Sometimes I wish I couldn’t feel emotions in dreams.
Not because of nightmares (I’m used to those; whenever I wake, they’re more annoyances than anything else). I simply sit there, sweating and trying not to move, and after a few minutes, I relax and shake the covers off. The fear sweat evaporates quickly enough, and I readjust my legs around my cat, Tali, who likes to sleep between them, and next to my wife, who fends off her nightmares with a sword she can summon casually (of which I’m quite envious).
Neither because of the dreams where I’m back in high school. Usually I’m late for class, or some sort of assignment has gone forgotten. So I sit there, panicking, knowing that I had all the time in the world to do this, and somehow forgot. I sit at the desks looking at the test papers as anxiety twists my gut – this is half my grade and if I don’t do well, I’ll fail and everyone will hate me and why oh fucking why why why didn’t I fucking remember to study?
Then I wake up. There’s a moment of sheer panic where I almost can’t breathe, much worse than any nightmare. It subsides quicker though, and I sink back into the pillows with the shuddering relaxing of someone who knows that they never have to go through that again.
It’s honestly one of the best feelings you can have after waking up, because unlike what was shown to me in sitcoms growing up, high school blew every dick that’s ever graced the planet.
Of course I don’t mind feeling everything when I dream of friends. Sometimes we’re back in college, in the dorms, hanging out. Other times we’re…someplace that seems to change every time I move my head, but the bottom line is we all live several hours (or an ocean, for a couple) away from each other, and it’s nice to spontaneously be together again, if only in a dream, if only for a few minutes.
The reason I regret being able to feel in my dreams is because of the one last night. They’re thankfully quite rare, but honestly, I’ve had dreams where monsters tore my flesh apart, or dragged me under the bed to be killed, and I’d prefer a hundred of those over one like last night.
In the dream, I had a friend. We were close, though I couldn’t tell you why – I just knew we were by virtue of that instinctive knowledge you have in dreams, where fish could be flying by your face, or you walk to the bathroom and end up in your old backyard and don’t even bother to question it. Still, I could feel that sense of closeness when we spoke, that in real life we would’ve known each other since high school, maybe before.
At some point, something happened (I won’t annoy you with trying to awkwardly instill order into the events), and she was gone. Not disappeared, mind you; she still existed, but she’d left without saying anything – not even goodbye, or where she was going, or why. Though only seconds passed in the dream, it told me it’d been months, maybe even years before I found her again. She was with friends, and I approached her; she didn’t recognize me until I made some comment about knowing her before, and suddenly it was all smiles and promises of catching up. She’d been busy with writing, and possibly movies, and her life had been so busy, though she still never said why she’d left in the first place, why she never called or wrote, why I’d been left with this horrid ache in my chest that never went away no matter how much time went by.
We were going to meet up for coffee later that day and talk. After all this time, I’d found my friend, and she was OK, and it would be alright again, and everything would go back to how it was.
And I woke up.
I woke up, and I lay there for a while as my brain tried to reestablish itself in reality. I was home, on the bed, next to my wife. I had no idea who the woman in my dreams was, or why she’d been so important to me, but the ache – that feeling of a hand around your heart, that sense of utter longing that’d stuck with me for years in the dream, pushing me to find her – it stayed. It stayed, and it took some time before it went away, and I realized that it’ll all just been a dream, and it was silly to miss someone who never was.
But for that time before I fully woke, my chest hurt with the knowledge that someone I’d cared for so deeply for so long was now gone, and would never, ever come back.
I would gladly.
Have the demons and monsters that lurk in the deepest recesses of my psyche put me on the rack and peel me like a grape for a thousand nights.
Be late to a hundred exams, all with the fear of failing gripping me tightly.
Than have to lose a dear friend every time I wake up.