I was having trouble keeping up with him. His gate was long and determined the way he plodded and leaned forward into the wind. It was dark and frigid with just a hint of moonlight. I remember this neighborhood; I could make out the house. We passed it without a thought. I could only see the side of his face, as he would not look at me. In the dark, I could tell his clothes were all black, as his coat blew back and forth. I would sporadically glance over to try to detect some emotion. There was nothing. He stared straight ahead. I was desperate to know. I was willing him to remember me and just answer my question. But he had no interest in acknowledging me.
He was her father for God’s sake! He owed it to me. I loved her. He looked 40 years younger than I remember him, with a chiseled weathered profile and dark eyes. A younger man who I never knew. Why was he treating me like a stranger? How many times had I had dinner at his house, or swam in his pool?
“Where is she,” I pleaded again? He grunted and stared forward. Did it pain him, or was I the thorn in his side? I learned what happened to her months afterward, shocked to read about it. She was the baby of the family, so I almost understood his stoic pained look.
We reached the end of the street. The silence this time of night was both eerie and comforting. He turned to face me, and without saying a word told me to stop following him. He left me on this street, wanting me to find my own answers. I watched him disappear as he breached the hill on Hildreth Street. I had learned about his death in her obituary that I read 2 months ago. He was also gone. But all I wanted to do was talk to her one last time.
I turned around and headed straight for her house. Her house was the nicest on the street, neat and white with a sprawling emerald lawn. I slowly walked past Moran’s house, then the Markie’s house. The next one was hers. I so wanted it to be like when we were kids and would hang out together. I didn’t want it to be weird that I was there in the middle of the night. I made my way up the short dark driveway to the white kitchen door. When I knocked, I wanted her to answer. Instead, her mother opened the door like she was expecting me, dressed for Sunday afternoon tea.
In the corner of the room, stood Beth eating an apple. “Beth,” I screamed. We both started laughing for no reason. “I loved you Beth,” I told her. She just smiled. I asked her what happened, but she didn’t answer me. Memories flooded into my mind, like the time I got high at her house and was comatose on her couch. Or the time we spent the day at her pool talking about boys all day. Or the time we put shaving cream all over our basketball coach’s car. Or the time I brought her home after a night of drinking and put her into bed with a glass of orange juice. My judgement wasn’t always too good.
But, there was a whole lifetime I missed out on with her. I wish I could have turned back time and had a hint of her adult life. I wasn’t around when she got married or had kids. I didn’t know what she did for a living, or any of the heartbreak she went through. The obituary filled in some blanks, but it was just words. Words that I should have lived along with her. Held her hand during her illness or made her a casserole when she returned home. Somehow, make up for all the years we lost touch.
When I woke up, all I could see in my mind was Beth laughing. Her impish eyes sparkled with delight. I loved her laugh. I rolled over to see my husband sleeping soundly. Taking a deep breath, I felt like I had some kind of pseudo-closure to my feelings of great loss. The dream allowed me to see her and talk to her, to say goodbye; to apologize. She was so incredibly important to me as I grew up. I will always be thankful for her love and friendship. It helped me become the person I am today. I guess, maybe dreams can reunite us and bring us to a place of peace. I feel like she will always be with me now. I hope she forgives me for being absent from her all too short, beautiful life.