By C.C. Reverie
She was in her early twenties and she wore herself tall and proud. She was a beauty, a steal; blue eyes, soft and happy, and a mane a black hair flowing down her round shoulders, to her waist, walking with a laziness that made her hips roll, like in a dance.
She came to me with a large smile on her face.
“Hi, I’m Feya, short from Frederica. André couldn’t make it today. She gave me these papers for you,” she said, handing me a big envelope.
She was waiting for me to say something, still smiling, with that papers in her hands.
“Hmm…wait a minute, are you….?”
“Yes, I am,” I said, at last. “Nice to meet you Feya. Look…. I’m sorry,” I said taking the papers out of her hands, “but I need to be downtown in twenty minutes and the bus is coming. I have to run…”
“No worries. I can give you a ride,” she said.
And that was the start of our friendship.
Over the next year, Feya, André, and I became close friends. We went shopping together, drank together, and took classes together. The only thing we kept for ourselves was our romantic life because we were afraid we wouldn’t like each other’s boyfriend or they wouldn’t like us. I was in a very relaxed relationship with a guy who traveled a lot. André was with this guy from Spain, and Feya was, as she put it, “still a single cell”.
One day, André told us she was getting married.
“With that dude?” we asked incredulously. “Why?”
“He loves me,” she answered.
And that was the end of it. Feya and I agreed she’ll be sorry but we said nothing to spoil André’s happiness.
“We should stop her?” Feya once said, almost crying.
“You know we cannot,” I reply.
“But it’s wrong. He doesn’t love her. He is just confused. She helps him on his job, that’s all. He’s being grateful, is all. She’ll miss out on real love… I’m gonna tell him!”
In spite my efforts, Feya made a few attempts to speak with the future groom but he gave her the cold shoulder and threaten to wreck our friendship. In the end, André married her guy and left to live together with him in Spain, where he opened a small practitioner’s office. She was to be his nurse assistant.
“How lucky everybody was,” André said, with irony, before leaving.
“I’ll write you,” she added and off she was.
And she wrote us, for a while. We missed her greatly. Soon she became a mother and her emails stopped. We missed her even more. In the meantime, Feya found a boyfriend.
“He has a good smell,” she told me once.
“No kidding, like a cologne?” I said.
“Not like that, silly.” she replied. “His pheromones… I can smell it.”
I must’ve made a face because she bust into laughter. It never occurred to me that you can smell someone’s pheromones but I wasn’t surprise; both she and André were internist doctors.
“Can’t you smell your boyfriend?” she asked.
“Yeah, his sweat, the alcohol on his breath or the weed. But we broke up a month ago, remember?”
Her guy was an accountant she had met on a weekend while visiting her cousin. “He is a good guy,” she had said.
“But do you love him?” I asked.
She tilted her head. Heavy flocks of black hair flew to one side.
They stayed together exactly three months, in which time Feya changed little by little, like the day turns into night. Eventually she lost her smile, stopped wearing makeup, and took to hiding her long legs inside baggy pants.
I was making fun of her.
“You know,” she said, “I don’t need no boyfriend to be happy.”
“I believe you,” I said. “Me neither, though I think it would be a different kind of happiness if I met the right one.”
“I know what you mean,” Feya said. “I met mine. A long time ago.”
The words hanged in the air like ripe grapes on a vine, ready to be picked.
“Never said anything…” I started.
“I am telling you now.” We were in a grocery store picking cauliflower. She had a basket full of veggies and fruits, I had a bread and a chunk of bacon. She put the cauliflower back.
“I am done here,” she said.
I walked home thinking that I, too, met the right one once but I let him go. No, in fact I dumped him. I wondered what happened to Feya’s.
Next time we met she had tears on her eyes. She cried on my shoulder until her eyes dried out.
“It’s gonna be ok,” I said, quite believing it. But I was wrong, as I found out later.
“He was a good guy, and he cared about me. I just couldn’t go on…” she said sobbing. “It was like I betrayed him…I felt like I wasn’t faithful…”
“To whom?” I asked, puzzled.
“Oh, you don’t know, I never told you. But my last three months have been a nightmare.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, pushing her aside just a smidgen so I can look her in the eyes. “Did he treat you badly? Because, you know, guys are very good of being passive-aggressive and disguising it behind a façade of care and love .”
“No, no…not him, he was sweet…”
“Then what are you saying? Feya…what’s with the nightmares?”
A long time passed before she answered. I kept looking her in the eyes.
“I mean, literally… “ she finally said, sighting.
She calmed down pretending all was right.
Her next boyfriend was an artist, a painter. They met at a party, he told her she was beautiful and it would make a perfect model. He brought her to his studio that night. A month passed and Feya was happy again.
“He calls me Frederica,” she’d say giggling. “He says my name sounds majestic.”
