Like most dreams, the ones where he makes appearances come with no real-life explanation. Days with many triggers are often followed by nights with unrelated dreams, and days with no triggers at all are met with nightmares about him.
Last night was a great example of the latter. I had an… eventful day. It was fun, it was stressful, it was unpredictable. I got to snowboard at my favorite mountain for the second day in a row. I fell asleep watching my favorite TV show with my best friend. I don’t think I so much as thought of his name all day.
And suddenly I was at a dinner table with my dad, an old friend, my rapist, and his dad. My dad had invited them over for dinner. It was tense but strangely okay, until my dad asked my rapist to come talk to him. They went off together, and soon after my rapist came storming back, angry and ready to leave. I was upset that my dad said anything to him. I begged my rapist not to leave and to talk to me, but he walked away.
I followed him into the basement. He told me that my dad had demanded that my rapist quit his job and destroy his own car as retribution.
“That’s not what I want for you!” I implored.
“Then what do you want?” he demanded, his anger beginning to tire.
“I want you to do whatever a judge sentences you to do…” I replied sympathetically. He gave me a look like that was crazy to ask, and I returned a ‘come on, it’s just the two of us here’ look. “It’s what you did, Avery.”
He sighed exasperatedly, “You want me to get a criminal record?!”
“They’d treat you as a juvenile. It would be sealed. Come on. You’ve done this to more people. Who else have you hurt?” I begged. And I saw some sense of unburdening flash across his face.
“You know Andrew?” he started. I nodded affirmatively, and he continued. He was beginning to admit to another woman he had hurt. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was filled with gratitude for him for his honesty. When all of the sudden a gunshot rang out and struck him in the shoulder.
I was screaming. I was holding him. I was screaming at the shooter not to hurt him. I put my whole body in front of his to protect him and screamed, “Stop! This isn’t what I want! Please!” I was afraid they would shoot again. The shooter ran off.
My rapist collapsed. I feared that it was bad, but I pressed my hands on the wound and pressed my clothes against it, and the bleeding seemed to be stopping. I felt so scared for him and so guilty. “I’m so sorry. I’m going to make sure you’re okay. You’re going to be okay, I promise.”
He seemed mostly shocked and somewhat angry. The thought occurred to me that if I called the ambulance the shooter would surely go to jail, but still, my rapist wouldn’t. I knew the shooter had done what they did because of what my rapist did to me, and though it wasn’t what I wanted I still felt responsible. I began to earnestly say, “If I make sure you’re fine can we not call the police? We can call it even.”
And then I woke up.
And there it was: the longing. The sadness that he won’t talk to me in real life, a feeling that these days I only get after dreams like this. And the feeling confuses me and upsets me. How can my conviction of how little I want to do with him be so fragile as to shatter into oblivion after a dream like this, especially one that is so disturbing?
But tonight I realized the answer. Because in the dream, he was not just talking to me; he was honest. And that is what I desperately want.
When I have these dreams where I wake up missing him and wishing he would talk to me, it’s because in my dreams he is honest, he listens to me and cares how I feel. I dream that I can say to his face what I want to say and that he responds like a compassionate human being with integrity.
What I realized is the person in my dreams is not real. That is not who I know him to be. So when I wake up from these dreams and I think I miss him and I feel so desperate for the parts of the dreams where he speaks to me to be possible, I realize that what I’m desperate for is for that person I dreamt of to be him when it’s not. I realize I don’t wish these moments would come true; I just wish he was that person from my nightmares. I realize it’s not him I wake up missing.