I had the weirdest dream last night. You were in it.
Yes, I know how hypocritical it is of me to babble about my dream after I begged you not to describe yours to me. In retrospect, I wish I’d listened more. They seemed so inconsequential, encounters you had with people from your high school. None of it meant anything to me. A character wearing an incongruous outfit, your grasping attempts to divine the symbols for meaning.
So, my dream.
A plague had decimated the world’s population in a matter of days, a lethal virus which only afflicted heterosexuals. Maybe some bisexuals too; the dream wasn’t particularly clear on those details. Even within the confines of dream-logic, this seemed nonsensical, but I didn’t pause, accepting the absurdity as fact.
I rushed to the hospital in that awful car you’d owned when I met you, desperate to see my parents a final time.
The couple I encountered there did not resemble my parents at all, but I was undeterred.
My true parents would never, under any circumstances, apologize for what they’ve done. But even knowing that, I didn’t wake.
My father passed first, with a sputter and a guttural whisper. My mother—now looking like the shrewish, ice-hearted woman who actually gave birth to me—turned to the window. “Go.”
I wandered, aimless at first, into a cavernous corridor that sprawled in every imaginable direction.
Then a memory sparked, a realization firing like wild electricity, and I broke into a sprint.
You lay in a hospital room which reminded me of our apartment in the East Village, where the bed filled the entire space. I climbed next to you, beside the dozen or more bright-colored tubes each emerging from different spots on your body.
It seemed wrong, even within the rules of the dream; this should not be happening. The disease should spare you, as it spared me.
I didn’t have an answer, so I stared out the window, onto a city forgetting how to function. A light rain fell and everything bled gray, wet ash. Nobody does bleak like this town. I held your hand as if holding it could keep you tethered to this world, but it felt like you might break beneath my grasp. I was suffocating.
“Stay with me.” Your voice, barely a pained whisper.
We weren’t alone. A thousand pairs of eyes peered at us—at me—from every corner. They’d all known this ache, this loss, and their glares reminded me my pain was not special. A part of the fabric of living, a single gray strand woven amongst a billion others. “Something terrible is happening,” I whispered. The eyes did not blink. No one cared. I let your hand fall back to the bed.
“Stay with me,” you said again.
I turned and pressed my hand to your face.
Then I was awake.
In a pre-dawn haze, I imagined your skin against my palm and held it to my face, thinking I might smell you, still.
I wouldn’t ask you to analyze my dream even if you were here. I know.
I guess I wish, as I have every day for years, that I’d chosen differently. The last time you begged me to stay, I hadn’t listened, trying to wake myself from a dream that would only end one way. A lifetime of regret that I wasn’t there. To see you go.