I am in a tapas bar, approaching a man wearing red cords, a gingham shirt and brogues.
I know these preppy clothes and even from behind, I know the person they belong to.
When I touch his arm, he turns away from his newspaper and toward me.
Time slows down as I take in the smile, the pores, the smooth-shaven chin.
The man is Alberto.
Minus a major accessory.
But darling, I ask, where are your glasses?
His chin nods toward me.
Even in the dream, I’m aware that his signature glasses are my new trademark.
Oh, I say. I didn’t realize that was how it worked.
It’s fine, he laughs. I don’t need them anymore.
Good thing, I say. Because I already replaced your prescription with mine.
I know, he says. So, how’s your day? What are you up to?
Just silly errands—but who cares? I want to hear about you, I say, leaning in.
As he pulls me into a hug, his hand slides around my lower back, sending tingles from tips to toes.
My God, I say. You’re really here.
I awaken as I reach toward Alberto’s side of the bed, mumbling that I was missing you in my dream.
When I find only pillows and sheets, my eyes open to the dark room.
But where are—?
I see the replaced headboard, the rearranged art on the walls and Alberto’s absence washes through me like it’s Day One.
Washes through me like he hasn’t been gone longer than we were married.
Which he has.
The sobs are sucking oxygen faster than I can take it in and so I cry-cough, trying to memorize his outfit and words from the dream.
I slip into sleep—and find myself right back in the tapas bar, sitting across from Alberto at a table.
So, you’re doing errands today, he says, putting his leg in my lap. Can you pick something up for me?
Sure, I say, not unaware that I’m in the dream again, just hanging out with my dead husband.
Get me one of those Luna Lances.
You know—those chalkboards with phosphorescent chalk. The kind that glows in the dark.
Never heard of it. Is that so you can see your to-do list even at night?
No, Tré. It’s so YOU can see your to-do list even at night.
I awaken this time without reaching for the empty space.
Without tears or a lack of oxygen.
I awaken this time and walk into the home office, where my to-do list is not glowing.
I stare at it, prioritize and put the kettle on.
Two hours and four emails later, I’ve confirmed a reading of “Splitting the Difference” at a Long Island library, secured book press for August and landed a new writing assignment.
I also may have googled phosphorescent chalk.
(And realized it was beside the point.)