May 24, 2020
In my dream last night, I found myself standing in a trendy market/shopping/eating area around brunch/lunchtime. On a Saturday, it felt like. Cloudy. Cool. I was leisurely walking/perusing this market area while waiting for an open table at a particular restaurant, which (in the dream) was called “The Gristmill”.
I walked the exterior part of the market area while waiting for my table, casually peaking in and out of shops as I did. while perusing the window of one of the shops, I saw Debrah and James G (old friends from church youth group days; we used to be very close). James and Deborah were mutual friends with Meredith, as well (and, these days, they are probably on “Team Meredith”)
I saw Deborah first. Deborah seemed to work at the little boutique shop I was peeking my head into. She was meeting James for brunch with their significant others. (But Sarah and Robert [their respective spouses] weren’t there…)
I could tell that Deborah recognized me, but she talked to me like a customer first. I just sort of looked at her as she talked. She took off her sunglasses; I acted like it was then that I recognized her. I was overly fake. “Hey! I didn’t recognize you! How are you?!” She was fairly cold. Her kindness was faked, put on by persona. And that hurt deeply.
Then, James walked up, along with his wife and Deborah’s husband. This was rough. It was very uncomfortable, as they all were both extremely cold to me. No persona or fakery, however- no affection at all, in fact. James especially. Downright rude. Eye contact avoided. Not even a handshake; just a comment – loud enough for me to hear it – in passing. I don’t remember what the comment was, but it was very cutting. I remember thinking, “Well, at least he’s not being fake. I respect your honesty, James; thank you.” After this comment, they all turned and walked past me and left to be seated at their table.
I remember feeling extremely down after they left. “So THIS is what they think of me. This sucks. This is terrible. Who else thinks of me like this?”
I wanted to run. I wanted to go home. I wanted to leave.
As they walked away to be seated, and as their bodies moved past me and my line of sight, it revealed – two paper to-go cups, like from Starbucks, sitting against the wall.
Each cup was blank white, with a picture of Patrick (my cousin) on them. He is face was on the side of each cup, almost like a huge logo or something – one that only I could see. He was smiling; chuckling and laughing.
Patrick is 10 years older than me. We were very close, and he was like an older brother to me. He died of cancer in 2004, just several months after my father. Patrick and I had a special bond, especially towards the end of his life. Patrick’s life was marked by suffering, not only from his cancer (which he had since the age of 13), but for enduring an abusive marriage from chemo to the grave (just like my father).
He looked young; in his teens or early 20’s. It felt as if only I would be the only person able to recognize his face in this form, in a crowd this big and with people who might otherwise spot and recognize him.
I walked towards the cups; I was drawn to them. I began to feel joy and laughter…. Patrick’s joy and laughter. The sense was “that interaction back there was hilarious, don’t ya think?” and “don’t worry…. I’m here with you.”
As I stepped closer to cups, I could see that they were lidless. One cup full, and the other was empty. The full cup I knew to be mine. The empty cup had already been drank; it was completely empty, save for little traces of liquid and small specks of grinds swirling at the bottom. It had been drank dry; I knew this cup to be Patricks.
The other cup, my cup, was full. And when I saw it was full, I knew it was mine to drink. I could heard Patrick’s comforting chuckle, and I sensed his presence, and I felt the invitation and urge for a drink and a walk.
The drink was cold; it needed to be reheated. I held the cups in my two hands, turned towards the restaurant/market, and began to walk.
I made my way to the central part of the market, where everyone sits to eat their meals and/or congregate, sit and chat, etc. I spotted the microwave – far across the other side of this mass of people. I would need to walk through them to reach it.
I did not want to be seen, and I felt great anxiety about this. But Patrick helped. And I began to walk.
I walked towards the directon of the microwave, far ahead. I could see that the line to microwave was long, and that I would have to wait a very long time to use it.
I approached the end of the line, and I took my place there. I felt exposed; the line stretched to what felt like the middle of the food court. I looked around, spotted faces in the crowd that I recognized all over. People from childhood, high school and college, young adulthood
As I stood standing there, I looked up ahead towards the microwave. I spotted James and Deborah sitting at the table directly ahead, the one the line runs along side of, and sitting near the microwave. I knew this to be no coincidence, and I began to chuckle and laugh with Patrick, and, grow in curiosity about what the friggin drink in this cup tasted like.
I approached their table. As I walked past them, I noticed the strangest thing: the interaction was completely different. They were to me as cold as ever, but I was joyful; and sad for them.
Finally, it was my turn to use the microwave. I placed my full cup in it, and began to reheat it. Several people approached me – from my childhood and high school days – and said hello while my cup was reheating.
the timer chimed and I took out my cup. I placed it into Patrick’s empty one, and used it as a sleeve to protect my hand from the heat. I began to drink its contents, slowly and leisurely as I walked through the food court area and towards the market shops on the outer parts. The drink was absolutely delicious; I do not remember what it tasted like, other than it was warm, delicious, satisfying. I was aware of a deep abiding presence as I drank. Every sip was greater peace. Greater confidence. Greater understanding.
I drank in full view of James and Debrah as I walked around the restaurant/shopping mart. Not performing for them…not staying in the area FOR them…. just refusing to run or to put on an act or to be ashamed. Just taking it all in. Just sipping. Observing. Feeling. The weight of the rejection. The ownership of my mistakes. The peace from forgiving. The knowledge that it will all be ok. A coming to terms and an understanding; a peaceful acceptance. The joy in the enduring. The laughter in seeing it from an eternal perspective. And the deep deep sadness from seeing it in the temporal perspective…I felt such a deep sorrow in seeing how broken we all are…. How shattered our connections to one another are…. how broken the world is…. and how that is very, very sad. And I felt such a deep empathy for that level of broken…. for all people who feel this level of broken, and who are hurting in shameful silence
And I remember feeling as I walked the weight of that, of empathetically feeling -for myself- all of the brokenness and all of the hurt of all of the people in the world, almost all at once, feeling with them and feeling their hurt…. was so. SO. Sad.
I walked and I drank, observing everything and everyone around me, feeling the weight of all these things. And once I felt the full weight of its broken, in the awful silence of it all – there rose within me a ray of hopeful expectation…. A knowing that after broken comes healing. And that healing does not exist without broken. And that one day, there will be no more darkness and shame. There will be no more broken. There will be love and light and healing. But the only way to get there is through the rubble. I remember it dawning on me, the understanding that Healing isn’t beautiful if you are not battered and bruised. That a spark of Light is only noticeable when the Night is absolutely pitch black dark…. and that to feel the joy of things -to feel gratitude itself- it all must come to rubble….
I remember contemplating this -joyfully and sorrowfully- as I drank the drink, each sip giving me greater clarity and greater understanding. I sipped and walked, and drank the cup down to the bottom, until the drink was done and the cup was empty.
And then I woke up.