A few nights ago, I had a dream. Unmiraculous for most, but for me, dreams are rare and fleeting. Few and very far between. Things to be cherished. I often wish I dreamed more frequently. I often wish I was someone who had to have a notebook or scrap of paper beside my bed. I suppose I am that someone, but while there is a notebook on my nightstand, it isn't filled with much that happens while my eyes are shut. And should such a catalog of my dreams exist, it would be severely light on material. A mere three dreams have stayed with me in my twenty-four years. The most recent two about love found and love lost. The first and oldest, about an ape by the name of King Kong.
When I was nine or ten or maybe eight for that matter, one of those ages that only matters at the time, but in retrospect blurs together in a flurry of confusion and discomfort without specificity, I awoke to a rumble outside my bedroom window. My room was an addition to the house proper and therefore jutted into the dense thicket of wilderness even farther than the back of the house previously had. Even during the day, the ground was cast in shadow back there. The damp, dead leaves in a perpetual state of decomposition. But it was at night that the dark flaunted its true cowl. The darkness was fluid. It would bubble up like oil from the brown vegetation and coat the world around it. And I hated it. I hated the dark.
In a feeble attempt to keep the dark at bay, my dad had a high-voltage insect lamp installed directly above my bedroom window. When outside, it was difficult to decide which I hated more: that buzzing, blue lamp or the dark itself. When inside, though, the blue glow and white-noise buzz was soothing. Even the crackling carapaces of the insects singing in one, final electric jolt became a necessary element for a good night's sleep.
And it was the lack of that crackle and buzz that first stirred me awake.
It was the rumble outside my bedroom window that caused me to sit upright, wide-eyed and out of breath.
And then, there was an eye. Dark chocolate brown, massive, split horizontally over and over by the blinds shielding my window. But an eye, one eye, nonetheless. Then it blinked. I could feel the puff of air erupt from the crack beneath the half-open window. It was searching, most probably as curious of what it was seeing as I was curious of it, though, most likely, less terrified. With another rumble—what I recognized now as a footstep—the eye was gone.
The house became eerily quiet. My sister wasn't in her room. In fact, her room wasn't even there. My parents, either asleep soundly in their bed or missing. Either way, their door was closed and remained so. By now, I'd ventured into the play-room boxes of board games, Rubbermaid bins of stuffed animals and action figures, an old air-hockey table, a long-unused changing table when another rumble broke the still. Two. Four. Footsteps.
The roof was gone before I had time to react.
The moon was surprisingly bright, the air crisp, the sky clear. There, above me, was a gargantuan ape. The gargantuan ape. King Kong, himself. In his massive hands, he held the roof. And with the flick of his wrists, he cast it behind him like I might a pebble. I darted under the air-hockey table, unsure if my shivering was due to the rush of chilled, autumn air or the sheer terror gripping the muscles just beneath my skin. That ceased to matter when Kong's fingers plucked the air-hockey table upward.
Then it was just him and me.
I didn't resist when he lifted me up between his thumb and index finger. He rolled me into the palm of his hand, held me close to his hairy face. And he smiled. His breath smelled of fresh bananas. His palm coarse like worn burlap. And then--
I woke up.
Between my face-to-face with Kong and my next fully remembered dream, thirteen years passed. Coincidentally, this second of three dreams begins with an eye, too.
But an eye of nebulous, brilliant blue.
I met her at school. I was a sophomore at university, too eager to start living the life I was studying for, too focused on the future. It was in a lecture hall with a capacity of four-hundred. If the ratios are to be believed, one hundred fifty other men saw her eyes at the same time as me. But mine are the only eyes she saw. When I looked away—for to continue to stare would have turned my smile to flint, striking a spark to my skin, igniting myself and those innocent bystanders around me; I could have killed hundreds had I not averted my gaze; I could not have lived myself—but she did not look away. So, when I looked back to her—for to continue to avert my stare would have sublimated my self from solid to gas to stardust, killing me just as quickly—only then did she smile. Just the left corner of her mouth. Just the left corner of her top lip. It looked like a wilted tulip petal that only just remembered how to drink water. It was the most staggering--
We became inseparable. We lived our lives with, through, and for one another. We graduated together. We moved together. We lived together. Our relationship was utopia. Ours was heaven actual. Her hair became grey along with mine as years fell beneath our wrinkled toes. We shared a glass of water that with each sip dripped from that same left corner of her mouth. Her eyes never dulled. She died in my arms. She left me alone. And so I drifted away, holding her frail frame--
And then I woke up
in my college dorm room with tears streaking my cheeks and staining my pillow. I felt hollow and without purpose and alone. I felt abandoned. I turned to check the pillow beside me, expecting her there... I'd lived an entire lifetime with her and she'd left me. I tossed and turned and flicked on the TV. And there she was. A blonde instead of a brunette, but her eyes hadn't dulled.
There was Zooey Deschanel on my television screen.
I'd dreamed of an actress and singer and married woman. Watching her recite lines and perform the director's blocking, I knew her. Not a feeling of recognition or passing fancy, but... I knew her. I know I didn't... but, for that day, nothing else made sense but to know her and expect her reflection next to mine in every mirror.
It wasn't until two years later that I dreamed of Nicole. From a lifetime to a moment.
Nicole walked to me, barefoot, atop the greenest grass I'd ever seen. Her hair was short, even though I know it'd grown long. She said goodbye. Her lips didn't move. Nor her tongue. Nor throat. The word seeped from her, blistering from the blades of grass or the air just around my ears or both, in concert. I couldn't speak as I had no mouth with which to make any sound audible.
I tore the grass and wrecked the air around me, but the word only gained strength as it echoed just for me.
And she kept walking to me. Calm. Determined.
And when she placed a single finger to my missing mouth, lips grew. And when she outlined my lips, they parted. And when they parted, a tongue was shaped behind brand new teeth. My throat tightened as I realized I had a throat at all. Then I yawned and a sound escaped the prison she'd built for me.
I said goodbye and the grass charred black. Mine was not an echo or a whisper or a word. It was a creature terrible. It was torrential.
And she was gone, swept away. But I still smelled burning... I smelled her goodbye lingering on my tongue... I tasted salt and heard the fire on my fingertips--
And then I woke up.
Another warm body beside me. Female. Freckled.
I felt my lips and tongue, satisfied with their placement. I whispered. I heard. Satisfied with its sound.
I drifted back to sleep, I think. Or else I laid there until I couldn't lay there any longer.
And I haven't remembered a dream since.
I hope for nothing else, every night.
But I do sleep well. And without fear of the dark. Without fear of the death of my future and the death of my present. Without fear of loss.
I do sleep well, if but darkly; I forge my own dreams, if but lit by the light of the sun.
I do sleep well.
But I can't help but want to sleep vividly again.