Sometimes the trouble with living through hellish events is that it's hard to tell where the nightmare ends and real life begins. I started having nightmares after Colin died; my mind would replay the events that had happened over and over in a loop. Sometimes I would dream that it hadn't happened, in the dream I'd "wake up" and Colin would be there asking me if I was okay. I dreamed, I would sob at him, that you were dead. And he would smile and tug my hair and tell me it wasn't ever going to happen. I would cry and tell him how awful it had been and that I hadn't known what to do with myself, couldn't figure out how to live my life without him. He would wrap me in his big arms and tell me I'd never have to find out how to live without him because he wasn't going anywhere.
And then I would be awake, truly awake, and those words would be echoing in my head. As though they'd just been said in a room and the essence of those words was still hovering in the air. And I would choke on thick hatred for him.
Last night's dream was new, one I hadn't had before. That doesn't happen very often anymore.
I woke up and Mr. J was there, just out of the shower but crawling back into bed. It was morning, time to get ready. We've done this before, many times, and we make each other late. So I smiled at him but didn't stay. I felt the world shift when I stepped into the hall. The colour was different somehow and out of the corner of my eye, I saw him. He had no clothes on, was just a blur. But I recognized his hair, knew the shape and scent and aura of him.
I stepped closer and he turned; and as he came to face me, he was Mr. J. I became confused, then frightened, then angry. I whirled around and stomped into the bathroom to take my shower.
That's when I noticed the blood in the shower. Like a red lake in the bottom of the bathtub, thick with particles and so dark it was almost black. I threw open the bathroom door and began screaming for Mr. J to get up and come in here, to clean up his mess. What was he thinking, leaving this for me to find? How can he be so insensitive, leaving his head wound lying around like this?
Mr. J was back in the bed, and irritated at my screaming. He didn't know what I was on about, but he grumbled and came into the bathroom. The lights would not go on, nor the fan; he couldn't see the mess in the shower. He thought I was making it up.
Standing in the doorway, listening to my husband tell me that I was sick and that I needed to stop playing these awful fantasies in my head, I saw him again out of the corner of my eye. Like the scary movie-monster that rises from shadow just outside your field of vision, he was there. Large and dark and dead, and only I could see him.
I backed away from the bathroom, from Mr. J and the dead Colin-thing in the hallway. That's when Mr. J saw him too, only he didn't see the Colin-thing. He saw himself, and it terrified him.
He ran towards it, towards himself, and chased it off. It was speaking to him, low words that were terrifying in the dream that I don't remember now. Words that had more impact because they were spoken so softly; it was telling him things, whispered secrets that frightened us both.
Inside the dream I wake up again, and feel flooded with relief to be out of the dream. Mr. J is sulking and won't talk to me; he thinks I have done something, am part of some inexplicable scenario wherein Colin is not dead but has abandoned his life with me because of how I am. Crazy, manipulative, un-hinged. Maybe I did cheat on him, Mr. J wonders out loud, maybe he made a mistake marrying me. We fight like this, me crying and trying to explain that it was just a dream, that it had not been real and Mr. J quietly blaming me for the death-or-mysterious-disappearance of his friend.
I awake, and Mr. J is there to comfort me. He is his normal self, kind and sweet and concerned. He is a rock when I am like this, immovable and strong, capable of soothing away my tears and my pain without words. I want to talk to him, try to tell him what happened. He backs into the bathroom, smiling at me, and slowly shuts the door on my pleas to talk to me.
He is eating an ice cream cone, and I am not awake at all. And that dark shape is forming again. At the end of the hallway. In my head. I'm not sure I'm sane, and the darkness that somehow represents Colin begins engulfing me until I can no longer see my hands in front of my face.
"I'm going to work, babe." Mr. J is leaving. It must be 6:30am. I open my eyes, my real eyes, really open. He's there, smiling and rushed, hugging me and feeling very solid. I see him off, heat up a cup of coffee, and try to shake off this dream. I'm sitting down at my computer, well and truly awake, to bang this all out when I hear a key in the lock.
I go out to the hallway, feeling un-hinged again. I'm afraid it's going to be the other Mr. J, the one who is angry and thinks I am crazy. It's not, he's just forgotten his phone.
He smiles at me as he heads back out, the smile that looks very real and very alive, then he is gone. I stood in the hallway for a moment, waiting for that dark shape to take form again. Waiting for the Colin-thing to make me crazy again.