Last night, after all of my (really) hard-won years of experience, I dreamt that my brother I went back to...high school. That's right, high school:
And to add insult to injury, we had to take the bus - and almost missed it! We had to chase it down the street. It stopped and the driver let us on board, though. It was nearly empty, just my brother and I, Brett B., and a kid that I think moved away before we even started high school, Aaron R. And finally, in the very back corner and staring out the bus window, Christina, arms crossed over her chest, dark hair loose, looking like she always did.
There's a bit of history here. Christina had been one of my friends in high school and during the first two years of college. I adored her; she was one of the most unique (and funniest!) people I'd ever met, and I always had a blast hanging out with her. So when she decided to apply to U of I for art education, I jumped (maybe a little too high) to help her get in. She filled in her application. She was approved for a portfolio review, and came down to the school, where I helped set her up, paid for the locksmith when she locked her keys in her car, let her stay with me, and then found a place to store her art for the week in case she got an interview...which she did (which was no great surprise to me). The next week, again, I helped her out. And then, terrific news: after such an arduous process, she got in! And none too late, either: at U of I, property is rented out nearly a year in advance, usually starting in October. So Mish and I started looking for an apartment and a fourth roommate for the two of us and Christina. We found both - Nicole, another waterskier, bubbly, blonde, and easy to befriend, and a cheap 4 bedroom place about 6 blocks from the quad. So we all signed the lease. And then, something happened. Christina changed her mind about coming down to school, couldn't move in with us. I have a feeling that her dad perhaps was putting pressure on her to go to school in Alabama (where he was from) or else close to home (he in fact threatened to cut her off if she came to Illinois). She could, though, pay for the first two months of rent. In that time, we talked to everyone we knew to find a subletter; we posted fliers; we ran ad after ad in the paper, Christina paying for some, me using my free words I was given as part of my salary there as an "ad-visor," finally, me paying for some more. The room stood empty. No one. Finally, Christina couldn't pay anymore, and her dad wouldn't help her. Now Mish, Nicole, and I were indebted to the landlord for Christina's rent. We got together with our parents, tried to work out a way to split it up. Mish and Nicole (understandably) didn't want to take on Christina's responsibility. And I (naturally, having known her the longest) felt guilty for bringing in the person who would fail to make rent. It came down to this: either I pay for both my own and Christina's rent, or we bring it to court to require her to pay. A terrible position for anyone to be in, especially when it's your friend (a lesson since learned: friends and money don't mix). I was a full-time student working three part-time jobs, and I was becoming increasingly ill with what I didn't yet know were seizures caused by the tumor. I was tired. I couldn't work any more than I already was to make up for the deficit. I went to court with Mish and Nicole. If I had had the money, this would have been something I would regret. But here, there was no room for regret. Naturally, however, the situation spurred a strong reaction against me not only in Christina, but in many of our mutual friends, many people who have since stopped talking to me (but still not yet about me, I hear now and again).
I held on to it for a long time. I felt hurt, I felt backed into a corner and forced to hurt her back, which was the last thing I wanted. For years, I wanted the chance to somehow make her understand that it was never personal; it was money. I wanted to be forgiven, and the chance to forgive her.
And so last night, when I met her on a near-empty bus in a dream, I picked the slightly-sticky grey-green vinyl schoolbus seat next to her. She turned to me in anger, arms still crossed. "Wait," I asked, and held out my hand to her. She at first refused to shake it. I still held it out, past any length of human pride. Finally, she took it. I looked into her face, took everything in, knowing, perhaps, it was my only opportunity to do so. It was just as I remembered it, except for her earlobes, where she wore a pear of pearl earrings which I had never seen before. I asked her what she had been doing. And as she began to tell me, I realized, everything had worked out the way it should. Her life was so different now, and it was amazing - she had done everything from going bowling with the love of her life to working on a new comic book. As her list went on, I became happier and happier for her. And then, suddenly, in the middle of our forgiveness...
The fire alarm went off in my building. At first, it was part of the dream, reverberating down the tin-can walls and windows of the bus - Christina and I broke apart, looking up and down the bus instead. And then I woke up, but didn't bother getting out of bed. I listened to Shadie (my houseguest here for a film shoot) snore through a few more seconds of it, and when he woke up, I told him it would shut off in a minute, that there was no point in getting up. And true, after a few more seconds, it was again quiet. A door slammed somewhere in the building. Shadie began snoring again after another minute. But it was a long time before I slept again.
I had a seizure when I woke up again this morning (they're still out of control), but after that, I felt good. More and more, after getting rolled earlier in the fall, hope is coming back.