Sometimes I’ll take the time to write about my own heart on Write Now. And to get back into the swing of things after a disappointingly long time away from the blog, this is one of those times.
I dreamt about you last night. Or… I suppose nightmare may be the more appropriate term, given that I awoke with a racing heart, stomach in my throat, tears ready to fall and fingers clenched around folds of blanket. And an uncompromising need to hear your voice.
I grabbed my phone and called your work phone. Because I hoped you’d be there already. And because it’s the only number I can call you at.
I waited for you to pick up, but you almost always answer within the first two rings so at three I let the tears fall, railed in a shaky breath and waited for your voicemail. I always wait out the rings and listen all the way through your message when you don’t answer. Sometimes I even call in the middle of the night. Because it’s the only way I can hear your voice whenever I want to.
I thought about the dream. About the recurring theme that visits me in my sleep like clockwork every time I begin to fear that there will never be a time for us. That the decision I made so long ago turned a fairy tale into a tragedy that can never be turned back. When the regret I taste every. single. day. begins to fester and boil and lace my thoughts with poisonous self loathing and doubt.
It was a bad night all the way around. Neck pain has been hindering my sleep for close to a week now. I was feeling a little off when I went to bed, unsure of whether it was the painkillers or a bug coming on. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t turn my thoughts off, doubt — about you, me, everything — eating me alive.
The story unfurled, fresh in my mind.
I showed up at work. Where I met you 19 years ago — 19 years this very weekend, in fact. The shop wasn’t the same. It didn’t look the same. Of course all the people I knew were gone. But I walked in and caught sight of you. Carried my bag over to a set of lockers near where you were standing and put it in a locker right next to yours.
Brief aside: Lockers? Never mind, it was obviously my first day back after a long, long time. Years. How would I have even known where to report? Why would I have assumed I could just choose any locker I wanted? Why did I need a locker in the first place? Clearly, my intent was to approach you.
I didn’t expect you to wrap me in your arms. Or kiss me. Or pull me into a back room, or drag me out to your truck. Or act like I was anything but an old acquaintance from long ago.
But I also wasn’t expecting the look in your eyes. So much hurt welling there, undisguised. All the pain I’ve caused us both. So many days and months and years of it.
You saw me and you froze for a split second before turning and walking away. I was devastated, but I kept hope alive, thinking maybe you were playing it cool in front of colleagues. That maybe you would seek me out, sometime during the day, somewhere that offered a little bit of privacy.
I went about my day, distracted, painfully aware of where you were at all times. The sliver of hope I held diminishing with every passing second. Grief enveloping my heart, sucking the air from my lungs, ringing in my ears.
When it was time to go home, I headed in from the line. It was rainy. Overcast. Gray. The wind kept blowing my hair across my face as I made my way to the shop, and as I pushed an errant strand behind my ear for the thousandth time, I saw you leaving for the day. Headed my way.
I kept hoping, hoping, hoping.
The distance between us narrowed. You stared me down. Your jaw was set, and your stride never faltered as you passed by me and headed out toward the parking lot. It was all I could do to keep going. One foot in front of the other. Stumbling toward the shop. Suddenly so, so cold, my insides turned to stone. My thoughts a hideous amalgamation of despair wrapped in regret and sewn shut with hopelessness. A heartrending blend.
I don’t remember making it back to the shop. I do remember thinking, never again.
And that’s when I woke up. Shaken, with the driving need to force the horrible vision from my consciousness. To push it down, deep down where it could be forgotten.
No such luck, however. I’ve been thinking about it — and you — all day. Night has washed across the sky. I’m headed to bed soon, and the still frames from last night’s featured entertainment — the rain and the gray and the look in your eyes — they’re still with me.
And you’re not.