I dream that my late wife, Megan, and my very-much-alive girlfriend, Sophia, sit in a café downtown, sharing wine and some delicate finger thingys — rare cheeses, quiche, caviar. They are working class girls who climbed up and out, and neither would munch like this in real life. Give ’em Buffalo wings! The spicier the better!
“You know how dreams are” pepper stories like this; it may have been one of the first ideas articulated when humans started interpreting these night visions, probably around the same time that we realized we exist (if only for a short while).
Megan and Sophia chat like old friends. I can’t hear what they say for I am looking in from outside. I am stalking, someone could argue, peering through the window from across the street as I pretend to talk on my smartphone. Or is it a river that divides us? No, it’s a street and the traffic’s ebb and flow breaks my view into frames.
Megan and Sophia lean in conspiratorially.
Megan and Sophia rock back, laughing.
Leaning in again. Bargaining?
Now they focus on something on the table in front of each. What? Phones? Menus? The angle of their elbows and shoulders makes it seem as if they might be writing — or erasing.
That at any moment my concentration could burn a hole in this reel makes these dream-images all that more precious and delicate. Crumbly as a late autumn leaf. Ethereal as the first winter dusting. Temperamental as a rainbow after a spring shower.
It’s improbable that this Megan-Sophia tête-à-tête would ever have happened in real life. (And now, of course, Megan’s dead, so it’s downright impossible.)
Megan and Sophia were never friends, although they knew of each other. Sophia and I worked together and she and Megan met at those forced-fun occasions at which companies require attendance. They said “hi,” exchanged pleasantries.
A few years after Megan’s death, when Sophia and I began dating, she underscored this loose connection by noting, “I didn’t really know Megan.” That’s Sophia saying: “Move on!” Which, by the way, Megan probably echoes in the afterlife.
Megan and I had been married 18 years before uterine cancer got her. No kids. Megan raised six siblings after her mother died young (also uterine cancer) and decided “enough, already,” which was fine by me. I am Uncle John 17 times over (18 in about six weeks).
I might have been Father John if I hadn’t quit the seminary on a long-ago rainy Good Friday afternoon. There was no dramatic crisis in faith, by the way. Those snaggle-toothed sisters “the problem of suffering” and “why is there evil?” didn’t lure me with the creaking come hither of gnarled index fingers.
I just drifted.
First into Megan’s arms. Then, years later, into Sophia’s.
“Don’t compare,” an old boss of mine advised. (She’d been widowed twice.) “These are different women with different histories, different strengths, different weaknesses.”
Megan: curly hair, fair Irish skin, an extrovert and — I’ll say it — noble. It’s a strange word for a man to describe someone with whom he’s shared bathrooms. But you can’t fake death, and how you approach it. I watched her. Noble.
Sophia: long black hair with bangs, brown inquisitive eyes; an introvert whose soft affect hides a steely will. I do not yet have a “noble” to describe Sophia, the sort of word someone constructs only after a lover dies. I hope (and, admittedly, pray) that I never again need such a word.
Similarities: both scary smart, industrious, honest, and wielders of great laughs at life’s absurdities, the kind of laughter that will pull you in. Also: sensual, beautiful, generous and, as mentioned, partial to Buffalo wings.
People ask how it feels to love again. And I will indeed tell them — even Megan’s family, where I am always the enshrined Uncle John. I don’t bore them with my Megan-Sophia dream (give me some credit), just the lesson learned.
How it ends.
Suddenly, Sophia and Megan look directly at me and smile. So much for my spycraft. I feel myself blush, wave shyly.
Closeup. They each hold winning tickets. Scratch-offs. What are the odds? They can’t wait to share with me.
So, how does it feel to love again?
I respond: “It’s as if I hit the lottery twice in one lifetime.”
You know how dreams are.