noticed the flowers in front of the house. They weren’t flowers at all, but lollipops. “Am I in the frickin’ chocolate factory?” I asked aloud in sheer astonishment.
I was about to pick one of the lollipop flowers when a jolt surged through my body. I stood back up ramrod straight. “I don’t live near a forest! How did I even get here?” I discovered in an instant that it was all a dream, and just then a loud voice echoed through the forest like the voice of God.
“Hernandez!” it bellowed. “Chelsea Hernandez?” I awoke with a start, trying to regain my bearings. Where was I again? The lights were harsh and bright making me squint as my eyes instinctively teared up. A gentle hand touched my shoulder and squeezed me slightly.
“Are you Chelsea Hernandez?” the owner of the hand asked more softly than the previous bellowing that must have come from the intercom overhead. Her big brown eyes stared directly into mine
“Yes, that’s me,” I said still in a daze as my eyes adjusted to the brightness of the room.
“Come with me,” she said. I began to stand up to follow her, but waivered a little bit. She came back and offered me a hand, which I gladly took. I looked up to see her face as she pulled me out of the chair. The nurse was a thick black woman, strong and sturdy, yet several inches shorter than I am. She must have been about my mother’s age. I flinched at the thought. The nurse saw my response as we walked toward the door, and thought I was flinching for another reason.
“Are you ok honey? If you’re having second thoughts about this, it’s alright. Happens all the time.” I almost laughed in her face. After all, I had never been so sure of anything in my life.
“No,” I said resolutely. “I’m fine. Let’s go.” But as she led me out of the waiting room and down the long sterile hallway, I found myself wishing ever so slightly that I was back in the deep forest sinking my feet into the chocolate path, marveling at the pink pond, and enjoying the pervasive aroma of the cookie house.