She sees him in her dreams, as if through a haze of fog.
When she was little it was different, she’d close her eyes and fall into a world as clear-cut and precise, wind-blown and free as the one she knew in real life. And he was there, he was real, if only in her dreams. He was wispy, feathery-light, flew as fast as the wind; he was richly solid, grounded in earth. The softness of his hands changed according to the seasons.
He taught her how to control her dreams.
Don’t think, he said. Feel without knowing what you’re feeling.
It was hard, at first, like free-falling. Humans don’t like to not know. Science, education, all to free them from the terror they harbour towards the unknown. Slowly he taught her to return to bestial instincts. Taught her to jump from the cliffs, it was her dream, her dream, pink-hazed and tightly warm like a mother’s womb, run, jump, fall through crackling air, because here nothing bad could happen, here anything was possible.
In these dreams nothing stayed the same, nothing except her and him, and sometimes even he disappeared for long stretches of time, leaving her alone in deserts, in deep-sea caves. Once, he was gone for five months. She laid awake at night and wished for him to come back, come back into her dreams which was her only escape, come back and make them real again. He always did.
Her seventeenth birthday, they bathed in a lake of warm milk in the dusky basin of a canyon and set out for the sea. Petals of moonlight flickering across blue-black stormy waves. He laughed. “Ready?” They dropped into the waves, let themselves be battered by the sea. Went under, groped blindly in icy water, emerged spluttering with skin stinging from salt. She let her feet float over the vast black nothingness beneath her, churned her body with the waves, and suddenly his hand was in hers, and he was pulling her down, down, down, into forests of swaying black kelp, and she looked at him, but he was only looking straight, and finally they hit the sea floor, and he led her to a hole in the sand, so large she couldn’t even see the whole of it, and the water around it was warm and got warmer as they got nearer, and he was leading her down, starting to dive into the darkness, the uncomfortable, fleshy warmth, and suddenly she needed to breathe, needed to breathe with a painful desperation, needed it more than she’d ever needed anything in her entire life, and she let go, she let go, kicked back up, crying, tears melting into the sea, thinking, why now, why now, I’ve never before in these dreams needed to breathe underwater before, why, why, why. Broke the surface gasping for air and cried, because somehow she knew it was all over. Tried to dive under the waves, but knew he was gone. The storm had gone now, the sea as calm as their lake of milk. Ripples where she floated, blank-eyed and empty.
Her seventeenth birthday, when she lost him.
She sees him in her dreams. Now as if through a haze of fog.