by James R. Tate
It’s three thirty in the morning. The house is silent except for the hum of the refrigerator and a distant train horn blowing in the night. I find a piece of paper and a pen in a kitchen drawer, eager to get the words written before the memory fades. The hair on the nape of my neck is moist, as are my eyes, reddened by the reality of what I experienced in the dream. I can only hope this letter will help. My laptop sitting on the coffee table beckons to me, but I pull out a stool at the bar instead and take a seat. Something tells me a handwritten letter is better. I ignore the tremor in my hand and begin.
My dearest Michele,
I pause for a moment to wipe a teardrop from the page, not wanting the words to smudge. As I wipe at the moisture, another one splashes lightly on my wrist, surprising me. It’s always been my position to be the strong one, to keep my emotions to myself, for the good of the whole. My wife does not need to concern herself with my problems, my fears, my . . . pain. I think back to the wetness on my cheeks when I awoke from the dream and the dampness on my pillow, but those were from the emotions of a dreaming man, when control is lost, like the trickle of warmth while dreaming about going to the bathroom. Those tears cannot be judged in the real world.
I try to push the tears away, but picturing you in the master bedroom, less than thirty feet from where I’m sitting now, lying on your side, lightly snoring like a puppy nuzzled against its mother’s warmth, I cannot control the emotions this dream has suddenly awakened. I push the paper out of range of the tears and continue writing.
I know the person you had the affair with. He’s a friend of mine. Typical of the world of dreams, he was there with us. There is no need to mention his name as this was only a dream. But my reaction to him seems noteworthy. I remember feeling a certain agitation towards him, but not anger, and certainly not hatred. Again, I found this very odd. Like maybe I was jealous. I’m not sure how long all of this took because time is a strange beast in the dream world, but I soon found myself sitting on the front porch of this imaginary house, face to face with you, my wife of twelve years, and I asked the one word any man in this situation would ask.Why?
The image of you staring at me through bloodshot eyes, tears streaming down your face, is an image I will never forget. As I watched your lips quiver with anguish, I felt so much pain inside—for YOU. What had I done to you? Had I become so self absorbed and oblivious to your dreams and desires that I had driven you away? I couldn’t remember the last time I had told you how beautiful you are, or how seeing your nakedness in the reflection of the moonlight from the bedroom window still makes me feel like a young man. Would I ever get the chance to tell you I love you again?
I woke up before you answered my question, feeling an emptiness and longing I had never experienced in my life. I was truly scared of living my life without you. I understand the tears now. They are not about the dream, but are for what might become. Like Scrooge seeing the future and then realizing he can still make things right, I want to describe my feelings for you, but that would be like describing God in the heavens; I don’t fully comprehend them, besides, there’s not enough paper in this house. So I’ll just leave you with this thought. When you walked down the aisle at our wedding, with your beautiful dress and even more beautiful smile, I felt a joy in my heart that can never be outdone, but it IS relived every day when I wake up next to you. It is an emotion I want to enjoy until the end of time, and I will LOVE YOU there and back. Sweet dreams, my love.
I return to bed and silently slide under the covers, careful not to wake Michelle, but as I turn on my side, I hear a soft voice. “You okay?” she mumbles.
Sliding my arm over her waist, I say, “I just needed a drink of water.” My thoughts go back to the dream and the letter on the bar. I slide a little closer to her, and hold her a little tighter. The tears come again, sliding down my cheek. I hear myself whisper in her ear, “I love you.”
James R. Tate is an award winning author of fiction, magazine and short story. His debut adult novel, BLOOD BIAS, will be released in March, 2012. You can find him at jamesrtate.com, or his blog http://jamesrtate.blogspot.com/ , and also on Facebook and Twitter.