You came to me in a dream last night.
Though, to be honest with both you and myself, you were nowhere to be found. But there were traces of you everywhere. Was it because you came up in conversation over dinner? Over potatoes au gratin and a Bordeaux so heavy it made my cracked, barely-sewn-together heart seem as light as the soufflé the couple next to us were poking with their spoons? Or was it because I know that I will have to go back there, to the place where I had to leave behind (the place where I first created) the idea of a you and a me? Or was it the music that trickled down from the speakers in between the fluorescent lights that striped through the ceil of that grocery store — why do you build me up, buttercup — that seeped its way into my subconscious so that this morning I awoke in a sweat because maybe you are still haunting me in ways that I thought were over?
You came to me in a dream last night but, this morning, you are nowhere to be found. And I awake in a new city, under a sheet that was far too thin, shivering from the rain coming in through the window, shaking from the thought of having to think of you.
I used to believe deep down that the greatest place I could ever be was wrapped up in your arms. Close your eyes and imagine: thinking that it could never go uphill after you left. That the best days were behind me and not beyond the horizon. For an eternal optimist to look into a mirror and never see it getting any better. What does it feel like? It feels like sitting on the edge of my bed, sober, and yet feeling sick to my stomach as though I have spent too much time the night before, sipping thoughts of you from a cup again and again.
I am not a get afraid of things easily kind of girl.
I will jump and squeal and bolt the door at night but really if you need me to be tough, to be strong, to hold down the fort at night, I can do it. I can put my fear into a little box — the one that sits on the second to last shelf of the bookcase— and I can control it, pack it away, ignore it as it demands for me to tremble when I am all alone at home. I am a stay calm under pressure for the most part girl. I am not a get scared so quick girl. The bones in cemeteries do not haunt me. The dark does not frighten me. The wind during a hurricane does not take the breath right out me. I am not a haunted by the dead kind of girl. What scares me is being haunted by the living.
The living — like you.
You came to me in a dream last night but you were nowhere to be found.
Instead — whispers, mentions, memories of you dotting an unfilled dream landscape where you cannot be sure if you are walking right side up. Living dreamscapes are the ones that we should all be careful of. Places that you can wake up from, that you can bolt upright out of bed from, but which continue to exist even after you’ve brushed your teeth and had your coffee.
And that is why, this morning, as this bitter breeze flies in through the window, blanketing me in bumps all along my bare skin, I am afraid.
I am afraid of seeing you on the sidewalk one day, on the other side of the street, crossing an intersection, or sipping a beer in a bar by a window that’s under that one streetlight and then that dreamscape will fill up the air between us once again.
You came to me in a dream last night and, for the first time in years, I woke up gasping for air, afraid. Not afraid the way you might be at the top of a tower or in the middle of the ocean or alone on a subway platform at night when that threatening thought enters your head: is this what it would be like to be the last one of us left, all alone in this big empty world? No, this fear was different.
It started in my ribcage, spidering itself across my chest, up my shoulders, down my back and across my arms, down to my palms that are now keeping my body upright in bed, until the panic reached my fingertips, filled up the edges of my fingernails so that even my cuticles wanted to jump right out from out of my body and forget the rest of me, they’d save themselves.
That feeling that I might relive you again. The thought that I could remember everything that happened between us, so vivid and bright, the way that the sun lights up the skyscrapers of the city if you are out early enough to see the blinding sunrise. The memory of all the ways that you hurt me. And the promise of you still out there, in a different city, capable of making me hurt like that once again.
You came to me in a dream last night, and the haunting made its way through the cracks, oozed its way through the gaps, found its way through the doorways and windowsills of the basement of my being, and I awoke with the sound of your voice in my ears, the sense of your eyelashes against my cheek, the song of our feet walking together, the rhythm of our once upon a unison — silent, but somehow sonically constant.
I looked for you outside of the window, in the late summer morning rain shower, amongst the raindrops, between the dew and the daylight. I felt for bits of you under the rug, listened for your footsteps in the hall. I peeked inside the little box on the second to last shelf of the bookcase.
But you were nowhere to be found.