Vera C. Wareham
Lately, I've been having these dreams about Melissa...
Last night was typical. We were in a field somewhere, lying side-by-side in the tall grass. I think it was summer; there was a sweet floral smell, and I could hear birds blue jays? mockingbirds? chattering in the distance. A fine mist hung in the air, and I remember thinking that there must be a stream nearby, which is strange, because you'd think I'd have been able to hear the rushing water, wouldn't you?
On second thought, I'll bet it was spring; the sun was warm and soothing, not the oppressive heat of a Texas summer. But then again, maybe it wasn't Texas at all.
And Melissa well, she was every bit as beautiful as she was back when we were in college, let's see, 16 years ago. Could that be? Where does the time go? She still seems so real to me, so alive it doesn't seem possible that I haven't seen her in all those years.
Except, of course, in my dreams.
Last night, for instance, I was lying on my back and she was next to me, propped up on her elbows, staring at me with those eyes that changed color with her mood, I swear they did. Last night they were a creamy blue, so soft, without that steely glint that used to creep in when she didn't get her way... And her hair was softer than I remember it, too, but still kind of a dirty blonde, shoulder length, just like she wore it the night of our engagement party, with that curl that kept falling across her face so that she had to blow it out of the way...
To be honest, I guess that Melissa had a lot of sharp edges which, I suppose, at least partly explains why we broke up a month after graduation, just two weeks before we were supposed to be married. I mean, I know that it was probably my fault as much as hers although I sure didn't think so at the time but there's no denying that Melissa could be as hard as nails when she wanted to be.
But in my dreams, she's soft. And smooth. So very, very smooth.
Last night, we were talking, I don't remember about what, it didn't seem to matter, and then she got real quiet and just looked at me with such longing that I swear I gasped out loud, you know? And then she sat up, still looking right at me, melting me, and she started to unbutton her blouse, slowly, one button at a time, and I could tell that her only thought was to please me, nothing else mattered, not like it used to be, and then...
And then, wouldn't you know it, my alarm went off.
Melissa was devastated. I'll never forget that desperate, haunted look as long as I live, so help me. And in that instant, she wasn't a dream at all, she was just as real as you and me, I swear it, and she reached for me, she clung to my arm, and she tried to speak... and somehow I knew she was going to beg me not to leave her...
But I was already gone.
"Jesus," Barbara said. "Shut that damned thing off already."
I groped for the radio and somehow managed to find the switch that turns off the alarm. Usually, I'll just hit the snooze button; if I don't, there's a good chance that I'll go right back to sleep, and I'll be late for work, and so will Barbara, and it'll be my fault, of course, and she'll be mad as hell. But this morning, I was in no danger of drifting off. I had been rudely snatched from my reverie; I felt torn, battered, and anything but sleepy. I stared at the ceiling. I was soaked with sweat. My heart pounded so loudly that I was sure Barbara could hear it...
Barbara. Why do I feel like I've been unfaithful to her? It was just a dream, wasn't it? A very realistic dream, to be sure, but a dream just the same. And it's not like I haven't "cheated" on her in my dreams before but that's not something I have any control over, now, is it? I mean, if I can't allow myself some infidelities in my own dreams...
Anyway, I was so shaken this morning that Barbara actually got out of bed before me, which almost never happens. I watched her as she dressed she's not a bad looking woman, really, with or without her clothes on. She glanced at me quizzically as she pulled her nightgown over her head, watching me as I watched her, and her unasked question hung in the air: Why are you looking at me like that? As if I need an excuse for looking at my own wife, for taking some small pleasure in her nakedness. Even if she's not as young as she used to be.
But hell, who is?
In real life, I mean.
[ Selected Writings ]
©1996 Henry Charles Mishkoff