So Tell Me How Long

20 May

ahoyOn more mornings than I care to admit, I awake with the vague recollection that someone was in love with me while I slept. Sometimes there’s only a slight pause, and I can picture the face of the friend or stranger who has suddenly decided that he cannot live without me. But on other occasions, such as today, I have to mosey around a bit in my recently dismissed reveries and try to identify the source of affection.

This morning’s dream was of Unrequited. And it’s probably appropriate that he disappeared from the scene right before I awoke. He is a coyote, after all, scrambling up the hillside, leaving only a tiny avalanche of pebbles and snapped twigs in the wake of paws swift and precise in their escape.

Oh, Unrequited. You’ve rehearsed this part so often, it becomes more believable every time my subconscious pulls back the curtain and trots out the familiar scene. You are finally ready to be close with me, and your entire demeanor softens around the contentment you held out of reach for so long. I am your inevitable love, and you are so happy to be home, safe. Even better, you are ready to take me into your arms and actually just be still, hold still, stay with me. A sense of calm pervades the dream, and I feel settled for the first time in my life.

This dream is on repeat-one in my mind, though I refuse to call it “recurring” because reality’s circumstances have always evolved somewhat in between fictional depictions and each is a little more convincing than the last. But unlike my Cowboy premonition or my startling ability to predict the sudden arrival of love from the Unaloof Percussionist, my Unrequited fantasy has never come true. (Thus, of course, the moniker Unrequited.)

Sometimes I do have the mystical sense that this imagining will finally become tangible. Late last summer, when I was in Salt Lake City for a week to pack my things and vacate the premises, I met Unrequited’s doppelganger on a moonlit night. I’d just finished a long and luxurious dinner with a friend and wandered up a hill to where I’d parked the impressively large and charmingly dated Toyota Landcruiser that same friend generously makes available to me when I visit Utah. Then three things happened at once.

You see, this was the first time I’d made use of this vehicle, and its storied past was transforming my life rapidly. I never drive large vehicles, and the first time I piloted this vessel, I was actually giggling maniacally. It is so liberating to move through space with too much metal around you. Especially when the metal is nicknamed “Stinky” (which he distinctly is not, and yes, it is a he, not a she, as is more common for vehicles and boats). And more especially when Stinky is home to an advanced cultural tradition. Whenever anyone borrows him, they add an audiocassette to his treasure trove of past-tense musical memories. In short, Stinky makes you feel powerful and nostalgic all at the same time, making him quite possibly the best boyfriend ever.

Anyway, I climbed up the hill, heaved myself elegantly into the driver’s seat using Stinky’s chivalrous running board step and courteous doorframe handle, and slid across the leather seat in my summer dress. I looked up and saw the full moon making poetic declarations through the trees and above the postcard-perfect shadows of mountains beyond. Damn you, Utah, I thought, and turned the key.

Earlier that day I finally got off my NPR high horse and gave in to Stinky’s DJ experience. I pressed “Tape” on the stereo and once again began giggling maniacally (Stinky really makes you behave like you are in the early phases of love). This time the laughter was triggered by the sudden arrival of the voice of Morrissey, moaning some lyrics to what I could only assume was music from The Smiths. I have always hated The Smiths, much to my Writer Hero friend’s chagrin, and I figured this was the universe telling me to a.) drive a large car and feel some crazy-ass power, and b.) own the fact that The Smiths were made for me.

Okay, so, I got in, saw the moon, turned the key, and the tape continued playing the strange cacophonous introduction to a song I’d never heard before. I paused, transfixed, until Morrissey’s voice arrived with some advice as to where things were going. Then he broke my heart and reconstructed my soul in a matter of seconds.

“Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me,” he intoned, pointing at me alone there on a dark hill. Then he sang exactly the scenario I was enduring at that moment and continue to endure today: “No hope, no harm, just another false alarm / Last night I felt real arms around me / No hope, no harm, just another false alarm / So tell me how long, before the last one / And tell me how long before the right one / This story is old, I know, but it goes on.”

mantraNeedless to say, the song became my mantra, and I eventually regained the ability to use an audiocassette player, figuring out how to rewind just to the beginning of the track, so I could hear the same song over and over and over again for the entire eight days I was in Utah last August. This song held me up, comforted me. I was raw at that time, my mother was in the hospital in Texas, and I was drastically changing my life in a mode of escape and return to some version of home.

Then, eight months later, Stinky and I were reunited when I visited the Unaloof Percussionist. That same audiocassette was in the tape player, still cued up to my heartbreak. Only it felt completely different with Unaloof next to me.

Now, fast-forward one more month, and guess what, I’ll be returning to Salt Lake City, borrowing Stinky, and pressing play on that audiocassette. And guess what? I’ll be with Unaloof, but he has expressed his urgent need to never love me or be serious about me, making himself into another form of Unrequited.

And now we come to the denouement of my dream sequence. I will press play, sing along with my heartbreak, and go to dinner with Unrequited. And he finally, finally will hold my hand across the table, and say, “You like the arugula salad here, right? And we always get the ricotta dumplings.” And I will gaze into his eyes and find a new contentment in our old rituals as they finally, actually mean something.

It’s not impossible. All my other dreams have come true. And Stinky clearly is a mystical creature who brings you the answers and grants you the power to live with them, even when they don’t turn out the way you planned.

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