I dreamt last night that I was staying at Eric and Kristin's cabin and playing Kubb in the yard when Kristin drove up in a white early 90s Renault; her passenger was an ex-girlfriend of mine.
She (the ex-girlfriend, not Kristin) had Kool-Aid red hair, so I had to stare at her for a second, but then it registered and there was a rush of excitement as I lifted her up in one of those "Oh, my gosh, I haven't seen you in ages"-type hugs.
It was actually her, not an amalgam of female features attached to a name, as can often happen in dreams. My memory of her was so strong that I could smell her as we hugged. Her smell is scored deep in my memory.
Dr. Handy once told me the technical term for a person who remembers based on his or her senses, but I have since forgotten that term because it was mentioned in an e-mail conversation; I couldn't smell her when she told me.
Either way, sensing that this "Oh, my gosh, I haven't seen you in ages" hug was lasting just a second too long and becoming an "Oh, my gosh, you still smell so good" hug, Eric piped in loudly with a comment about Rachel, putting emphasis on the phrase "your wife."
Not missing a beat, Kristin added that almost every column I write is about how stupid I am for Rachel.
This particular dream featured Sarah McDaniels, but it's one I've had countless times.
The dreams are little morality plays of the subconscious, and they almost always go the same way: I meet some girl I haven't seen in a coon's age and am too patient/accepting/happy to see her than perhaps I should be, and then Eric comes in as the voice of reason*.
It's perhaps an odd thing that Eric features as the metaphorical angel on the shoulder in my dreams. But of all the people I know, he has one of the most defined and clear senses of what is right and wrong. Remember that knowing right from wrong is different than choosing right from wrong. But he is still considerably beyond me. I often fail to identify that things I do are insulting or hurtful or inappropriate. It's probably not coincidence that the people who are closest to me are so thick-skinned.
My subconscious works like a poorly written Victorian novel, so these lessons in fidelity usually end with a sort of karmic reward for good behaviour -- I discover that while I've had seven and a half years of happy marriage, the ex-girlfriend has experienced a slow and steady emotional decline since parting from me.
Of course, the side-effect to these dreams is that I end up spending the next conscious day wondering what has actually happened to the featured ex-love interest. The thoughts bring a deep and wistful melancholy. I can feel it pushing against my ribcage; breathing feels laboured. I'm not totally sure why the feeling is so strong, and what it says about me. Most likely is says I am a big girl.
But it's strange to think that out in the world right now there are all these women, all these souls, who have been close to me, and the odds are quite high that I will never see or hear from them again.
"All these women." That makes it sound as if there are thousands upon thousands of them; as if they could all move to the Aleutians and set up a semi-autonomous state of jaded ex-lovers: The People's Republic of Fuck-Chris-istan. But, you know what I mean -- there are more than three.
They are women who actually liked me -- even if just for a tiny space of time -- enough to be close. They saw me as better than I have ever seen myself. They kissed me. They wanted to hold my hand. And, to varying degrees, I tore myself up over them. It's hard to accept that two people could have existed in such intense moments and emotions and then just sort of fade away and never know if the other is even alive.
I often wonder what happened to this person or that person. So much so that I will work their name into a blog post**, making their names Google searchable for all eternity. I have this stupid quiet hope that these little internet snares will lead to the person e-mailing me. But there's probably a reason I don't know where they are or what they are up to; perhaps they have no interest in hearing from me. I'm hardly a recluse; if Jeni Rodvold were to ever find herself wondering what the hell happened to me it would take less than a second to find out.
*His wife, Kristin, will often serve as a second voice of reason. Both are capable of speaking in the blunt way that is necessary for communicating to me.
**I have mentioned Sarah a few times: here and here.