Suddenly, I was somewhere different, not in my bed but sitting on a couch in a dark living room with the curtains drawn. The bright day outside peeks around the edges of the dark blue curtains, and although it is cool inside, a thick layer of humidity still clings to the air.
I know where I am, but I don't know why I'm here.
I rub my eyes and stand up, just as a woman comes rushing around the corner and we almost crash in to each other. She is tall and skinny, with prematurely wrinkled skin set in a worried frown. She wears her hair short and permed, and when she does smile, her bright white teeth seem to take up her whole face. She beams happily now, her eyes disappearing in to the folds of skin around her eyes.
"Oh, Jennie! I'm so glad you're here. Thank you for coming to visit me, it's been such a long time," she cheers, pulling me in to a lingering hug.
"Hi, Meme," I whisper, enjoying the reunion. It really has been too long.
"Is that Jennie?" a voice calls from down a dark hallway. It sounds like barely more than a whisper, but I know it's just the way he talks.
A man walks out of the hallway, very slowly but with obvious purpose. He has long, white hair pulled back in a ponytail and he wears glasses with light frames. He isn't dressed like a man in his fifties; he wears his pants baggy with skater shoes and a Led Zeppelin t-shirt. He does everything slowly, but deliberately. Even his voice is low and measured.
"Hi, Jennie!" He exclaims, although his voice is still soft. His excitement dances in his eyes. He hugs me and then holds me back, looking at my face for a moment. Then he squeezes my arms lightly and says, "We didn't think you'd ever come back."
I know it's just a dream but I can't help being excited to be here. To see these people who took such good care of me when I was a runaway. It has been much, much too long, and I feel like I could just sit and stare at them for hours and still be happy. There is one thing lingering in the back of my mind, though. One thing missing from this reunion. One person.
"Henry should be home any minute," Paul says, as if he had been reading my mind. He smiles and tells me to take a seat. Meme asks if I'd like something to drink. But I'm not thirsty. I'm boiling over with anticipation. I converse with Paul and Meme, but the corner of my eye stays on the front door.
After a while (who knows how long a "while" is in dreamland), there is a key in the lock on the front door. I almost jump but keep my composure. I suddenly wish I had looked in the mirror to see if I was presentable. The last few seconds before the door pushes open, I realize I am holding my breath.
And then. There he is. My heart still stops when I see him, just as it did way back then, when we were in love.
He is tall like his mom, but he moves slowly and deliberately like his father. He wears dark-framed glasses and has dark, curly brown hair. He also has a smile that fills up his face, which is there now. "Jennie!" is all he says, in an exclamation much louder than his father's had been. "Jennie!" he says again, shaking his head in disbelief. I don't wait for him to come to me, but instead I run to him and pull him in to a deep, long-needed, comforting hug. He hugs me back and whispers in my ear, "It's good to see you."
The rest of the dream is too dream-like to describe. Mostly emotions streaming past like watercolors on canvas-regret, love, longing, sadness, desire, happiness...when I wake, I'm left with this little lump in the middle of my chest that feels like a weight trying to pull my heart down from the inside. The feeling that I missed out on something. And the ache of a love long lost but never forgotten.
I love my life now, but I loved it then, too. And sometimes I long for it, for the comfortable familiarity of it. And for him. Because even though I am not in love with him anymore, I still do love him. At this point, after ten years, I imagine I always will.