One morning he awoke in a cold sweat. His alarm was buzzing…buzzing…buzzing right next to his ear. His body shot straight up, and he sat there upright for what seemed like hours. The usual bleariness was absent from his eyes; however, his mind was cloudy. The dream had left him clearly rattled, even as he was still trying to remember it.
It started coming to him, piece by piece. He stared at the wall facing the foot of the bed, and upon its off-white surface the images of his dream shone as if projected through a vintage lens. The first thing recognizable was an umbrella, solid red with a bold white stripe around the center. Fading in behind the umbrella was a mishmash of colors that started brown, transitioned to tan, and then bolted for deep azure. With movement and a low roar of sound, the setting became clear: he was at the beach.
As that revelation washed across his face, a figure came into focus. A woman whom he’d seen somewhere before but did not know headed toward him. He sat under his umbrella and sipped his clichéd hurricane. Strangely, he couldn’t taste anything, but it kept his mouth occupied, too busy to try and mince words with this ravishing creature. If he didn’t have the straw already in his mouth, his foot would inevitably find its way there. It didn’t matter anyway; words were not important now.
For some reason, he fell in her path. For some reason, she walked up to the empty chair next to him and sat down, her brunette tresses flipped up and back as she settled herself. She looked at him and just smiled – white, perfect teeth galore. Words were never exchanged, only warm feelings were felt as the sun melted into the horizon and the orange of dusk melded with the thickening navy of nightfall. The stars twinkled above, winking and blinking toward the couple. One sat in contentment. The other sat in wonderment. It was pure bliss, the closest they would get to heaven.
She was happy to just be, while he was happy to dream. It was then a soft wave of music enveloped them. Edith Piaf singing a hymn to love, while magically romantic and appropriate, shattered the façade. And the artifice of his dream was made painfully apparent to him.
As he sat in the beach chair, the water around his feet turned blisteringly cold, and his eyes stung from the piercing wind. The umbrella popped out of joint and danced away, down the shoreline. He looked across the horizon and saw flashes of lightning, pulsing and arcing in perfect rhythm to Piaf’s weary belts.
The storm grew closer and far more violent. He realized he didn’t have much time. With his eyes on the clouds, he finally spoke, “Shall we take cover or shall we cast our fates to the wind?” In the moment, it was a dashing sentiment, but one unfortunately that, like a lonely, fallen tree in the woods, never made a sound.
He turned to look for a response, but she was gone. He cursed himself, the second thing he’d said all day. What had he waited for? What was he dreaming about? He was literally living the dream; all he had to do was engage.
She had gone in an instant. He didn’t know what hit him. She was gone, and he was sad. At that point, the storm raged above him, Piaf’s wails were more moving to him now than they ever were before. At that moment, his own safety didn’t matter. He couldn’t care less what happened to him. He raised his arms wide and high and invited what came next.
A quick flash! And he was sitting upright in his bed, a cold sweat soaking him.