I saw you first. That was usually the case.
But I thought it would be better if it was the other way around. Maybe then that would change things. I did believe everything happened for a reason. Even if I didn’t understand why.
Your back was to me. Again, as familiar as my own hand. Too tall, too skinny that’s what my mother usually said when she saw us together. But you had always been higher off the ground than me, and always thinner than a reed blowing off the wind from the ocean. At least for as long as I’d known you.
“I had a dream last night.”
You turned around immediately at the sound of my voice, your eyes finding me and following till I was standing right next to you. “Oh, really?” I couldn’t remember the last time we greeted each other properly, maybe it had only been that first time we met years ago.
“Yeah… you were in it.” Walking down the boardwalk everything looked the same. The bumper cars were bashing in the background and the kids were screaming from the mini roller coaster that didn’t tip upside down. How we wished it would tip upside down.
By flinging your hands in your pockets I knew you were going to go along with whatever game I was playing. The joke was there was no game. But I didn’t know how else to say it. It was quiet until you filled in with “Did I do something weird?”
I grabbed your arm and pulled us over to the line for the ice cream stand. You didn’t protest, which I considered a victory. “Not particularly.”
“Then what?” We stepped together as the line moved.
“Well… I guess you did say something weird.”
“What did I say?”
It was our turn next to order. I wished the line had been a little longer, and the previous orders more complicated. But, how complex could it get when there were only four flavors to choose from. They changed everyday but you never knew what you were going to get. “In the dream we were at the boardwalk, and we were getting ice cream just like this.”
You pushed your sunglasses off your face and gave me a good long look. “What did I order?”
“Butterscotch.” I smiled. “And I got mint.” Our turn now.
Pistachio. Mint. Vanilla. Butterscotch. Those were the choices.
I swallowed slowly. “See.”
The girl at the counter smiled. “What can I get you?” She looked very happy, but I felt a little worried.
Then you said it. “Butterscotch.”
“Pistachio. Please.” I said instead. I knew you were confused. Well. I had a reason. “Just go with me. I’ll explain.”
“What did I say to you in this dream?”
The girl came back a moment later with our ice cream. I didn’t try to fill the silence. Neither did you. So the counter girl said “$4.44 please.”
You paid, slapping down the money before I could even reach into my pocket. “I got this.” I know you do. Taking a big bite off the top of my cone I turned away. This time you were following my back, and I led you down the slope to the beach. “Don’t you want to eat at our table?” Your voice was out of breath, probably because it was hot and I had just power walked the long stretch to the ocean on adrenaline alone.
“Not today.” If I could change as much as I could then that would help. At least I thought so. My ice cream was already halfway gone. Yours looked pretty much untouched. It was even starting to drip onto the sand. The water was easier to look at. I looked so far the ocean and the sky were one. I knew you were waiting for me to say something.
“In the dream we were sitting at our table and you told me-” but I never finished the sentence. A piercing scream rose from the ocean and there was only enough time for us both to glance at the little blond head that disappeared under the waves. Our boardwalk was so small there was never a regular life guard on Sundays. That didn’t stop people from swimming.
“Darien!” It was my turn to scream, but your ice cream had already fallen to the sand.
“I have to go.” And my heart lurched. No. No. No. “She’ll drown.” No. She won’t.
By the time I moved to go after you, you were already in the waves and no matter how fast I ran I couldn’t catch up. You just got further and further away…
“No!” I yelled. “You will.” But it was useless, and then the water swallowed you whole. This time it had been the waves. They reached you quicker than I could. And then the little girl was next to me.
“He didn’t even say goodbye.” she said. I brought my fist to her face but then, my eyes blinked open. I was awake and the beach was gone. It was my bedroom.
And I was alone.
Every night this happens. Every dream feels real. No matter how I change the scenario you still always go.
It’s just a dream… and I know you’re right next door. The universe though won’t stop showing me how with each and every nightmare it’s like seeing you for the last time.
©2021 Jai Lynn