This column seeks to connect the stories of my dreams/nightmares with my life experiences.
The white, rumpled bed sheets were cool against my skin. I stayed there, curled up in a fetal position, tangled morning hair and all. I didn’t think he would mind. I knew his hair was probably the same, too.
Was he awake?
Did he think I looked beautiful like that? Bare and sweet and on his bed?
I hoped so.
I kept my eyes closed, trying to remember the night before. Intertwined limbs and vulnerable whispers flashed through my mind. I smiled. This was perfect.
I wanted to turn around to kiss him. To thank him for being so understanding.
My body froze. I would say that my plan was cut short, but it couldn’t even start at all. Someone had nailed my back to some invisible cross lining the middle of the soft mattress. I was stuck facing nothingness.
I thought my nerves were broken because I couldn’t feel anything.
Nothing, nothing, nothing.
Panic seeped into my veins. Where was he? Where were the faint touches, the tickling breath, the warmth of his hands and arms holding me tight?
I didn’t want to realize it, but I did. There was no skin or connection. Only air. Only nothing and no one.
God gave me another view. There I was, down below. From above, I was about to die. Almost.
I was lying there like a baby, like I never wanted to grow up into this girl. He was there.
He was. I swear to you. But he also wasn’t.
The beautiful man was far, far away and yet somehow still next to me, under the same pearly covers I burrowed into the night before. The warmth of his body still enveloped mine, but even if I stretched my arm out as far as I could, I still wouldn’t reach him.
The space between us was immeasurable. It was like a three-foot thick wall had molded its foundations to the structure of my body. I looked so small and curved, and he looked so vast and disconnected.
God told me that I deserved this. That this was my fault. When I awoke, He spoke into my ear.
Or was it me?
This is what you get when you try.
If I had gotten any closer to him on the bed, I would’ve broke. What I saw was safety. Protection. I made sure to remember that.
We weren’t two people in love. We were strangers.
SOMETIME IN THE MIDDLE
BOY: what do u want to talk abt?
GIRL: 20 questions? idrk
BOY: ok lol that’s good
GIRL: alllright i’ll ask first
GIRL: whats something u really hate
GIRL: like about people or food or something
BOY: i reallyyy don’t like fake people
GIRL: tbh same
GIRL: im glad you are real
BOY: me too 🙂
BOY: ok my turn to ask
GIRL: ask anything
BOY: what do u fear the most?
GIRL is hesitating like always. GIRL is spiraling into her sleep. Her dreams. GIRL thinks about what it would feel like to be close to BOY. It isn’t worth it. Is it?
GIRL: hey sorry parents needed me i can’t rly text rn
GIRL: ok goodnight
Therapy and friends and crushes are all the same. I want to reach out to them, break through the thick space of nothingness, but I can’t. I am stuck in that curled ball forever. Silent.
I think I may live the rest of my life there. Would it really be so bad?
Sometimes people tell me that it’s just air. It’s just a conversation.
It really isn’t.
This air is different. I’ve tried a million times to tear it open, find a way to reach the other side and finally know what it’s like to be skin-to-skin, mind-to-mind, but it has never worked. Look. It has never worked.
One summer ago, some couch in a doctor’s office.
The lady was waiting for me to answer her question.
“How are you feeling?”
She looked nice enough. She seemed like she truly wanted to understand. To help. I knew they existed to listen and empathize — not to judge and criticize. The pretense soothed my muscles and calmed my breathing. Opening my mouth was easy enough. Choosing what to say wasn’t.
She was so close. Right there in front of me, smiling with curly brunette hair and thick-framed glasses. I almost reached out.
The dream came back.
There I was again, far away from it all. The empty space was comforting now. It brushed my hair back, pouring melted sugar into my ear.
A Tuesday morning in the school hallway.
Staring into the mirror, I felt lucky to have a face that was somewhat immune to horrific puffiness. My eyes were rimmed red, but it really wasn’t that bad. I had to leave soon anyway.
I made my way to my friends’ usual morning spot. It was a small nook in the hallway filled with luscious couches. Before I could even sit down, a friend approached me, face wrinkling with concern.
“Are your eyes okay?”
It’s a little bit like chess. Your opponent (your friend) gives you an opening. Do you take it, or do you wait? Are you playing to defend or to scorch their earth completely?
Taking the chance was tempting. I could hear it beckoning me along, voice sweet and all. But the dream came back, and I chose to defend. A strong battlefront strategy.
When my friend left, it came rushing down. The growing space and ocean of nothingness that was beginning to swallow my being.
I wasn’t afraid yet.