In my opinion, he was a megalomaniac. His name ended with “the third”, which he would say it every time, proud, and he wore heels to look imposing. Feya didn’t seem to care. But she was more interested in my relationship with an older man, recently divorced and still rich.
“He’s just courting me; nothing serious,” I said.
“But what about that dinner he threw for you at the Palace.”
“Just to win me over,” I laughed.
One night, I was coming home from a late appointment with a difficult customer. Tried and pissed because I let myself be fooled by an idiot, I just wanted to take a shower and play one of my shooting games. But Faya was sitting on the steps to my apartment, a cigarette in her hand.
“It happened again,” she said. “I must tell you now. Can we go in?”
“Sure,” I said, hesitantly, struggling to unlock the door.
“You should have a lock with a code,” she said. “They are more secure and, of course, easier to unlock.”
She was making fun of me and I took it as a good sign but I wasn’t in the mood.
“So…,” I begun, “what’s happened again?”
“I’ll tell you. But can you make me a coffee please?”
She started speaking, looking out of the open kitchen window into the blue night.
“I was a freshman in college when I met him. He was studying photography. He had an eye for art. I didn’t. Ha-ha,” she laughed, “…and this guy I’m with right now call himself an artist. How come I get these weirdos?”
Feya shook her head in disbelief.
“However, we fell for each other pretty fast. A few months into it and we were inseparable. One day he got an offer to work for a film project in Italy. It wasn’t the project, he said. It was Italy he wanted. So, I said, ‘look, that’s great’ and I asked for how long, and what would happen with his studies. So, he said nothing. But he asked me to come with him.”
She turned to me for the first time. She was clearly upset, still upset.
“I said ‘no, I won’t.’ I said I wanted to finish collage… I said I had just started, I couldn’t just drop it and go… what about my parents? They had given me all their savings so I could go to college. I cried and begged him to reconsider. To have patience because better things would come for him.”
The sight Feya let out told me she hadn’t made peace with that episode yet.
“I lied, of course, about the future. I had no idea what was to come but I just didn’t want him gone, because if he left, I knew it would be over. But he was so unfair to ask me to go with him. I still can’t get over it.”
“Because he loved you,” I dared to say.
“Yes, he did, but there was no way of knowing if it would’ve last. And if it not, then what? No money, no college, no love, but shame and blame.”
“Love is a risk we take, love is not a loaf of bread to put it in the freezer to make it last a lifetime,” I said softly, trying to downplay the stupidity of my comparison.
“Love needs faith.”
“Oh, well, I didn’t have it,” she replied with a harsh voice.
“Nothing. He left.”
As she didn’t say anything I start cleaning up the kitchen. She took to leave.
“Well,” I said, “just get over it Feya.”
“I have these dreams…I cannot… I am thinking, actually hopping…” she was muttering.
“That he’ll come back.”
I stopped cleaning.
“Is he calling you? Writing you? Texting you or contacting you in any other way?”
“Yes, she said softly. I dream of him.”
I stopped myself short of laughing. She went on.
“When we were together we were often fantasizing about a house on a clearing in the middle of an enchanted forest. A little cottage with enough room to expand for possible “guests”. I dare to believe that we were speaking about kids. The cottage would have been sitting in a meadow in between rolling hills of green grass and old trees, with wild flowers and a myriad of birds and butterflies, under a perpetual blue sky.”
Feya stooped to wipe an invisible tear.
“When he left, he told me he’ll come back. He didn’t ask me to wait for him, he just said ‘One day I’ll be back, you’ll see”.
She turned her head away, avoiding my stare, like she always did when sharing personal thoughts.
“He said he’d be back to build that house together with me. Now, I dream about it. That’s all. I have nightmares. It starts out of the blue, and I just see a cottage on a hill among trees. Just a fraction of a second. Then it goes away. Then the dream stops for days, sometimes for weeks. Then I dream again, a little longer this time, and more often. It is a happy dream up to a point. Then I wake up crying, literally, my pillow is soaking wet and I sob.”
“What do you dream,” I ask, when the silence between lengthened.
“Oh, man, …” she said turning to me and for the first time that night looking me in the eyes. She continued after a big sigh, “It’s like I’m am on this meadow with a house up the hill. And I know he is inside the cottage. And I run, and run, and run and, almost out of breath, reach the house. And I open the door and the house is empty. Then I wake up and cry,” she said with another big sigh.
I couldn’t find better words to comfort my friend so I just said that I was sorry.
“That’s ok, I had to tell someone. André knew. I’m sorry, I should just go home.”
After she left, I noticed she hadn’t touched her coffee.
The relation with the painter died few short days afterwards. She said he made her anxious and bored her.
Time passed. Too much. We buried ourselves in our work ignoring everything else.
