I dreamt about you again last night. Two dreams, one good and one terrible.
But the reoccurring theme was that my head was on your chest. I hate that I still remember what it feels like. I hate that I still remember what you smell like. Your laundry soap . . . It’s a small mercy that I never learned its name, or I would paint my walls with it and drive myself insane.
You’re not even real anymore. You exist, you’re a person, I know that, but you’re… disappointing. You are the feeling of Christmas morning, and you are the memory of learning that Santa isn’t real. I never even got to know you, not really. I will never forgive the universe for that. I couldn’t forget you if I tried, and I haven’t seen - or smelled - you in ten years.
In 2020, you reappeared. I was dreaming about the end of the world, again. And there you were. Of course. I looked you up online, and it only took a few minutes to find your wife. Your wife. Of course you have a wife. It isn’t your fault. I didn’t think you would just curl up and die after I left. I didn’t think you’d castrate yourself like Abelard. But I was your Heloise, wasn’t I?
You weren’t hard to find either. I always told myself that I was the only one. That I wasn’t worried about it being a pattern. That I was an anomaly. I wasn’t being vain, I was being . . . hopeful.
You were teaching elementary school last time I checked. That didn’t concern me. I always said that I wouldn’t feel concerned unless you started teaching high school again.
And now you are. Should I be concerned? It feels disgusting to say no, and it feels disgusting to say yes. Was I the only one? Was I the anomaly? Does your wife know?
You have a son. He is named after an author, a poet, a rock star. I have a faint memory of debating our future children’s names in the back seat of your car, sharing a pack of cigarettes I was too young to buy. His name was on our list. So was Jolene. In a parallel universe, this could be my life.
But that’s not the first thought in my head. The first thing I think when I find out you’ve had a child is:
Damn, I wish you’d had a daughter.
I will never forgive the universe for letting us meet when we did. It shouldn’t have happened. The wires got crossed, we missed the signals, something in the cosmos went down wrong. I have read about twin flames and past lives and Indigo Children and all I know for certain is that the first moment I laid my eyes on you, I knew you. I knew you. In a cosmic way.
Somewhere, some time . . . I don’t mean that we were lovers in a past life, I mean we were closer. We were the same. We must have shared a womb. You were part of me, and I was part of you. You have always been familiar. I knew your smell before I met you. But I was too early. You were too late. I’ve crunched the numbers. In this lifetime, it never would’ve worked.
I wish I could stop dreaming about you. But every month, like clockwork, there you are again. Bleeding brings you back to me. My dear friend Catherine, in all her wisdom, reassures me it’s a good sign I only dream of you when I’m menstruating. Like it’s an act of ancient witchcraft; even on some spiritual plane, my body is still desperately trying to get rid of you. We don’t belong together in this life, we never did.
The other day, I found out on accident: she is pregnant again. And I am once more flooded with my broken thoughts . . . God, I hope you have a daughter. I hope your wife tries to name her Jolene, and you can’t think of a reason to say no.
I know this is an esoteric curse, and it’s unforgivable to condemn children for the sins of their father. Besides, I’m an angry, queer, feminist, and gender is whatever, right?
But god, I hope you have a daughter.
I wish her no ill will. I hope she lives a blessed life. I hope she’s smarter than me, and that she never has to heal from loving a man like you.
But god, I hope you have a daughter, and that when she’s 13 she meets the love of her life. I hope she meets him a dozen years too early. And I hope you’re there to witness it, on this side of the looking glass.
I hope he’s twice her age, just old enough to know better. I hope he’s broken, and sad, and trying his best. I hope he has such a good reason for being such a mess. I hope that he drinks Southern Comfort just like you, and I hope you can smell his sins all over her neck.
I hope you hold her broken body while she weeps, and remember how terribly small I was. I hope you look her in the eye and see me again. I hope she makes you remember who I was back then, and I hope you are finally able to forgive me.
I hope you have a daughter, and your wife wants to name her Sarah, and you are too ashamed to tell her why you can’t.
And maybe, maybe then, I will finally be able to sleep.