“The death of a friend,” thought Sedge, in the days after Adelaide had died, “was like a tenacious, frightful, early morning dream. One that holds you so tightly that you feel your lungs cry and you strain to pull yourself away and at the very same moment you feel so hopeless you want to give up and die.”
He has had dreams like that.
In this one dream, he is caught beneath the water’s surface, no more than a foot or more below the rippling sun-lit waves and the bobbing red-painted edge of the sloping bottom of the boat that he knows has come to save him while his leaden arms reach out and upward and the slithering fluted blades of seaweed cling and grab him around his waist and his kicking but ineffective legs.
In dreams like these, you do not want to wake and face the day. But you know you must.
The death of a friend is like a morning dream that engulfs you in those few moments when you sense the quickening movements of time in the last minute before the rhyme on your phone begins to play and you want to reach out to stop it, to let you fall back into the darkness and try once more to find your way out, make it all go away, and make your way safely home so that the dream will dissolve and you can wake once again without the gelid caul over your head, which keeps you from drawing a breath or from seeing what golem may be lurking so near to you that you could touch it if you knew that it was there.
You petition for more time so that the dream could be just another dream that washes away cleanly and not this heaviness that clings and lingers, and which will sit across from you at the breakfast table as you drink your coffee and which will not release you, and will stand beside you in the shower so that you close your eyes to it but you can still feel the slippery wetness of its legs against your thighs and its hot humid breath on the back of your neck.
The death of a friend is like that.
Like those sloe-eyed morning dreams that shackle your ankles as you push hard against the water, heavy as lead against your shins, as you try with all your will to move through it, straining to reach the shore as if running from some unseen pursuer, a man or an unruly menacing crowd splashing behind you. And you reach the sand but you now cannot pull your feet out of the water to take a step, and you slog through it with no effect, making no progress and you know that this is not right and that this must be a dream but it is not so clearly one so that you continue to struggle within it as if a life, your life, or someone’s else’s depended upon to it. And you fear. You fear for your helplessness, your inability to alter what is happening, what has happened, and to free yourself from it.
The death of a friend is like a sodden dream that may last for a minute or an hour, you don’t know. One you know you have lived through before and have awakened from before, but that is no consolation, no hope, because you are now in it and it is real and you are real and it is your life and your death, and you cannot escape from either.
The death of a friend is like that.
And when you might awake, as Sedge will, to start the day, the shadowed dream will stick hard by your shoulder.
And the sun on the back porch, which only yesterday morning lit and gladdened your heart, will do nothing to warm you today.
And through the day and the next and the next, elusive black-and-white images of your early morning dream will linger on and they will feel as alive and as real as can be, and which you know are not but which will deaden pieces of your soul and make you want to fall asleep to erase them and you will fear that when you do, it will all begin again.