Never Tell Your Dreams Goodbye

March 6, 2011
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Dream. That’s what I called him, Dream. Actually that’s what everybody who knew him called him, because everyone who knew him, knew him well enough to know that that was what he wanted to be called.

My, what a hefty sentence.

But we called him that, not his real name, which was something long and complicated that his Mama had thought up for him to honor his long-dead-great- uncle twice removed. Or something like that.

But Dream was fine by me, because, lord, did that boy dream. He told me one day he was going to be the first rock star to perform on the moon, and the next day, he was going to go on an environmental excursion to Antarctica.

Naturally, I admired this wonderful boy with his big dreams. And so whenever we used to sneak out on the veranda after bedtime, I’d ask him if he’d take me along on his quests and adventures.

“Of course I’ll take you Rose. Wherever I go, you will always be at my side.”

I believed him with all of my heart because I knew he meant it. And from that day on, I began to think of him as my big brother, because he was as close to a big brother as I would ever have.

He became my protector, kind of like Holden to Phoebe in the Catcher in the Rye (a book Dream always had on hand). He would defend me when the big boys from down the block would come around to tease me on one of those “so hot you’ll melt into Aunt Sassy’s molasses summer days”. And those nights when the wind howled constantly, like a widow for her lost beau, he’d let me sneak into his bed and sing softly close to my ear, just loud enough to drown out the lonely wind’s cries.

My big sister Margaret thought we were in love. I guess I couldn’t blame her. Even though Dream was her age (16 by the time I began to blossom) we were inseparable – like the old Wrigley gum stuck to the bottom of his Nike’s. Aunt Sassy thought it was unorthodox and imprudent for a pretty girl like me to be hanging around with a boy of his age. I was as close to a southern belle as you could get with my long blonde locks. He wasn’t close to anything that could be judged even relatively normal.
Whatever she thought, it didn’t matter. I didn’t expect her to understand. Nobody did. We would run down by the river a lot, just to be away from the cahoots and narrow glances of everyone who didn’t believe we were in our right minds. And then we’d skip stones, and see who could jump the farthest while discussing more of his extraordinary plans.

“You just wait Rose, one of these days we’ll get out of here and brave the world!”

We’d lie out on the soft prairie grass, watching the stars while the blades greedily licked our faces and itched at our skin. His fingers would count mine over and over again, filling me with a wondrous feeling that nothing could ever be better.

Life is like crossing a hill. When you reach the top, you have conquered the peak, felt the euphoria of a perfect feeling, fabulous achievement. You clutch the hand of your companion while looking back on your perilous struggle to the top, holding them close so you don’t fall. But at the top, where else is there to go but down? Some people experience an effortless descent, with some small predicaments thrown here or there like boulders or a brief rain. Others are caught in a storm on their way down, and sometimes the storm impairs them – sometimes the lord wills it to be fatal.

I had experienced such a lovely ascent…maybe that’s why coming down my hill of life, I met with such a plight.

Dream was now 18, and I was three or so years short. He was graduating that spring.

“To catch my dreams and run with them!” he’d told me before the ceremony, the brief moments we had to ourselves. I had tried to be happy, to put on a mask of elation. He saw right through it. He knew me well enough to fathom my despondency.

“Silly girl,” he said softly “I’ll be waiting for you, you know that right?” His words were so reassuring; I set aside my worries to hug him tight.

The last summer we spent together seemed to rush by me like the cool cucumber baths Margaret thought would make her pale skin shine. I saw him everyday, and yet, as those days passed, they weighed down on me because soon he would be gone. I tried to seize all those days, carpe diem! he would laugh, and put them in my bag of ethereal memories, pulling the string taut. In my dictionary, the definition of August meant college, and the definition of college meant…

I saw him off at the airport. That was a big deal because the airport was all the way in the city, much farther then I had ever been. He told me that would change in a few years. We couldn’t stay long, but I wasn’t ready to let him go.

“Goodbye Dream…” I whispered.

“Silly girl,” he said, “You should never tell your dreams goodbye.”

I watched him go, even after I lost sight of him. At home that night, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I sat in the kitchen staring at my hands for a while, listening to the drone of the news channel that Daddy always watched.

I thought. I thought and I thought and I thought. The more I thought, the more I began to realize how deep our relationship had been. Just because he was escaping this small town a few years before I was, didn’t mean we were separated. We would always be as close as Mama’s month old peach cobbler. Inseparable.

And as I drifted in my own fantasies at the kitchen table, my father sat in the other room staring at the television, his eyes widening with every flash of the news. Apparently, a plane had just crashed upstate due to heavy rain; on its way somewhere important. I was much too occupied in my reverie to hear his shouts to Mama, or Margaret picking up the phone. Envisioning Dream and I together took precedence over everything else.

And then they were all in front of me - Mama, Daddy, Margaret, Aunt Sassy, the Sunday priest. Dream’s own eccentric mother, even the big useless boys from down the block. A bunch of other blurry figures I didn’t even know. Their eyes were wet for some reason, faces stricken – why I couldn’t comprehend.

“What going on?” I asked, confused. Had the priest’s cat got caught under a gutter again? I felt someone stroking my hair, Mama? Margaret holding my hand.

“A plane crashed a few hours ago,” someone said.

“Yes, I heard that, has someone…”
My brows furrowed.
“Someone very special,” that was Dream’s mother’s voice, shaking like Mama’s best and most fragile crystal.
I felt it then. My heart exploded and shrank at the same time. Jagged pieces of it seemed to cut through me, wanting to escape, gnawing at my chest, but other pieces cowered in a suddenly empty and numb ache…where my soul used to be. My head dropped, but not one tear fell. Around me people were weeping, all their noise transformed into one dull throb that wore away from my hearing. The breath I wanted to suck in to drive all the pain away was stuck in my throat, battling with the cries that wanted to voice themselves. Outside, the stars were blinking in the rain, as if shedding their own tears for my lost Dream.

It still strikes me as ironic that my hill of life was given such a rocky path on the way down. One would think it would be smooth both ways. Everyone with sense knows the grass is as green on both sides of the hill. And in addition to being rocky, it was long. On some days I would wonder if it would ever end. I used to lay out under the stars a lot. They were my best and most loyal friends after it. They cried with me when necessary and soothed me when it became unbearable. They thought with me and trudged on with me. I had one simple principle. I was going to fulfill all my dreams and Dreams. I studied hard; I graduated at the top. I took a train instead of a plane on my way out of town. Then I studied even harder. I did everything I knew he would have done. He was always in my thoughts. I think he was my motivation.
Now that I think about it, it’s funny that he should have passed on while chasing his dreams. Odd that he died on his “flight to freedom” as he’d put it that day. I was positive he’d become an angel watching over me. Maybe angels have an easier time accomplishing all their wild goals.
There’s a lot I learned from him, how to skip a rock to the other side of the river, how to steal cinnamon rolls from the corner bakery. But if there’s one thing that will stay with me for the rest of my life, it will be the last thing he said to me before embarking on his odyssey.
“Never tell your dreams goodbye.”
Well I can safely say that I never did. I didn’t even tell my Dream goodbye.

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