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Love of a Dreamer
The air is hot and muggy, another too-warm Juneau day. The summer has sprung Spring out of place too soon; I can’t concentrate on the formulas put in front of me. Outside I can see waves of heat radiating off of the walls--distorting around themselves, like ripples across a pond, twisting my perception of the reality outside like images warped by funhouse mirrors. Only vaguely do I recognize the droning speech of my teacher at the white-board; he sounds like the teacher from Charlie Brown’s classroom, a string of indescribable noises flowing profusely from his mouth.
My thoughts turn to the note folded up inside my pocket, as mysterious and playful as the sender. “Road trip--meet me outside the library,” it says. The nearly illegible words send welcome warmth through me and a smile to my lips. I can’t wait to see him, my beloved friend and confidant; the anticipation of finally being with him again makes the heat of the day almost bearable. Almost.
There’s another thirty minutes of class. It looms like forever, an eternity of math class purgatory. I try not to fidget in my chair, crossing and uncrossing my ankles, tapping my foot against the desk’s leg. These table-chair combos are so uncomfortable, and positively hell in the unconditioned classroom air. I’m antsy to get out of there, needing the freedom of being with Jordan.
There’s twenty-seven more minutes left in the period; the teacher begins to discuss parabolic functions of ‘x’.
In my mind I’m banging my head against the wooden desk. “Lord, give me the strength,” I start to murmur.
Reprieve comes in the sound of the bell, and I’m out of there like the hounds of Hell themselves are giving chase. Praying that I can maintain the delicate balance of textbooks, a backpack, various note-taking utensils and a calculator while not falling on my face, I dart around nameless students and teachers alike and pray that these people get out of my way. The stairs whip by me in skips, hops and jumps, and it is their fault that various faculty members vocalize their displeasure at my speed. I don’t care anymore; freedom is a mere hundred feet away!
A friend is waiting by the front doors of the building, and into her outstretched hands I shove my baggage as I pass. I barely hear her hello as I jerk the last door open and fly out to the flagpole where he waits. Abruptly I check my speed and land in his arms, an embrace that covers the span of three years of instant messages and sharing pictures while he’d been gone. His touch is like a needed rain in the drought my life had been without him, and tears fall from my eyes onto his camouflaged shoulder. He holds me close and runs his hand up and down my back comfortingly.
“I missed you too, hon,” he says simply, and I can hear the smile in his voice. Untangling himself from me he produces a blindfold and slowly, looking for discomfort on my face, ties it around my eyes, murmuring sweet nothings in my ear as he does. Jordan leads me around the parking lot to a car, carefully settling me into it. I hear him get in the driver’s seat and turn toward him.
“Where we going, my love?”
He chuckles and takes my hand again, caressing it. “It’s a surprise, Lauren,” he laughs. “Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad.” He kisses my cheek before starting the car and commencing our voyage.
The radio plays softly, and from the collective theme of the songs it becomes apparent that it must be a CD or iPod selection. I hum along with the music, happy and content. I don’t care where we’re going, it only matters that I’m with him.
We talk, and talk, and talk, of everything and anything, unwilling to waste a single moment of our time together. I reach over to touch him occasionally, just to make sure he’s real. It’s been too long since we last saw each other, and he’s only home for a short few weeks before he goes--tonight we’re celebrating his graduation from the Marines’ Advanced training with food, movies, and some well-deserved time together. He tells me about how it was at Basic, how different Parris Island was from Juneau and Homer. How much he missed me. That’s something I can relate to--the military aspect of him both excites and scares me, because I can’t touch him there, I can’t connect with that piece of him. It’s rough knowing that, and our light bantering does good to keep me from dwelling on it.
It feels like I’ve been blindfolded for a long time when he finally tells me that we’ve arrived at our destination. I try to judge our distance by the amount of songs that have played, but I lose count at nine and don’t care, figuring we’re downtown somewhere. With a low chuckle he gets out of the car and gets me, helping me along the uneven sidewalk, ushering me through a doorway. He holds me close as he leads me, an affectionate shepherd whispering in my ear. “Left, left, left, right left.” It’s an old game, and I’m thrilled to hear he remembers it. I murmur ‘hup-hup’ under my breath and try not to trip over my feet.
