I know Iʼm dreaming, because thereʼs no way she would talk to me. Or touch me like that, the back of her hand deliberately brushing my cheek. I know I have to go, Iʼm telling her, and she smiles sadly. I blink, and sheʼs gone, but thereʼs a door I have to go through in front of me, so Iʼm going through it. Running. Weʼre all running for a reason, but Iʼm not sure what theirs are. Thereʼs my brother, and heʼs got to run because heʼs late for school, he was supposed to be there four years ago. And him, James, heʼs got to be running because I havenʼt seen him in twenty years, since we were little and in the school hall eating pack lunches our mums put together for us. Heʼs running to say hi, and even though heʼs still the same age, heʼs still six years old, he can keep up. Iʼll talk to him when we stop, so Iʼm not out of breath and he wonʼt laugh at me for putting on twenty years and a hundred and ﬁfty pounds. Thereʼs the ﬁrst girl I remember wanting to kiss and never doing it, and the air stewardess who spilled my soda over me when the plane to Hawaii hit turbulence, and half a hundred other people Iʼm pretty sure I met at some time in my life. I canʼt believe theyʼre all here, they donʼt know each other so it must be me theyʼre here for. Well, of course they are, itʼs my dream, but why them? Why not that girl I was just talking to, itʼs nice to see James again after so long but heʼs from my past, and she could be my future, or someone like her. Maybe if I wake up again I can come back to sleep and sheʼll be here.
Now I know Iʼm awake, because theyʼre all gone. And the woman I dreamed about is here, she is my future. Iʼve been married to Eve for three years now, people said we were young too get married but itʼs worked out so far. If I wanted to be really corny, Iʻd say I didnʼt wake up because she did talk to me and she does touch me like that, and sheʼs a much better woman than a man like me should ever have. I didnʼt wake, Iʼm still dreaming. But corn is wasted when itʼs only to yourself, so Iʼm not going to say any of this, not right now. Maybe Iʼll save it for our anniversary. Just because itʼs corny, doesnʼt mean thatʼs not how I feel about her, like Iʼm in a dream.
I canʼt believe the clock only says three ay em. Big day tomorrow, weʼre moving halfway across town, halfway across the world it seems. All the restaurants we go to, the shopping, itʼs all going to be different. Driving the U-Haul seems strange, even though weʼre driving it down streets we know, drove up and down half a hundred times as they were building our new house. Well, weʼre not driving it, Iʼm driving it, she doesnʼt like driving things this big. Whoʼd have thought after three years of marriage and two years of just seeing where things would go, weʼd have enough shit to warrant a U-Haul just to getacross town. But it feels good to get here. I put the van in park, and get out, go round the back to open the door and see how my driving skills have damaged our things. But as I open the door, let it roll up to the top, Iʼm confused. Where did I put our things? I could feel the emptiness like a chill coming out of a fridge as the door opened, and now Iʼm looking at it. Eve is going to kill me for forgetting our things, she worked so hard to pack them, watching me like a general commanding her troops. Although I donʼt know if there are any female generals. Does that fall under donʼt ask donʼt tell, you can be a female general as long as they donʼt ask and you donʼt tell? No, I think I read that in a book once. Or more than once, Iʼve read that book a hundred times. Iʼm reading it right now, in fact, it was with me next to me on the seat in the cab of the U-Haul as I drove over here, ready to keep me entertained whenever I had to stop at a light, or for a train, or was really bored because the road was so long and straight. It does that, you know, but not as much as you would think. I always thought that roads in the desert went forever in a straight line, because there was no reason for them to turn, but apparently there is because I havenʼt read as much of my book coming over here as I thought I would. Well now Iʼm here, so I think Iʼll read it while I wait for Eve to get here.
But itʼs not the same book I thought Iʼd put in here. Itʼs not about women hiding out in the army, itʼs about a guy whoʼs afraid to die so he tries to make a deal with death. Except of course you canʼt make a deal with death, so thereʼs no point to the book other than trying to teach me a valuable lesson I already learned from my parents. Iʼm glad theyʼre here to help Eve and I move in, they moved around a lot with me growing up, being in the military, so theyʼre used to it. They taught me to pack things for transit so nothing breaks, and Iʼm happy they did because everything would probably have broken instead of disappearing on the drive over here if it hadnʼt been packed properly. At least now weʼll be able to do all those things we never got to do when we ﬁrst started living together, we can build our life together from scratch instead of combining the detritus of our previous lives.
Except walking through the door to the new house, it isnʼt new. All our things are already here, we must have set them up and moved them in when I wasnʼt looking. No shopping spree where I slowly let her talk me round into purchasing the perfect this and that, she wonʼt have the pleasure of convincing me to pull out the credit card to get the dining set sheʼs always dreamed about. The dining set we do have is old and sturdy, with three generations of memories giving it a warm, comforting patina, that we are expected to add to. Weʼve already started, Eve and I made love on it one night, early in our relationship, when everything said and done between each other was as though we were the ﬁrst couple who had ever felt this way about each other. Now I wonder if her parents did the same as we have, exploring each other on a table given to them by their parents. The table is longer as I can see it stretching back into the past, all the way into a castle hall with two people sitting on opposite end, comically far apart from each other. I walk up to the man on one end, to explain to him that the table should be used to bring the two of them together, not keep them apart like this, but he doesnʼt seem to understand. Heʼs arguing with me that itʼs always been done this way, this is why they have servants like me, to bring the food from one end of the other, and that I should get back to the kitchen and get the next course before he and his lady wife get hungry.
