Written by Ellen Denton
Simon was standing in the distance against a bank of black clouds. His translucent motorcycle, held upright by a handlebar and lit by an intrinsic light of its own, shimmered against the dark background. His lips were moving in speech, but the freezing storm sweeping between them carried his words away.
She leaned into the wind and pushed onward toward him, but-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP- she slammed her hand down on the alarm clock and yanked the covers over her head, turned back to the dream, and strained to hear what he was saying as she continued struggling across the barren ground in an effort to reach him. It was no use. As usual, his image had already blown away into the clouds. She threw off the covers and started getting ready for work.
As she brushed her teeth, she tried to shake off the oppressive sadness that always settled upon her when waking up from a “Simon” dream.
She returned the toothbrush to its holder and twisted the engagement ring round and round on her finger. She didn’t know why she still wore it, six months after his death. At the very edge of thought though, in that place where things are more sensed than seen, she did.
After the funeral, of necessity a closed-casket service, she’d played back in her mind his last moments alive on earth over and over – the time between his breathlessly-spoken phone call to her at work that he needed to talk to her in person right away and that he would be there shortly, to his death twenty minutes later on the freeway.
Witnesses said he was driving the motorcycle almost ninety miles an hour when it skidded and flew under the wheels of an oncoming big-rig. In her mind’s eye, she saw him rocketing down the freeway, some urgent, unspoken message impelling him toward her at breakneck speed. The ponderous, metal gate of death then clanging down, leaving only a void of silence so great, she turned to him now in her very dreams to hear those words. It was that chasm of silence which linked her to him still.
As she walked to the front door to leave her apartment, she stopped briefly, as she did every morning, to look at the framed photograph she kept on a living room table. It was a picture of him standing by the motorcycle, holding it up by a handlebar, just like he did in the dream. He had his helmet under the other arm and he was smiling. The picture was the only thing of his that she kept.
After his death, she had moved out of their shared apartment, giving almost everything of his away to charity. She couldn’t stand to be around reminders of him like his clothes or other personal items.
They’d only had shabby, secondhand, furniture, so she gave that away too. He had lovingly promised her a neat little house by a bay with a white picket fence. They had planned to marry, move to New England, and buy one there, so had diligently scrimped and saved toward that goal. They never even came close though to having the money to make the move.
She had packed the photo of him in a small box of items she was shipping to his family, but at the last moment, tore the tape off the crate and took it out.
It was Friday night. She had some errands to run Saturday morning, so was going to set the alarm. In the end, feeling spent after a grueling week at work, she decided to sleep in. The “Simon” dreams always came in the early morning – that grey time and space when she drifted up from the deepest pool of sleep and hovered just below the surface of wakefulness. The dreams were almost always the same, but this time, as she struggled toward him, she got closer to where he stood than ever before. As his mouth moved in speech, the wind rose, and the soundless words again scattered like grains of sand into some impassable void. She wept; he shook his head, and held up a finger to her in a “wait” gesture. Puzzled, she stopped and watched.
He looked down at the motorcycle, still holding it up by a handlebar. He looked back up at her and tilted his body a little to the right and a helmet materialized beneath his other arm. He smiled. It was an exact recreation of his expression and position in the photo on her living room table. He then mouthed a single word that traveled to her with the sound of an exhaled breath across the wasteland that divided them: Thiiiisssss.
She jerked awake and stared up at the ceiling. She knew it was just a dream, her own answer-thirst haunting her, as it had since his death, even to the goose bumps and chill remaining on her skin, despite the quilt covering her, from the cold wind blowing through the barren space between them. She knew, as she had on all the other days, she would move on into her day and shake off the wisps and strands still clinging to her from it.
That day, she couldn’t. She picked up the photo of him and sat on the couch. In their shared apartment, she always kept the picture prominently displayed on a table, just like she did here. It was in a plain, cheap, silver-colored frame, fitted with cardboard in the back that could be pulled outward by a tab, so that a picture could be slid in behind the glass in front.
On impulse, she grabbed the cardboard tab and pulled open the back, and a lottery ticket, with all six winning numbers circled, secured in the frame by Simon on the day he died, fell swirling out like a butterfly onto her lap.