The dream is about a woman you haven’t seen in at least three years and haven’t made love with in six or seven, yet it’s always the same: you see her and are smitten, exactly in the way you were when you met, and you find it strange and comforting at the same time, something of you the same, and her the same, and something about the vibration between you the same, the chemical nuances, that whatever-it-is-responsible, that thing still responsible, because in the dream you are swooning like you used to, you are swooning to the shape of her neck and the smell of her skin and the slight pain in her eyes like you always experienced it–with an unmistakable hunger.
What’s odd about the dream now is, of course, that you are in love and actually living with someone else, an entirely different woman who actually returns your affections, who cares about you for real, who knows how to soothe and comfort, who makes you laugh, who communicates herself well, who makes you espresso in the mornings, who shares enough of your interests and makes enough sense to you that together you are planning something of a future together, a future involving not children or marriage exactly, but something else, some other creative thing that you both believe might be just as good. And so the dream catches you off guard, wakes you up early, causes you to look over to the left side of the bed where the right woman is lying fast asleep, the dream makes you consider the slight unease you feel because the woman in the dream, the one you couldn’t really have in the real world, the one who couldn’t handle what you were offering, it’s that woman you pick when faced with the choice, which is what this dream has given you, a choice between these two women, a world of difference, and yet it barely takes a second to choose, it’s that easy, like nothing at all.
Which makes you think, once again, about instincts, about following them, about the wisdom of the gut. It makes you wonder how much of your life you are choosing by instinct and how much you are over-thinking and choosing out of responsibility, or guilt, or a sense of duty. It makes you wonder what part of your life is yours and what you’ve given up to someone else. Except, if you remember correctly, the woman in the dream made you act irresponsibly in another way, inspired in you a certain self-destruction, because if you remember correctly, you stepped all over yourself to get to her, allowed yourself to be treated poorly and have your own heart mishandled, and if you remember correctly, you forgave her for so long for doing that to you, sanctioned the hurt she dealt by going back for seconds, letting yourself go on the walks where she told you excruciating things like she just wasn’t ready, and the timing wasn’t right, and she was still smarting over her last relationship, and yet and yet, she really liked you, thought you were the cat’s pajamas, thought you were so sweet, et cetera et cetera—you forgave her even this cruelty, this luring in and spitting out, you forgave her for so long. And when the woman reappears in your dream, you are still forgiving her, because it takes you no time to say yes, it takes simply a tilt of her face and her eyes scanning yours, and just like that, your heart is catapulting the distance between your real life and the rollercoaster of this other one, and there you are again.
So it’s easy to wonder, waking up out of the dream, waking up and peering over to your real loved one, a woman who is fast asleep and warm and naked and a scant few inches away, her feet layered on top of yours, and the whole day verging before you with sunshine and closeness and intention and the kind of consciousness that comes with living together, the meals and video rentals and dry cleaning and the niceties of morning bagels and walks with the dogs you now share, you wonder, waking out of that dream, if it is, in fact, your subconscious that’s really driving this car. If you are, in fact, better suited to the chase, the uneasy and un-plannable pursuit, if you prefer barreling missteps and careless desire, the ache and twist and tumult of unmet love. You wonder if something of you doesn’t miss the painful uncertainty of a phone call, or the way you used to enter her house, as if on tiptoe, all of you tuned in and slightly panicky, small pools of sweat forming deliriously in your armpits, on the back of your neck, between your inner thighs, your dampness altogether. In the dream, it’s like you’ve returned to your own adolescence, that same reckless want in your eyes, and you realize when you wake up with the solid body of this other woman, this real woman, next to you, for whom your love has never been reckless or wanton or casual or unreturned, you realize there is a part of you that hasn’t quite unstuck from that ache and twist and tumult, and that in fact you are drawn—inexplicably, electrically, intuitively—to a certain cataclysm of the heart, the vigorous push-pull of lust. And though you understand the peril involved and have already experienced firsthand the wake of confusion and pain and disproportionate longing that this wayward lust has left behind, you can’t help yourself, can’t help but look to the woman on your left, who is now awake and asking you if you want her to make you a cup of coffee, who is reaching for her grey robe and tying it at the waist with a certain domestic purpose, you can’t help but wish to be back in your bumbling little dream where you are chasing the one thing that refuses to be caught, your heart, like a trapped butterfly, beating at its wildest, delirious with its last, glorious moments of living.