I dreamt on the couch. I dreamt that someone I love stood over me and smiled to see me sleeping. I dreamt that my body quirked, lips twisted in a nightmare. Fear shivered through me. I dreamt of trying to move away from that fear, of trying to wake from my dream-in-dream. I wished the person who loved me would wake me.
I thought it was Nathan looking down on me. As is the way with dreams, I could not see. I had only the expectation it would be him, the cool place of a shadow along my forehead, someone partially blocking me from the sun's touch. It was not Nathan. The energy was wrong. The presence was wrong, and he would have shaken me. He would have known that sometimes I have these dreams and my mind lashes out from inside my body but my body does not respond. I get trapped in dreams until a person outside them shakes me.
Afterward, I shook and cried from the horror of it. I realized it was a woman who had stood looking at me. In the dream, it was a woman who, in life, loves me but keeps her distance. Family and not family. She has caused me pain. I'm sure she knows this, but she chooses to look past my pain and laugh it off. She makes me complicit, plies me to laugh with her. This unhappiness between us would mar her world, so she does not look except in a mocking designed to limit me and reveal her as endearing.
Because I love her, I do not tell her how I am struggling. How what she has done has hurt me. How I have nightmares because I was the most vulnerable with her in a way only true for family. I have offered love and received something more like a half-smile and fondness--intimacy with a carefully curated barrier to maintain distance.
I am a sweet oddity. I am a silly girl. I am many things but none of which are genuinely true to me. In my dream, she stood over me and watched me hurt and even then I loved her. But she did not wake me. In the clarity of daylight, I know two facts: She does not know me well enough to wake me, and to wake me would be to step into my darkness.
Take either first. The true meaning of both is that I do not have the value I wished for with her. It took a dream within a dream to make me see that what I give from my heart is neither reciprocated nor received. It took waking to recognize that this is a sore spot for me, a tender unreachable place I hope will one day be whole.