I woke up with a racing heart and ragged breath. I looked around myself to ground my weary mind. I had that dream again. The dream in which I saw my mother get on the bus and leave me behind. Except, it wasn’t a dream; it was a memory that haunted me since I was a child.
I was a grown-up woman, doing what grown-ups do. I worked forty hours every week – sometimes more. I met friends, went for drinks or dinner with them. Occasionally, I fell in love. More often, I craved the physical connection a body could offer. A physical connection was easy to find, love – not so much.
Someone was stirring next to me, and I couldn’t remember his name. I should have felt uncomfortable, but I didn’t. Waking up next to someone I didn’t know was not uncommon for me. I would not rely on him to distract me from my childhood memories. I didn’t trust him. He didn’t feel like the protection or safety I needed; the nameless man next to me was only another warm body to make me forget the longing and the emptiness that spread through my body like cancer. The older I got, the more cells were infected. “Go back to sleep, honey,” his gravelly voice mumbled. I snorted. Those were the exact same words my mother had said before the doors of the bus closed behind her. Or was it my imagination playing tricks on me?
I pushed the duvet off my body and let my feet connect with the hardwood floor. I needed something real, something that earthed me. Goosebumps rose on my naked skin. I couldn’t say if it was the lingering memory of the reoccurring dream, or if it was the chill from the starry night sneaking in through the opened window. I decided that it didn’t matter.
There were so many little thoughts every day, and most of them didn’t matter. Once in a while, I felt as if I didn’t matter either. My weekdays were filled with responsibilities, work, and duties. There was no room for anything else. My weekends were wasted with alcohol and casual affairs who did not fill the voids I was looking to fill. I didn’t allow my mind to come to terms with old wounds. But the mind and the soul knew that I needed to take better care of myself; hence the dreams.
I was afraid to be abandoned and to be left behind. It was easier to keep everyone at arm’s length and stay distant. It was more comfortable to pretend that I was happy than to lower my masks and show the real me. In truth, I had no idea what happiness felt like. Happiness with a partner. Someone to share my life and my fears with. Once in a while, there had been someone special, but we weren’t in touch a lot anymore. Different live paths had led in different directions. And maybe my expectations were too high? All my life, I had been searching for love, for a person who made me feel safe. Perhaps I was just too blind to see him? What if I was too weak to hold on to the one who mattered most?
I took my phone from the nightstand, and the illuminated display showed the loneliness of my life. A couple of shallow notification that I wasn’t interested in; I pushed them all away with a couple of swipes.
I padded down to the bathroom to relieve my bladder and splash some water in my face, then I took my robe from the hook attached at the door and pulled it around me. I didn’t want to go back to the stranger in my bed, but I didn’t want to wake him up and throw him out in the middle of the night, either. In the living room, I sat down in my favourite chair next to the window. I could see the sparkling dots on the dark firmament.
“Are you there?” I sent a message to the person who meant more than most to me. I didn’t expect a response at this late hour; I just wanted to make sure that he would think of me when he woke up. I was about to put the phone down when it vibrated in my hand. My heart went like mad when I saw his face on the display, but I accepted the call anyway.
“Why are you still up? Bad dream?” He didn’t waste any time with pleasantries; he knew me too well. I nodded my head and added an affirmative sound.
“Are you alone?” I hated that my reply was negative, but I answered truthfully nonetheless.
“Is he asleep?”
“Yes. I am in the living room watching the stars.” I almost whispered.
“Okay.” I heard some rustling as if he was getting out of bed, footsteps followed, and then some more rustling. “I will put you on speakerphone. Just so that you know if the sound is different.” And then I heard the first chords of a piano song I wasn’t familiar with. Like a soothing blanket, it washed over me. There were no words, just music, and it was for my ears only. The sounds alleviated some of the chills from my body, and I grabbed a blanket from the couch to wrap myself in it. I nestled deep in the blanket and yawned. I was tired; it surprised me how much so. I yawned noisily again.
“Sleep tight, baby girl. I will always be there for you.” I smiled. Maybe I had found someone safe, but the thought became frayed as the music faded, and I drifted off to a dreamless sleep again. Maybe tomorrow, I would remember those words, or maybe they became a part of a distant memory too.