Yesterday morning I woke up with aching jaws and a headache that reached up to the crown of my skull. I had been clenching my teeth in my sleep. I had been dreaming.
I went to high school with Omar, a very sweet, nice, Egyptian-American boy. Everyone liked this kid. He was humble, had an easy nature, was kind to everyone, and had a gangly build that endeared him to the ladies. He dated pretty much everyone but me.
Years later, we both found ourselves living in New York, and I fixed that little oversight. We hung out a couple of times, had a few laughs. Then one day his phone number was disconnected, and I heard through the grapevine that he'd moved to California. The next thing I knew, he had made a film with Bruce Willis, playing a very small role, but still - he was in the movies now. Since then he's done a couple of other small things, and has a listing on IMDB.com, but mostly I hear stories through the grapevine from old family friends in Illinois.
When I knew this kid, in high school, he got good grades, participated in a number of extra-curricular activities, was very popular, and was the kind of kid that all the teachers and his parents were proud of. However, when he enrolled in that nice private college, he shocked everyone by majoring in Theatre. This kid wanted to be an actor. I remember my father telling me that Omar's father had implored him to have me try and talk Omar out of majoring in acting. My Dad and I shook our heads sadly. No way was I getting involved in that.
By the time I saw Omar again, in New York, he was all chatter and smiles and clouds of pot. He told me all sorts of stories about touring the country with the Grateful Dead for a year, and about attending SCAMDA - apparently he had attended for one or two semesters and dropped. He told me about his girlfriends, his parents divorcing and moving out of Illinois. He talked about how he'd rediscovered his Islamic faith, now that he was surrounded by others who practiced it, living in Brooklyn Heights in 1995. He was happy, but he wasn't "making it" as an actor yet. He was young though, and able to be patient, and pay his dues.
I was brand new to New York. It was so awesome to see a friend from the old days. We hung out a few times, listening to Sinatra CD's, getting high, eating Chinese takeout and fooling around, being free and young and ignoring the past and the future. I remember being disappointed, though, in the drastic changes this kid had undergone... and wishing there was just a remnant left of the nice young man he'd been. I was disappointed that we couldn't hang out without smoking. I wished that we could have seen each other a few more times, maybe outside his apartment, never mind his neighborhood. He seemed to be more than willing to host when I came to Brooklyn, but he wouldn't cross the bridge to see me. He was incredibly lazy. One time, he called to invite me over, and when I said I had to work the next day and couldn't come, he practically begged. He had no respect for my time. I knew he was just wanting to get high and mess around again. I wanted more than that from a guy, and definitely more than that from a friend. I realized I was nobody special to him, just an old high school chum who had grown up to be cute.
Eventually I started seeing a guy who lived in my neighborhood, and I decided to stop calling Omar. He never called me, and next thing I knew, I was moving to Queens, and Omar had left town. I never heard from him again. I think he took my high school yearbook with him. From time to time over the years, I think of him and wonder if he ever found his momentum again, and if he's made any of his dreams come true.
I remember telling a friend once that Omar and I had "hooked up" for old times' sake, and I guess that's accurate. I have always been glad that we didn't actually sleep together. He remains an old friend, and that's really nice for me. I don't have many of those.
Last night, I dreamed of him. I dreamed he had driven me to the Palisades Mall, to have dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. I don't remember anything about the dinner except the low lighting in the restaurant, and my dress. I was wearing a long red sequined gown, with a high collar, and tiny gold seed beads sewn into the center of each red sequin. I shimmered in red, with a gold sheen. I have no idea why I was so dressed up. I had red satin heeled sandals on, and my hair was up, pinned into a knot on top of my head, with curly tendrils hanging around my face. I looked like an Asian tourism poster.
As we were walking out of the restaurant, Omar's hand on the small of my back, he met a friend of his coming into the mall. This was an older gentleman, about 50, with graying hair, wearing a silver gray suit with no tie, the jacket unbuttoned and his top shirt button undone so that his t-shirt neckline was visible. He and Omar began speaking to each other in Egyptian. They shook hands and clapped each other on the back and forgot about me.
At some point, Omar gave me a gentle shove in the direction of the stores, indicating I should do some shopping while he chatted with his friend. "I thought we were going home?" I said. Omar tossed a set of keys at me, and a money clip. "Call a taxi to take you home," he said, disappearing into the mall with his friend.
I was stunned. Suddenly I found myself alone in the mall with a set of keys, a money clip, and an armload of clothes that I hadn't been carrying when I left the restaurant. It looked like a man's suit coat and pants. (G's tuxedo from the wedding?)
I was furious. This was the height of rudeness. I had been cast aside; a pretty dining companion, but not worth the trouble of driving home.
I woke up briefly to the sound of my cat yowling outside the bedroom door. She does this a lot, and lately she's been acting odder than normal. I'm taking her to the vet on Saturday.
When I got back to sleep, I dreamed I was in the living room of a very small house. It looked like the inside of a milk carton: white walls, no windows that I recall, square, about 12x12 floor, an open doorway leading presumably to a kitchen, badly air-conditioned (LOUD air-conditioner!), no furniture but a TV and odds and ends of chairs – one easy chair, a couple of ladder-back dining table chairs, and a few folding chairs. A beat-up card table sat in the center of the room, and it looked like nobody had bothered to clean up after last night’s poker game. Everything was dingy.
I was in the same flashy outfit as before, and had no place to sit. I sort of leaned on the wing of the easy chair, where an older man sat. He was not my father. He resembled a Saudi Arabian gentleman who I once met at my church, a very friendly, nice person, but rather slovenly in appearance, shirt untucked and sweaty. I don’t know what my relationship was to this man, but I was clearly in his company for some reason.
A dragonfly was buzzing around the room. I was utterly terrified of it. I am terrified of bugs in general, especially when they fly, even more so when they are big. Everyone in the room was laughing at me. I was too busy being scared to be angry or embarrassed. I was determined not to scream, but I wanted to. I don’t know why I didn’t bolt from the room. My skin crawled. I shook like California at the low-pitched buzz of its wings as it glided idly around the room. I was crouching to hide behind someone's chair, listening to everyone laugh at me, when...
...I woke up.
to be continued…