I had a dream last night; easily interpreted, if that is what dreams want.
See, I was with friends. I don't remember their names or who they were, but I knew them and I was equal to them and we were standing in a garden in front of a building at dusk. There was a warm sunset, fading to a cool night, and we were talking about where they were going--across the long gravel walk and down to watch the stage hands set up for whatever event was going on (a play or a band or maybe a game).
I said I would wait to go down because I wanted to see the sunset, and left the group to sit on the stone steps in front of the building (was it a house? a conference center? a church?). It had been a warm day, but one with a breeze. I knew that when the sun left us we would want other means of warmth, so I was planning, too, on bringing with me a pile of blankets and some communally shared hoodies. I was in a restful mood, so comfortable in the company of friends and knowing that the evening would be mellow.
I didn't realise until I turned to sit down that one of them had followed me--a friend of a different type of acquaintance than I'd had with the rest of the company--I think maybe I had moved away from the majority of the group and met in some foreign place this man of whom we had mutual friends. We had a different friendship, a singular one that involved much surviving, much waving through windows during the day and talking of books and morality over coffee after work--all this but not too much time. We had known each other about four months, I think.
He sat down close to me, rested his chin on my shoulder, put his other arm round me; I grasped his hand and squeezed it.
It felt so good to feel safe.
We watched the sun move to the very edge of the horizon, there was still a gleam left. Our friends could be heard very faintly as they laughed near the far edge of the green.
So safe, so comfortably, that even my normally hyperactive sense of personal boundaries was relaxed--normally I would be very uncomfortable with someone's chin on my shoulder. It didn't even shock me when my friend began to to kiss my face--three times, he kissed me--but before I might have turned my head to reach his mouth, I closed my eyes and told him to stop.
"Why should I stop?" He murmured, then sat back, his hand still resting on my back, not so much as embrace but a worried touch on an emotional pulse. "You didn't like that." He sighed. "I'm sorry."
In an oddly detached fashion, I was glad he had said "that" and not "me", but then another part of my mind said that only a selfish prig would have been concerned so much about himself. Another boost. My friends are unselfish. I love that about them.
"No," I said, "I liked it. But . . . " My emotions were kicking in, my wants and desires and principles and habits were all waking with a terrible urgency that overwhelmed my senses. I said his name. "Wait. We just . . . we have to talk about . . . this." Hearing the silence after my voice, the full darkness registered in my mind and I was reminded that our friends would be waiting for us. He raised his eyebrows.
"I'm sorry," I said; "I want to kiss you. But I can't--I have to know--I mean, I'm so used to believing the idea that even a kiss is a promise."
He gave me a puzzled look.
"That if I kiss you, that I love you. That I will love you."
He still looked confused; "Actions should stem from thoughts, thoughts stem from motives, motives from goals. I can't just kiss you. Even if I want to." I said this last with a smile, and he smiled with me.
"No hard feelings, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." He shook his head, and I thought he must be wondering why I impose such limits on myself, or why I had to be so illogical, or why I couldn't just kiss him and let it be a single, simple kiss.
"We should get going. I was going to go get some blankets and stuff to take down." I gestured towards the lights at the end of the walkway.
"Can I help?" Very unselfish of him to not run away. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I should have kissed him. He probably deserved a few, having built up the credit with unselfishness points from using turn signals and accepting apologies for the last few years.
"You can get those pillows from the trunk in the hall. I'll get the blankets from upstairs." Were we in a hostel? It might have been a hostel, come to think of it.
We parted ways, and before running down the long hallway to the linens closet, I stopped in the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I was angry, upset, regretful, guilty, confused, and thankful that I had held my ground. I liked him, but my principles would always come first. Oh shoot--what if it really was something I was mistaken about? What if I was just mean to one of my friends? Was I being hypersensitive--again?
I tried to smile--I knew I would have to laugh and smile when we met up with the rest of the group--but my lips wavered and my eyes were certainly not smiling. Something caught my eye and I realized that the inside of one of my teeth was rotting, horribly rotting into a reddish-brown cavity. I ran my tongue over its jagged surface and winced. Then I remembered I was dreaming--thank goodness. I had read about this in dreams, and it probably just meant I wasn't comfortable with my appearance or performance or something--all of which were valid and true. I dismissed the idea and hurried on to fetch the blankets.
Coming down the stairs, I realized my friend had stayed behind to wait for me. Our eyes met, but I looked away, and we left the building together, walking over the dim green. I remember the feeling of walking across the grass, still warm from the light of a sun that had just set behind the line of trees.