Sunday, January 17, 2010

A Dream

Michael asked me today what it was like to tell other people about our relationship way back in the early days — when we looked as we do in these photos. Were you ashamed? Proud? Did you strut it? How did you tell your mom? Your sister?

The truth is that I was embarrassed at first and didn’t want to tell anyone. That was partly because I thought it couldn’t last, partly because my inner voices mocked me for not being able to snag someone my own age. After an active dating life as a divorcée in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, my options had dwindled. When Newsweek reported in 1986 that a 40-year-old single woman was "more likely to be killed by a terrorist" than to marry, I scoffed but also noted that I would turn 40 the next year with few prospects in sight.

All of that might have driven me away from him and under the covers of my empty bed except for a dream I had early one January morning. Michael and I were barely into the talking stage; we had met on a committee at work, watched each other play volleyball, sent a few electronic messages that were friendly but cagey. And then I had a dream about him.

In the dream, we were in a familiar place, and we kissed. Still in the mists of half-sleep, I said his name to myself. But the person who appeared in my mind was not Michael. Instead, it was a boyfriend from my college days. We’ll call him Thom.

Thom had haunted me for years: the good man whose marriage proposal I had rejected in favor of the exciting man. By the time the exciting man and I divorced, it was too late. I never saw Thom again, and later heard that he had died in a car accident.

Now, here he was in my dream in place of Michael. The message could not have been clearer: Michael was my do-over, another shot at the right choice, an opening to make good on that one large regret in my life.

After that I still had trouble telling people. I blushed and stammered and got tongue-tied. But now I carried with me the certainty of that dream — the absolute knowing that I should go forward, the gratitude for a second chance.

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