Tomas killed himself the night I had my first dream about you. Not exactly true. The month you died, I dreamt of subway Hare Krishnas levitating. Someone sang “The Greatest Love of All.” I believe it was your lovely, oneiric voice serenading my slumber with the 20th-century chart-topper, but …anyway, Tomas died three days before I resurrected you. (“We dreamed you up,” you had written to our son in a letter to be given to him. After.)
I woke up gasping. Reaching. Not true. Cat meowed in my face. Eyes opened. Sipped water. Peed. Forgot to wash hands. Fed cat. Remembered to wash hands. Made coffee etc. But the brainstem. Limbic system. Reached. For you. “I finally dreamed about her last night.” I tried not to cry when my husband made some shitty joke. He pretended not to notice. This is what we do. Being married to a widowed lesbian, he’s pretty chill. Makes some shitty jokes, though. Periodically, neither one of us is fun to be around. Remember that about me? Remember. Obsession with failure. In retrospect, a failure of perspective. Perspective is courage, yes? I imagine self-slaughter not as cowardice, but the inability to see one’s way out of the hole. Many times. Tomas and I. Surfaced for our sons. The hole finally triumphed over him. Cancer triumphed over you. If it hadn’t, would I too have…
When I got the call about Tomas my fuzzy brain was still full of the dream.
I lead our son through an underground labyrinth of Hell’s Kitchen rehearsal studios. The walls weep goopy mold. A stainless-steel reception desk displays an audition sign-in sheet with your name on it. I say, “Beatrice is here?” The Equity audition monitor (who might be Joey’s agent on Friends) points across the room. Your long dark hair shrouds your face and his as you embrace our boy but, you will not come to me. Not true. He finds his way to you. I stick to the floor.
Back on Earth. Friday evening. Roosevelt Avenue subway station. Hare Krishnas chant, play mridangams. Kartals. Attempt eye contact. I bolt past them. Not true. I watch for levitation. On my walk home the cloying lyric, “I believe that children are our future…” haunts me. Also, two plays you wrote for your students decades ago. Krishna Goes to Hollywood and A Matter of Perspective. “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” you would quote to parry my atheism. Nowadays I pray. True. For myself. Tomas. Our sons. For new partners who must contend with complicated histories and sad children. Shanti shanti shanti. For you.
Gretchen M. Michelfeld is an essayist, dramatist, and poet whose work has appeared in Barely South Review, Motherwell Magazine, The Washington Post, The Keepthings, Good Men Project, and TalkSpace, and the anthology, The Pandemic Midlife Crisis: Gen X Women on the Brink, among others. Her new poem, "Stolen Lollipops" will appear in Literary Mama in early 2024. Gretchen's award-winning feature film, As Good as You, is available to stream on some of your favorite platforms. She lives with her family in Jackson Heights, Queens.