You were in my dreams last night; three of them.
In the first dream, we were young: the fears of the world did not concern us. Dark hair hung to your shoulders. Your green eyes glinted with dreams and excitement. When you laughed, the sound captured and bound me to you forever.
We were alone, the two of us. We sat on your couch talking of many things. Falling closer on the cushions, our arms touched and you leaned your head on my shoulder. I felt the softness of your hair against my neck. I can not remember what we spoke of, but I will never forget that first touch.
Later we went outside. It was deepest night, and the stars burned brightly. You took my hand and led the way. I followed a step behind, knowing already I would follow you always. We lay down in the grass side by side, looking up. We pointed to constellations we could recognize; you said I knew more of them than you, asked me eagerly to name them.
I said the names were unimportant. Constellations have worn many throughout different times and places. You said in that case you would name them yourself. You gave them names, turning each time to see if I approved. I told you the names you chose were beautiful. We kissed then.
In the second dream, we lived together and had just come home from a party. Sweat glistened on our brows from dancing. The lights of the living room seemed so bright, too bright. You unscrewed one of the bulbs with mischief in your eyes. We turned the music loud, not caring if the neighbors complained, and we danced around the furniture.
Exhausted, we held each other tightly and our movements slowed and then stopped. I looked down in your eyes and told you I loved you. You smiled, then led the way unsteadily down the hall. We lay down in our bed and talked. You laughed softly at some joke of mine, whispered in my ear, and playfully nibbled the lobe.
I took you in my arms and we pressed ourselves together. I felt the moment slipping away and I tried to hold on to it with a strange desperation that had not been part of the original. My efforts were useless. The dream fragmented, becoming a jumble of memories compressed and distilled.
We sat in the mud at an outdoor concert waiting for the band that never came out because of the lightning. We waded through an icy stream tumbling over rocks, that vacation we took when I wanted to fly to the beach but you insisted on mountains. We fought over a thousand meaningless nothings and I held you when you cried in the waiting room after the doctors told us you couldn’t have children. I wanted to hold onto these memories, the worst of them as well as the best.
In the final dream, we were older. I could already see the first hints of gray in your hair, though it was still beautiful to me. You would always be beautiful, my wife. We were driving home from a weekend with your parents. We were nearly there. We spoke of opening a bottle of wine and sitting by the fire. It had been a long weekend, and all we wanted was to get into our warm and cozy house, sit beside one another, and relax.
The rain was turning to slush. The man on the radio said it would snow by morning. You laughed abruptly, and asked if we could stay home from work. Think of it, you said; a day in bed, no distractions. I smiled and told you that would be wonderful, even though I had an important meeting in the morning. I decided I could cut out early after.
I never saw it. A puddle lying deep in a pothole, maybe, or a patch of black ice. I never knew. I felt the wheels lose their grip on the road. My hands clenched the wheel. There was nothing I could do, and as we headed into the curve the car began to spin. It was slow at first, a gradual rotation, gentle and smooth. You looked at me with the first hint of concern in your eyes.
The spin gathered up speed as we left the road. The earth fell away from the shoulder, seemed to fall away beneath us as the car took to the air. Trees whipped by in the headlights, and a sudden acceptance fell over me. I loosened my death grip on the wheel, and took my eyes away from the dizzying view ahead to look at you. You looked back and I loved you, every bit of you, and my sight swam with tears. You smiled, and I knew you loved me.
That moment seemed to stretch out to eternity. It would be hours and hours before the car hit, not the scant few seconds I remember. We had all the time there was. It could never be enough.
I begged any power in the universe to grant me this one prayer, that this time it would be me. That the big oak tree would meet the car on my side instead of yours.
You must have seen it in my eyes, guessed my wish. You mouthed one word to me, “No,” and suddenly I understood my selfishness. I remembered all of the pain that waited beyond this dream and knew I could never wish that loneliness for you.
I said, “I love you.”
Time resumed its inexorable sweep forwards. Arrogant metal met ancient wood and buckled. The deafening sound was everywhere. A single moment and then nothing.
I woke up, and missed you.
John Underwood was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He began writing at the age of six, and believes that after twenty-four years he is almost good at it. Currently, John lives in Bradenton, Florida.