In the elevator he holds my hand and strokes my skin while speaking nonsense. My blindness intensifies the sensation and brings a delicious level to the ordinary touch. I smile, and he laughs again, hugging me tight. The elevator doors open with a ‘susssshhhh’ sound, and we move together into a corner, chuckling at the ‘harrumphs’ of entering occupants as the doors close again. We move up a floor or two before getting off and leaving the others behind. Our footsteps resound off of a tiled floor in a hallway filled with people talking, arguing, and laughing.
Jordan brings me to a halt and asks me if I trust him. I begin to feel fear trickling inside me, and he must have mistaken my shiver for being cold and wraps his jacket around my shoulders. I nod, unable to speak. My love for him is vast, growing ever since we first met all those years ago, but still he surprises me. He pulls me forward and tells me to trust in him before he takes off the blindfold.
Blinking, I take in my surroundings. The walls are a cool blue-grey, meeting the tiled floor that was covered in rugs. Jordan is standing in front of me, smiling uncertainly. I smile timidly back as I finish scanning the room. A desk rests behind my love and I hear the shuffling of a paper, the noise distracting me. Jordan kneels before me, his camouflaged form a stark contrast to the floor he rests on. Fear, swift and sudden like an unbroken wild horse, makes my heart beat fiercely and I shake my head. He locks his eyes to mine and begins to speak, but I can’t hear him over the pounding of rushing blood in my ears. With a strangled noise I jerk my hand from his and sprint for the door.
I know, rationally, that he is much faster than myself and could easily catch me, but I try to get out of there. Tears stream in earnest down my face and I can hear him running after me. Jordan catches me, crushing me to his chest in a powerful embrace. I try to beat my hands against him but there is no room, and he maneuvers me to the wall. I cry into his shoulder and clutch him to me. He raises my chin and looks me in the eye, smiling through a shimmer of tears.
“Do you trust me, Lauren?” I hear him ask. “When I say that I love you, do you doubt me?” The words penetrate the fog of my crying though they sound so distant, and I shake my head. “You know that I do, Elle,” he says.
“That’s why I can’t,” I sob. “I can’t lose you after having you for such a short time. You deploy in a month and then what? I might never see you again!” I hate it when I cry, it’s the time I feel the most vulnerable and un-pretty, but he smiles and kisses me softly.
“Marry me, Lauren. I love you, I love you, I love you. Marry me.” He kisses my cheeks, my jaw, nose, and brow. His arms form a cage, and I know I never want to be released from it. His blue eyes meet mine again. “Please say you’ll be mine, my love.”
I close my eyes and rest my head against his shoulder, murmuring my answer on his skin. At his urging, I repeat myself, a yes straining out of my scratchy, swollen throat. His hand moves and encloses my own, and after we catch our breath we return to the room I know now to be a judge’s office.
He retrieves a Manila envelope from his jacket and pulls the contents out. I see the marriage license all filled out, save for my signature and that of the required witnesses. My heart fills with joy and uncertainty as he darts outside to usher two random strangers into the room before his return to me, kneeling down and holding a death-grip on my hand while reciting his vows. Words rise from somewhere inside of me to spill out of my heart, promises and pledges I would do anything to keep. Jordan slips a sapphire and emerald ring onto my finger and, standing up, takes a velvet box from the now upright justice of the peace. We exchange the silver wedding bands and with a tearful smile I sign the certificate. I laugh as he smiles widely and kisses me soundly, an earth-shattering (and nearly spine-crushing) embrace.
The dream ended with that last tableau, the feelings evaporating quickly as I woke up drenched in a cold sweat. Tears stained my pillow; I must have cried all night, judged by the state I was in. A cry quietly escaped from between my lips, and it broke the silence of the night. Cold, hard reality had soon taken over my young mind--it was my senior year in high school, not the sophomore of my Pre-law program at the University; Jordan wasn't home with me anymore; he’s not coming back after Advanced or even Basic training. I’m not likely to see him ever again. Clutching a pillow to my stomach I reached for my cell-phone, dialing my voice-mail inbox to play the message saved there for as many times as I could stand.
The fifty-seven seconds of his voice made me cry harder, my heart wrenching at the prospect of never seeing him again. I let the tears flow, picturing his happy, smiling face in my mind. It’d been over a year since he moved so suddenly away--the last time I saw him was when I spent my birthday with him instead of at school. The last visions I have of him played on my mind like a slideshow until I fell asleep, holding onto that pillow for dear life while my heart broke again.
“Hey,” he says, “I guess you don’t recognize the number but this is me; I just wanted to call and say hi, see how you’re doin’.” Pause. “I miss you.”