Stephanie

My dreams are usually weird, involving big public buildings, corridors and staircases that keep getting narrower and shorter, and unimaginably large and irrational public bathroom complexes. They usually aren’t about anything pleasant, which is why the one I just awoke from jarred me into writing.

One of my few girlfriends I only dated for a few weeks, which happened not long after Angie and I had broken up. That might have been too soon, but I had a moment of carpe diem and I asked out one of the girls in my English class at the time named Stephanie. She had fine straight red hair, skin pale enough to be the envy of any goth, and the intelligent bespectacled look of a “stereotypical” librarian. She was beautiful and a touch petite, and I imagine she still is.

I was at my grandparents’ old farmhouse with her, leaving to take her home. (My grandparents have passed on and the house has been remodeled by my cousin and his family who live there now; some places seem to stick in my dream memory though.) As we walked out into the yard I felt a wave of affection and I put my arm around her shoulders as we walked. She said, “I feel close to you right now too.” (In life this wasn’t true; she gave the relationship a chance but it seems the most she ever felt for me was friendship.) She snuggled against me as we walked to the car.

When we arrived there, she turned toward me and I saw regret and love in her expression. She started to say something, but I drew her close and I could see she expected me to try to kiss her… but I started with kissing her forehead. I heard her sigh, whether from longing or disappointment or something else I didn’t know (sometimes in dreams you *do* know because your brain tells you exactly what’s going on; not that time). I looked at her again, and then I kissed her gently on the lips. That woke me up.

I don’t know whether the dream was sweet or cruel; perhaps it is just both and I should say bittersweet, for that seems to me how all of life is: islands of happiness surrounded by gulfs of loneliness and disappointment. Only my brain would conjure up something that felt so real and personal and romantic to torment me with (which isn’t true: all of our brains are very good at finding the chinks in our personal armor).

Most of my dreams deal with my fears and anxieties, I think. This one seemed wistful, longing for places and people now gone from me. In that realm of imagination, we are still together in some way and my Papaw and Grandma are alive to introduce her to. She would have liked them, Papaw was a storyteller as much as a farmer (among his other interesting careers such as science teacher) and Grandma was an English major.

I don’t think about Stephanie too often, but I realize that I still miss her. I think I’d better move forward into dating again, or call her; one or both of those.

Everything is just so
at the old farmhouse:
stacks of papers and tools on
the front desk with the
black rotary telephone,
Papaw’s shotgun perched in a
dusty corner,
kept in case of emergency.
She walks with me here
in this place she cannot be
in this time she’ll never know
in this love she didn’t feel,
over the walkway my Papaw laid by hand
from limestone rocks found in the field;
under the shade of the huge maple tree
she walks through memories to be with me,
I hold her close for a lost moment’s bliss
and awaken to darkness with a farewell kiss.

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