Last week I had a dream.
I dreamed I was on a date with my husband. We were walking hand in hand through Ybor City in downtown Tampa. It was late. The sky was black. The streets were filled with people scattering like bugs, people spilling out of bars and clubs, women teetering atop stilettos, men pretending to have muscles in sweat-soaked shirts, electronic dance music pumping electricity onto the sidewalk, thunder clouds rolling in.
The streetlights were so bright they blotted out lightening.
Everything was obscured by darkness, trailed by neon and pulsing like a heart, a neon heart squeezing and releasing.
In my dream it began to rain. Water pooled like molten silver at my feet. People began to scatter faster. Cars began to accelerate. We crossed railroad tracks, Joe’s Adidas tennis shoes sloshing through the mud between the tracks. I picked up the hem of my dress, giggling at some joke he had made about running in the rain.
I suddenly couldn’t remember where I had parked.
Rather than lecture me about my forgetfulness, Joe teased me. We were on our first date. I was the free-spirited one, the non-planner, the girl in old flip-flops, cutoffs and short hair, which I had lazily trimmed the night before with my friend’s kitchen scissors.
We had yet to fall in love, my husband and I.
We had spent the evening sequestered under a set of stairs at a Cuban club filled with people who were drunk on alcohol and youth. We had talked incessantly about our shared love of The Flaming Lips. We had both been to the same concert in the Everglades a few months before meeting. We wondered if we saw each other. Could it be that we were standing shoulder to shoulder, swaying side by side, two strangers in a crowd oblivious to their fate?
The dream was a near identical play-by-play of what actually happened on my first date with Joe: The Cuban club. The Flaming Lips. The lost car. It all happened in real life.
It was as if the sandman reached into my personal highlight reel and pulled out a moment – or rather an echo of a moment. As the dream progressed my unconscious recollection of it began to distort further and further from the truth.
In real life, I triumphantly located my car on a well-lit street and drove giddily to Joe’s apartment. In my dream, I discovered my car in a dark alley, the windows smashed, the windshield cracked, the driver’s side door hanging open. My possessions were rifled through, my camera and laptop gone. (Why were these things in my car in the first place?)
In my dream, I panicked. I cried. These two pieces of equipment were vital to my livelihood and therefore inextricably linked to my earning potential. Without them I was rendered useless. Rain hammered the ground. The clubs stopped pumping music. People stopped scattering by. The streets suddenly went empty. I was suddenly alone. Joe was gone.
I heard the quickening of footsteps in the alley. Someone was running in the dark. I yelled for them to stop. I saw a shadow in the distance. I heard their shoes striking wet pavement. I heard them breathing. It was, oddly, light and raspy.
I ran in the direction of the footsteps. You don’t know what you’re stealing, I said. I cornered the perp. His back was up against a fence. His shadow was small; too small. He laughed.
And then I realized he was just a kid. A tiny kid. A toddler. He could hardly string together a sentence, yet there he stood with my camera and computer tucked under his arm.
“You’re a BABY,” I said. “How on earth did you break into my car?”
“Hand over my stuff.”
Another giggle. Then a snort.
“Please. I need them.”
“Not anymore,” he said, turning his back to me and hopping effortless over the fence with my camera and laptop in tow.
When I woke, I was sweating and Henry was by my bed begging for breakfast. It was 6:30 in the morning. I trudged into the kitchen and cracked two eggs into a pan. I made eight cups of coffee and sliced a banana into small pieces. Henry threw his chocolate milk on the floor.
“Milk fall down,” he said. “Mama clean.”
I mopped up the milk with a paper towel.
“Don’t throw your milk,” I said.
“More milk,” he squealed, tipping his empty cup in the air.
“Use a polite word,” I said.
“Pease,” he said. “More milk … pease.”
I trudged to the refrigerator. I refilled his cup and returned it to his tray, stepping on a toy car along the way.
“Mama hurt Henry car!” He yelled.
The bottom of my foot throbbed. I kicked the car across the kitchen, partly out of aggravation and partly to get it out of my way.
“Henry’s CAR hurt Mama,” I replied incredulously.
We read a book about a cat named Tuna. I took big sips of cheap coffee and wondered why I failed to outrun a toddler in my dreams.