Jun 06  |  Charlie Rogers

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.

“We’re sorry.”

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.

  1. Leslie Muzingo1 year ago

    I have thought about this story so many times in the past two days. I won’t say constantly, but thoughts of this story interrupted my thoughts at the most inopportune times. I believe it is because this story is real literature in the flash fiction style. We feel the speaker’s regret, but we also feel how his story might relate to us. Most of us have regrets, but if we could, as Cher sings, “Turn Back Time” not do anything differently because we wouldn’t know what we know now that the person is gone. This is a great story about human nature. It will stick with me forever. Sorry I had to make the additional comment, but I felt it necessary.

  2. Leslie Muzingo1 year ago

    What an interesting piece! The character shows so many things about himself in such a short amount of time. I think the most telling is in the beginning when he talks about his friend’s dreams. Would he really listen if he had a chance today? Which leads us to the end-would he really have done that day differently if given the chance? A wonderfully human piece.

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