I Dream of Jenny
My days are usually pretty repetitious. During the day–barring the interruption of an
occasional daydream–I study Jenny. I take note of how she jumps when she’s surprised and how she
chuckles when she’s overjoyed. I study how she cried when she received her first puppy and how she
cried because of every puppy after that. I study how her eyes flicker when she wakes up and how her
nose wiggles when she gets a bit upset. What kind of shampoo she uses (Garnier Honey Treasures),
what sort of shoes she likes to buy (mostly cute converse, but occasionally Jordans), and what kind
of colors she gravitates toward (oranges and reds.)
I take all of this information and use it as source material. It’s important to use Jenny’s
actions and quirks as inspiration, rather than create a directly obvious mimic. I’m going for uncanny
valley or bust. Sometimes, I’ll change little things like the color of her eyes, or the consistency of her
corporeal body existing.
Night is when things get fun. Well, many nights anyway. There are some nights where no one
dreams of Jenny and I merely twiddle my thumbs around and around until they turn into spokes on
a bike and wander away, but several times a week someone does dream of Jenny.
Sometimes it’s Jenny herself. That’s always a daunting task, but one of the most rewarding,
especially if I nail it. Many of Jenny’s dreams about herself are anxiety-ridden and rooted in her
deepest fears, so when I perform as her in those dreams, I get to really dive into the nitty-gritty
dramatics that every actor dreams of. Look, she’s dreamed of the time she wet her pants in sixth grade
math at least forty times and it never gets old for me. It gives me a chance to stretch my skills. And my bladder.
I admit that I’ve grown a bit protective of Jenny. I know I shouldn’t, but it’s hard not to grow
attached to someone that you study every minute of their lives. It pains me when I
have to play her as evil, or cruel, or violent in someone else’s dream. I realize that person can’t
control how they perceive Jenny or how they dream, but it still stings a bit, you know? One time I
had to play Jenny in the mind of her ex, and I stabbed him to death over and over and over to the
point where I felt like I was going to vomit. I didn’t vomit though. That would be horribly
Then again, I also get to watch the actor for Jenny’s ex in her own dreams, and it’s hilarious .
I’ve been friends with this actor for a while now, and he did a great job transitioning from
dreamboat to lunkhead for his current character.
I wish that I had a chance to see the other dream actors outside of work. However, perhaps
too many outside thoughts and inspiration would muddy my performance. I am here to be a vessel
of projection, not self-reflection. To be honest, I don’t even really know if anything exists outside of
what we already experience at work. I still think it would be great to have a dingy lunchroom or
something. None of us need to eat unless it’s for a performance, but there’s something really
charming about the idea of us dream-folk all taking a break to eat little sandwiches and gossip about
how we approach our roles.
No, Jenny is the aura of my focus, and playing every stage of her is the most rewarding thing
I can imagine. It’s particularly sweet when I get to play young Jenny in the dreams of a teacher she
had in second or third grade. It’s darling that they still remember her, and I love seeing how far she’s
come since then. There was one time when she did show-and-tell with this ridiculously elaborate tap
dance routine that featured songs about her family members. That memory still comes up for them
from time to time. I wish she still tap danced. It’s always a blast.
I can’t tell you how many physically impossible sex acts I’ve had to perform as Jenny. Quite a
few of them have been in the minds of the men in her life, both young and old, but not all are men
of course. You’d be surprised, and possibly quite disgusted, to find out how many people dream
about Jenny in those types of situations. Or maybe you wouldn’t be. Maybe you are one of those
It’s interesting to see what traits get amplified in people’s dreams that Jenny makes an
appearance in. Jenny has one coworker who remembers her with a limp she does not have. Her
grandmother dreams about her with much larger eyes than reality holds for her. Todd, a former
classmate, had only one dream featuring her, but in that dream she sounded like an otter, clicking
with barely comprehensible speech, and adorned with Christmas tree lights that twinkled every third
I have been playing Jenny since she was born. Initially my role in her infancy consisted of
fuzzy images. I wasn’t featured as Jenny the Person that often until she had a sense of self. This early
stage was a particularly difficult acting challenge. A gradual restructuring began to champion creating
sensory illustrations of feelings over pure physical abstraction. I had to rely on portraying the mind
of someone who doesn’t know or understand what it means to be human, or part of the world at all.
This lead me to focus on the most primal of experiences such as eating, or wanting to be cared for,
or shitting. It was an incredible, invigorating experience.
Over time, I had to learn all of the talents she has learned in her waking life. Painting. Oh,
she’s amazing at that. I’ll be honest, I take advantage of the fact that dreams are always kind of fuzzy,
because I am abysmal compared to her. And fencing! That was a fun one to take up. Sometimes
Jenny will lucid dream, which means I can take it easy for a night as she directs my body herself, and
I love feeling her fence. Exhilarating. Kindness was another thing I was happy to see her take on as a
primary trait. Jenny is ludicrously kind. She always gives away her extra clothes to a local homeless
Do I change who Jenny is? One would think not. After all, my life is a wobbly crayon
drawing of her reality. I would think that my origins as such would invalidate my influence on her.
However, when I see the world through her mind and sensations, I see a world that is slightly
changed by not only her every decision, but by the entire world’s every decision. If the universe is
continually morphed by actions observed and executed in a person’s waking consciousness, maybe
our subconscious and dream life ripples out just as much. When people look to their dreams for
answers, maybe we dream-folk don’t predict their future, but help to create it with our own entropy.
I don’t know if my actions are fully independent or if perhaps I am just a part of Jenny’s brain all
along. It does not matter when it comes to my little theory. Every human wakes each morning a
slightly different being, and I’m determined to believe that what we make happen behind closed eyes
has some help in that.
Herein lies the tragedy of my own self-importance: I wonder what it will be like portraying
Jenny as she grows with the people around her age, when I presumably become a bit less than I was
as dreams decrease and memories fade. The lovely thing about it–because there’s always lovely things
in every life stage–is that even though her reality will contain increasingly aged versions of her,
occasionally people will still dream about young Jenny. Those who know her will inevitably stumble
across an encounter they had with her at seventeen, or thirty, and instantly I will channel a bit of
who Jenny was then.
I don’t fully know what will happen when Jenny dies. I imagine I will still be part of her,
carrying on her humanity any time someone decides to summon her deep in their subconscious. In
this way, I could perform a manifestation of her energy, and someday I will reflect limitless without
my reference source. Retirement will likely be kind to me after most people have forgotten her, but
perhaps retirement isn’t even a real thing. My conclusion may lie in a soft fade.
At least I will be forever young in the time I have. I will traverse life not as myself, but as a
representation of a vantablack shadow in the lens of other people’s minds. Here I say: If I can bring
understanding and curiosity to the minds of those who are affected by a single human being, then I
will be fulfilled as long as the universe will have me.
Joe Kowalski has been published in bioStories and The Del Sol Review. His adaptation of I Am the Doorway was given the blessing of Stephen King. Joe can be found on Twitter @PogieJoe.