Walking through this old, dark castle is making me feel cold. The ﬂames ensconced on the wall should make it warmer, but they only help me notice the patches between them. Maybe if I run to the kitchen itʼll keep we warmer, and itʼll also make sure that my Lord and Lady donʼt get hungry. Although it would help if the kitchen was closer, but they obviously didnʼt think about me when they built the castle. They didnʼt think about anyone except the people outside, trying to get in, but maybe it would be easier to get out. The next window, and Iʼm wriggling through it headﬁrst, not sure what Iʼll do with my life when Iʼm free but willing to try anything. The window releases me, and Iʼm falling, three stories up so I have plenty of time to spin myself around and land on my feet. They say cats will always land the right way up, so why isnʼt this something they say about us, it seems like a useful trait to learn.
Now I suppose I should run, I wonʼt be able to get back in the castle and they wonʼtbelieve me if I say I got lost and ended up outside. I accidentally wandered outside the castle while going to the kitchen? I should at least have wandered outside after helping myself to the food in the kitchen, I donʼt think Iʼve eaten for a while. But running is strange, the last time I think I enjoyed running was to jump into the arms of my dad when he got back from being deployed in Iraq the ﬁrst time around. He got out of the car and as I run to him and jump up into his arms, it seems that heʼs grown with me so that now Iʼm older and taller and heavier, so is he. He looks down at me, and holding me up with only one arm tousles my hair and asks how Iʼm going. But I canʼt see him any more, my eyes are tearing up and heʼs becoming blurry, indistinct. I should have stayed in the castle, I donʼt like crying, Iʼm feeling like Iʼve somehow let him down. But heʼs telling me itʼs okay, heʼs not going to go away again and heʼll stay here with me and Mum now. I donʼt know if I believe him, all I want is my family to stay together and never move apart, all of us, even going back as far as I can remember to a great aunt or great grandmother or someone. An old woman with thick glasses and hair on her lip, white ﬁne hair that tickled when she kissed me on the cheek and I stood there being talked about. I introduce her to Eve, even though she died long ago, long before I met Eve, or liked girls, or could speak in anything but a squeak. Now, my balls have dropped, Eve is the last in a line of lovers, and Iʼm standing here, older than I ever thought I would be, the subject of intense scrutiny by an old female relative who is older than she ever thought she would be. Iʼm not even sure of the link between her and me, but itʼs there, because sheʼs looking at me with a mixture of pride and jealousy, that Iʼm part of her legacy to the world and sheʼll never know what that legacy is.
Iʼm awake again, because thereʼs a dog barking somewhere outside. The sky is pale out of one window, still dark out the other as though the day is coming in installments. Except that it doesnʼt work like that, once the day starts, even though we divide it up into sections like morning and afternoon, hours and minutes and seconds, they all keep coming. Either everything in life is sectioned up, or nothing is, surely? Might make for a good discussion topic for one of my classes to discuss today.
Thinking about my dreams, I have no idea where they came from. Thatʼs some of the joy of having them, I suppose. Itʼs as though you have a small ﬁlm company inside your head, churning out media for you to devour in the privacy of your skull. This thought makes me smile. You can have some really good ones, and some absolute shit come out apparently, just like Hollywood. But I havenʼt thought of my old school friend in years, and canʼt think of anything happening to have brought him up. Or half of the cast of my dreams tonight, how long have they been waiting off camera to take their places and the director to shout ʻaction?ʼ And strange to think about not deserving Eve. I did feel like that once, when we ﬁrst got together, but over time sheʼs helped me see my own worth and accept that sheʼs not going to go anywhere.
I wish I could have introduced her to whoever that relation was in my dream. I donʼt know if it was just the haziness of the dream, or if Iʼm starting to forget it, but I really donʼt know who she was. But would she look at me now, with Eve, and be happy with what Iʼve created with my life? Could she ever have dreamed, all those years ago, where that little boy I hated being would take himself? And am I able to dream of being that old, meeting my childrenʼs grandchildren? I can think about it, but I canʼt fathom where they will take themselves when Iʼm dead and scattered on the wind off the waterfront in Victoria, British Columbia, where Eve and I were married? Maybe I wasnʼt in her dreams, but Iʼll try and keep her in mine, because I think I owe her that much. She couldnʼt have foreseen any of this, but I am, to some extent, a product of her dreams. If she had never dreamed she wouldnʼt have had the life she did, however little of it I know. And her dreams let other dream, all the way down to me, and now I lie here in bed with Eve, dreaming of her in my past and my future.
If a dream is forgotten, then does it even count? The sky looks more even now, through the windows, and thinking about it I can remember everything about the dream I had tonight. Iʼll hold on to it for a while, for as long as Iʼm allowed, and maybe whomever gave me this dream, this entity or person or thing, will grant me more dreams in which to explore my past, my future, my self. I dream of meeting this dreamgiver.
Eve will be up soon. I should get up and make breakfast.