My Dream Date

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Crimes to the Third Degree.

The dreams have returned, and I’m not quite sure what to make of the one a crow’s calling woke me from this morning. Whatever was holding back the dreams seems to have broken loose, though, and I know I’ve been extremely productive—creatively—for the past few days, so maybe the two are related.

Flying By Night novelLast night, I dreamed I was on a date with a man I hadn’t seen in a long while. In the dream, we are excited about seeing each other again and talking about Life-Death-and-the-Universe, but I notice right away that neither of us is driving, even though we are going all over the Okaloosa Island-Destin-Ft. Walton Beach area through the course of the “date.”

He doesn’t pick me up and he doesn’t actually live here. He is just visiting and our time together is limited. I am to meet him at a little bar on the Gulf, somewhere close to Okaloosa Island, and we are to chat and go to dinner from there. Except…

When I arrive, I find him in the bar, talking with an older couple. He is happy to see me and gives me a quick hug, then introduces the older man and woman. Former neighbors, I think. Possibly his parents. They ran into him a few minutes before. He is enjoying the conversation—we all are—and I don’t demand he put a stop to it and focus all his attention on me. I was looking forward to alone-time with him, but I’m not unhappy either. I go with the oneness of the moment and all is well. They offer us a ride to our dinner destination, a busy little seafood place in Destin, where he and I will have plenty of time to talk alone. Except…

Then we are driving at night along the beaches on Highway 98, and he and I are sitting in the back seat but talking to the couple in the front seat. We are polite and respectful and keep our hands to ourselves. Then traffic snarls to a stop and we can see a car on fire up ahead and injured people. He looks at me, eyes gleaming above a button-down white shirt and jeans. He tilts his chin downward and slants his eyes at me as if he’s afraid I’ll be angry.

“I’m sorry about our date,” he says, “but I have to go save some lives.”

“Don’t be sorry,” I tell him. “I understand. I’m proud of you for being the kind of man to do that.”

Sometime later that night, I catch up with him after his heroics, and someone else offers us a ride to our dinner destination. It’s a van of some sort and there’s room for both of us in the 2nd and 3rd rows. The 2nd row will be too crowded and I want to make sure he has enough room to be comfortable without me being smashed against him, so I take a seat in the 3rd row which will be far roomier. Almost immediately, people move in around him and maneuver him into a different seat where he’s crowded. He’s friendly and chatty to them, but we aren’t able to talk and we sit separately for the remainder of the ride.

When we finally arrive at the restaurant for dinner, we’ve missed our table and have to sit in a crowded section with throngs of other people. Spring breakers or summer tourists, that’s what it feels like. Our table has 2.5 empty spaces. I’m aware of not wanting to be crowded myself, and so I take 1 of the spaces and he takes the other, next to the half-space. I choose this seating arrangement so we both have room to move. There’s always a crowd around him and I am, for some reason, concerned that he have enough space. That’s why I don’t crowd into the half-space next to him. Neither of us is shoved up under the other and we can at last talk about everything we’ve wanted to discuss and we’re both excited about it. Except….

A flirty blonde sees the half-seat at our table and claims it, then proceeds to snuggle up next to him, with me sitting across the table in mid-sentence. She gets his attention temporarily and he’s embarrassed by her attention. She’s pretty but all fluff. No substance, just expectation. He ignores her then, but with her so close and so many people hovering around us, we are not able to converse over the din. We eat our dinner silently, with noise all around us, together but alone.

He’s called away again and I begin to note a pattern. Someone always wants a piece of him, always wants a decision from him, an action, immediately. I give him the room he needs and someone else is always quick to fill that space, and I wonder if he even knows I give him freedom or if he thinks I’m withdrawn or angry or distant. I don’t know how I translate or, in the constant flurry of people snatching at him, if he even notices at all.

At some point in the night, I’ve accepted that our date is over and I probably won’t see him again tonight. I fear he’ll keep his distance because he thinks I’m angry at him for his absence. He’s been called away so often and he’s always needed elsewhere, and I do understand why and how and that it’s part of who he is and that I wouldn’t be happy with him hovering over me 24/7. But I’d really wanted to talk to him.

And then it’s daybreak and I’m walking alone to find my car. I’m outside the old Summerhouse restaurant in Ft. Walton as the sun’s coming up. There are plenty of cars in the parking lot and people, too. As I’m leaving, someone asks me didn’t I come here with someone or didn’t I have a date tonight. I say yes. I say who. They point toward the property line and to several people standing just shy of the hedge. One of them is my date in his white shirt, sleeves unbuttoned as if his arms are too long, and jeans. His back is to me.

As the sun rises, it strikes the brightness of his white shirt and the seat of his jeans, and I’m drawn to him physically. Throughout the night, there were many other things I found attractive—his mind, his personality, his convictions, his service to humanity—but now I see him in a different light and realize that I want to be with him in that way, too. Have I wasted the night? I wonder. Should I have been demanding rather than nurturing and simultaneously independent? Should I have tried to control his actions and interactions so that I could have everything the way I wanted it, regardless of his own needs and feelings?

My ego urges me to leave, to walk away, to acknowledge that he will always get called away or pulled away from any planned time with me. But my intuition pulls me in a different direction toward compassion and acceptance, of letting people be who they are and offering them nurturing and freedom at the same time—the same as I seek from others and usually do not find.

I look at him one last time as I start to leave, having located my car, then decide not to walk away. Instead, I walk across the parking lot to where he chats with several people—a woman and some men—all professional, business connections with a social hue. His eyes light up when he sees me and he pulls away from the crowd.

“I thought you were gone,” he tells me. “There were things I had to take care of.”

“I know,” I tell him. I mean it. This is how it is with him.

Then he says, “I’m finally able to get away so we can talk and spend some time together.” He looks a little sheepish. “If you still want.”

I nod. I do.

A crow calls, and I open my eyes.

It’s daylight in my bedroom.