Ten Days Before We Meet, I Dream Him

I remember him as always having
a tan, this guy I longed for
in high school, whose affections
I misunderstood, who
became my good friend
only to tell me how he was in love
with Sally. How could he make her
like him?
He stood against a brick wall,
smoking, as I gave him advice—
good advice, as it never occurred to me
to undermine his efforts. (But now, in this dream,
he wants me, as though he was mistaken
all those years ago.
He’s still that teenager
though I’ve grown to middle-age.
But now, in this dream, there are splashes
of freckles on his forehead,
blond hair on his arms. Maybe he isn’t
the boy I first thought he was. “What happened
to your tan?” I ask. He says, “You
married the wrong person.”
He lays me on a bed and puts his hands
up my skirt. We make a fuzzy and abstract
kind of love, as though his body
and mine are vapor and haze.
Maybe I don’t even have a body anymore.
But he does. I can see his chest and legs, freckles
across his brow as though someone has thrown
confetti at us.)
I remember the story
from our high school reunion—
Sally in the emergency room,
beaten until she miscarried.
The boy I gave advice to, the boy
who’d convince Sally to marry him—
how could he have become that man?
Why didn’t I tell him I liked him?
If I’d convinced him to like me,
would he have beaten me
instead of Sally?
I instructed the boy to put a flower
in Sally’s locker. When I saw him
a few years after they were married,
he asked me out for a drink.
I didn’t go, not because I was that virtuous,
or loyal to Sally, but because by then
I’d lost interest in this boy/man
stocking shelves at the supermarket.
I felt superior since I was in college
and sad for him at the same time. I didn’t know
what I was escaping.
(Later in the dream
I figure out he can’t be the boy
I thought he first was—no tan,
no meanness. I knew he was someone important
to the plot and I told him that.
He was wearing an iPod
and put one of the buds in my ear.
There were lyrics—something about a girl
having to isolate herself,
move far away. Maybe the song
was about me, what I’d done.
Maybe the song was about a girl
the boy in my dream once loved.
Only when he rolled off of me
did he age into a man.
I began to pull the sheets
from what looked at first like a stretcher,
then a twin bed. When he said
we’d see each other again soon, I kissed him
for good luck.) My alarm
sounded like a siren
on a rescue truck.

Denise Duhamel is the author, most recently, of Ka-Ching! (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009), Two and Two (Pittsburgh, 2005), Mille et un Sentiments (Firewheel, 2005) and Queen for a Day: Selected and New Poems (Pittsburgh, 2001). She is a professor at Florida International University in Miami.