Not long ago in a dream I was visited by a beautiful girl who was my girlfriend for two months during my junior year of high school. At the time, I was a “too-religious” loner and she was a popular senior who, for some strange reason, saw something special in me, sought me out and told me about it. She talked to me like an equal. Though we never kissed (it was against academy rules) we became an item. When we broke up, it was because of poor communication on my part.
I’ve always deeply regretted that.
I’m not a Christian fundamentalist anymore, but I’ve always blamed myself for turning her away from the religion we held in common at the time. I was the most religious boy she’d ever met, and I broke up with her for no apparent reason. That probably convinced her that the religion was bogus.
When she left our strict faith she ventured too far in the opposite direction. I’ve heard that fundamentalists tend to do that if they leave.
Years later when I was doing my final year of pathology residency, she came in on a slab at the coroner’s office on the last day of my forensics elective. There was no visible cause of death. She was still young and beautiful.
I try not to blame myself, but it’s no use.
She and I never talked things over. I never even intended to break up with her. She misunderstood what I was saying and said, “You should go before I cry.” And like a fool I turned and walked out the door of the chemistry building and never had a real conversation with her again.
In my dream I said to her, “Thank you so much for coming to see me.” I told her how much I still appreciate the kindness and the loving attention she’d given me all those years ago when I was young, away from home, self-isolated and alone. How she looked beyond the sincere but plastic wall of religion I’d built around myself, and she’d managed to find something attractive in me.
I tried to tell her that I never meant to break up with her, but she didn’t seem to hear those words.
Of course, at about this point in the dream I realized she wasn’t real. She would vanish in a few seconds, as people always do when I notice that I’m dreaming.
So I just looked at her face and tried to keep her there. I told her that she looked so beautiful and so young. She hadn’t aged. I confided that she seemed so completely real, and she vanished.
I woke up in a dark room. Why didn’t I talk things over with her back in high school when she was alive? When she still held that strict belief system that would have kept her out of trouble!
My son, the psychologist in training, has told me since his high school years, “If you don’t talk, Dad, people will assume the worst.”
I know that now.
To be understood you’ve got to open your mouth and talk. Especially when there’s a misunderstanding.
Be careful of silence… saying nothing until it’s too late.
But I wonder, is it ever too late?
Maybe time is not linear. Maybe the Universe never loses information – as the physicists say.
Maybe she heard me in that dream.
Maybe she understood and forgave me.
M. Talmage Moorehead
By the way, this story is literally true.
If you’re interested in intelligent design, weird artifacts, genetics and psychology from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old “Hapa Girl,” my in-progress novel may be a fun read. The protagonist, Johanna, is a genius geneticist with a younger brother who struggles with depression, though you wouldn’t know it to meet him. Her evolving story starts here.
It’s an experiment called, Hapa Girl DNA, and is a hybrid itself – a tightrope crossing of fiction and non-fiction. “Hapa” is the Hawaiian term for “half.” Johanna is half Japanese and half Jewish. In writing her novel, she and I ignore some important fiction-writing rules, partly because we like to test dogmas and partly because it’s fun to try new things.
But the “rules” are essential knowledge to anyone crazy enough to either break them or follow them mindlessly.
So you could download my e-book on fiction writing, the second to last chapter of which gives my current opinions on many of the dogmatic rules of fiction writing. Downloading that 10,000 word file will place you on my short list of people who will be politely notified when my traditional novel is done – possibly before the next ice age. (No spam or sharing of your info. I haven’t sent an email to my list yet. It’s been over a year.)
Next time you’re writing emails, if you think of it, please tell your best and hopefully weirdest friend about my blog (www.storiform.com). Thanks! I appreciate your thoughtfulness.