I had a disturbing dream last night. I often have vivid dreams which I remember the next day, and they are usually filled with characters from what my husband calls “central casting.” One dream will be populated with random people from my entire life, usually who’ve never met each other, but they’ve all crossed my path at one time. But this dream was more striking in its choice of characters.
I dreamed that I was living in a new apartment and went next door to meet my neighbor. He was nobody that I can place in my mind. But then his roommate walked in, and I recognized his face and name though I know I’ve never met him in real life. He’s the older brother of a friend from high school, J. I told him my name, but before I could say anything further, the brother recognized me. He said, “I know who you are. J’s face would always light up whenever he talked about you.”
That is the part that makes my heart ache. About 3 years ago J killed himself. I found out about it by reading the obituaries in the newspaper. I was unaware at the time that we were living in the same city. We had lost touch since high school, and this was before everyone was on Facebook. There was a picture accompanying the obit, so there was no second-guessing who it was. Those dimples were unmistakable. It was unreconcilable in my mind that this face that so often lit up so beautifully was now forever dimmed.
A few months later I found out more details of the incident and what precipitated it, which made me hurt even more. It seems J was working at a restaurant at the time, and I realized that by pure coincidence I had gone to that very restaurant the day before he died. But our group ultimately decided to eat across the street instead because the wait was too long at J’s restaurant.
For a long time I thought if only we’d gone there as planned, I would have seen him and we would have hugged and talked and we would have exchanged numbers or emails. I kept thinking that meeting might have been a tiny spark of joy in his obviously troubled mind. That spark might have led to a phone call that might have changed future events.
But it didn’t. If only, if only….
So I’m left with the vision in my dream, of a brother I’ve never met telling me that I meant something to this lost friend.
In my pile of mementos I have a note that J had written to me in high school. It’s covered in hearts and smiley faces. I’m not sure why I saved it for so many years; it doesn’t say anything particularly special, just one of those notes you write when you’re bored in class. “Maybe we can go out next weekend,” he said.