When my body surrenders to sleep, colors, smells and sounds coalesce. Magic grows from possibility to certainty. The intangible parts of my soul manifest into wondrous creatures and people and landscapes.
Tonight, it manifests you.
I’ve dreamed of such encounters before--strangers who know me better, love me better, than anyone in the waking light. So when your lips meet mine, I relish the sensation without restraint, worry, or guilt. Your caresses aren’t real. Your desire isn’t real. Such things never are.
But I can feel you under my hands--the solidity of your shoulders, chest, arms. Your hair trails like fiery silk through my fingers. Our lips are puzzle pieces fitting together. Our heartbeats synchronize.
Morning comes too soon.
I open my eyes with a groan of regret. You never existed, and yet I yearn for you.
I lift my arms above my head, and it catches the sleepy sunlight.
A single strand of hair twines through my fingers like a ribbon. Like a spun flame, shifting gold and red and silver. It’s not mine.
My throat tightens. My mouth dries. It’s not possible.
I wrap it around my finger. Tie it in a knot. I will not forget.
That evening, I tremble as I slip between the sheets. I toss. I twist. Sleep flirts with me, as elusive as shadows. Will you return to me tonight? Dread and hope war. It’s only the exhaustion of living their bloody battle that sends me to dreams.
And you are there, waiting behind a veil of willow branches.
The light is strange--too soft, silvery--painting your mouth with temptation, gilding your eyes. They are the hue of violets, brilliant and blazing even in the flickering half-light. I hadn’t noticed them the night before. So many things I hadn’t paid attention to, convinced you were just another dream that dissipates upon waking, just another release from the mundane. But your hair is still knotted around my fingers, and it hums. I draw closer or perhaps I am drawn closer. Neither of us seems to move, but then we suddenly mesh together.
I need to speak to you tonight. I need to ask you a hundred questions. But your touch robs me of speech and scorches me with need.
There is never enough time or space for words.
When I wake, there is a passion-shaped mark on my collarbone. My heart gallops at the sight of it.
How is this possible? The question is a jackhammer in my brain. I can focus on nothing else. The day is hazier than the dreams you occupy. People attempt to engage me in conversation. I smile. I might even respond. They ask if I am well.
I will only be well if I can see you again.
I cannot wait to sleep. I crave it like never before. But my body is restless. It fights me. Denies me. I blink up at the ceiling for hours. When it finally surrenders, our time together is but a moment before my alarm clock rips me from your arms.
My eyelids are sandpaper, but I smile. This time, you spoke. This time, you told me that we will be together forever soon. And I believe you.
Because in the bed next to me is a still-warm body-shaped hollow.
I purchase over-the-counter sleep medicine. I take it early. I need more time with you.
You wait for me beneath the willow again. Tonight there is time for passion and promises. Keep coming to me, you say. Soon, our love will be powerful enough, nurtured enough to bring me into your waking world.
More nights pass. More dreams that leave me satiated and yet ravenous. More of you enters my waking life. A thread from your t-shirt. An indention on the pillow next to me. The wet mark of your mouth on the pillowcase. But I need more. I need to wake with your body wrapped around mine.
I’ve never needed something so badly.
Over-the-counters can't get me asleep fast enough. I visit my doctor. I say I can't sleep. Bruises ring my eyes. My clothes hang on me. I barely eat anymore. Yes, insomnia must be the reason, the doctor concludes.
As soon as the bright orange bottle is in my hands, I take the dosage. Sleep slams into me.
And there you are. Anticipation wreathes your face like a thousand-petaled sunflower. Your fingers slip through mine. Our palms press. Then your mouth covers mine, as hot and spicy and sweet as cider. We breathe each other in and out--until our breath is just a shared exhale and inhale.
I feel dizzy. Drunk. Aflame.
Yes, you say. Tomorrow night. Tomorrow will be the night when we will finally be together. We will finally be one.
Tears escape my eyes and float away in tiny, shimmering orbs. Sooner, I beg.
Tomorrow is soon enough, you tease.
I can feel every millimeter of your being. The satin of your skin, the silk of your hair, the ridges of each of your ribs. You are flesh and organs and bones. Everything is real enough beneath my hands. You are real enough.
You belong in reality. With me.
I can sense how much you want--need--to be with me. Our desperation for one another is equal and beyond measure.
Now. I need to see you with my eyes open. I need to feel your breath on my skin as soon as I wake. Please. Please. Please.
Tomorrow. I promise, you whisper. Your words are cinnamon candy on my tongue. When I wake, I know I will still taste them.
It’s not enough.
I sense our time is ending. I grip you harder. My fingernails press into your skin.
Almost. I am almost strong enough. One more night. You smooth my hair back from my cheek. One more dream.
You keep saying that! I want to push you away, but instead, I pull you closer. Even my anger, my disappointment, can’t sunder my desire.
It’s almost morning, you say. One more dream, I promise. Truly. You smile, silver moonlight and shadow. It’s time to wake up.
No! I grip your shirt, but I’m already falling back into wakefulness. Your shirt rips. I swipe again through shadow and mist and flesh.
And then I am awake. The alarm clock screams incessantly. I keep my eyes closed. My hand is warm and heavy. Full.
I open my eyes.
I sob. I brought you back, after all.
Your heart throbs in my palm.