Sometimes we ignored each other because we were alike, mirror emptiness. One day she called me and said she’d made plans for traveling in Europe for a month. She planned to stop in Spain, to see André, and asked if there’s anything I’d like to send her. I said no and continued with my life. The next day I got myself a dog to keep me company. I called him Toto.
No longer than a week into her month-long trip Feya sent me an email with just one picture. There she was, on a beach, with this gorgeous tall and muscular Spaniard, tanned and toned.
“He’s Pedro, André’s friend,” she told me later.
But when she came back from her trip she was sad and depressed.
“We had such a good time, Pedro and I…I could’ve stay.”
“Why didn’t you?”
“I had the nightmare again,” she said. “I dreamt that I was on the meadow looking towards our house. But this time it wasn’t a cottage anymore, it was a bigger house, with a front porch and a small attic. There was a little garden on the left and a paved walkway around. It seemed normal to me. I run to the house, I opened the front door and it was empty. I saw an old clock inside, its pendulum ticking, tick-tock, tick-tock, but I couldn’t hear it. It scared me.”
I thought of Feya and her nightmares and how they’d show up just when she was dating another guy. I said, “Maybe what you need is a dog, just like mine. Maybe the dreams will stop.”
“But I don’t want them to stop,” she said timidly. “I know when they come and I know why and I want them. See, now that I’m not with Pedro anymore, the dreams have stopped,” she said with a smile I had never see before.
A few months after, she found another man, a half bald middle-aged engineer, with a mission to fix everything around her apartment.
“I kind of like him,” she insisted, even though I knew she was lying.
During their time together, we grew apart. She was afraid I would judge her. And I would have, as she had judge André, years earlier. So, she kept her distance. When I finally saw her, more than a year had passed, and I was now prepared for the worse. But I couldn’t imagine how bad it would be. When I run into her at a local market I saw a haggard, unkempt, and angry old woman, who didn’t even turn to look at me when I called her name.
“Feya,” I called out startled. I reached for her but she slid away into the crowds.
I, myself, was going through a tough time. I had no job at that moment. I had also lost my apartment and had moved in with my mother who was allergic to dogs, so I had to give my Toto away. I was trying to hold on to hope but seeing her made me think that hope alone wasn’t enough. I went after her. At the hospital she used to work I was told she had left and no one knew why or where she had gone. I went to her home but there was nobody. I called her parents and they begged me to find her and helped her. Then I remembered where her engineer worked. I found him easily but he turned me away. “Don’t say her name in front of me!” he said screaming. But, at last, he did give me a phone number and by the end of our meeting, asked me to say hello to her.
It took me a week to get her to speak to me. We met in a bar late at night as per her wish. She had put on some make-up but her eyes were restless and her smile was fake.
“I’m just a little tired, is all,” she said.
“Have you been dreaming a lot”?
“I hadn’t. The last one was on Thursday. Do you want to hear?”
Then she started telling me without waiting for my answer:
“There is this mansion on a hill surrounded by patches of trees and mazes of flowery shrubs. Just like at Versailles, if you’ve seen those pictures of that French palace…and in the middle of a rose garden there is a water fountain, and the water falls from the mouths of some cherubs. And I am sitting there, doing nothing…Being happy, I guess. Then I look towards the house and I know he’s there and I run and run and run and get at the front door. It is a heavy door made out of steel and glass and I push hard to open it. Almost out of breath I manage to crack it open and I sneak inside the door, and I hear the house going tick-tock, tick-tock but the clock with the pendulum is gone, now the whole house is like a bomb and is just about to blow up; and I try to reach the office where I know he’s working, I want to save him but I cannot move… and then I wake up.”
“Now you know it,” she said, finishing her drink and looking insistently to her right, where a man was sitting alone at a table.
I didn’t even try to tell her about my problems. I felt that if I helped her then I’d had the courage to regain my faith as well.
“I am trying to save him, please don’t stop me,” she said and left while I stayed behind to pay the drinks.
When I run outside, after her, I saw her leaving with that man from the nearby table.
I kept calling her number every day. Some days she’d answer and she’d tell me that she’s gotten into the house but the office was at the second floor and she couldn’t find the stairs. Other days I’d get her voicemail which invariable would tell me it was full, with no room for new messages.
One day, while I was cooking dinner for my mother, she called me. I was shocked and scared when I saw her number on the screen.
“Faya…what’s up,” I said, almost forgetting to breath.
“I found him,” she said.
I waited for her to continue. Through the silence that followed, I could hear the streams of tears rushing down her chicks.
“And?” I ventured.
“He’s dead,” she said. “In the office. Dead and happy. Happy without me.”
In the days that followed I picked her up piece by piece and stitched her back together. I brought her in my mother’s house and gave her my bedroom and watched her like a hawk. I took a part time job at a local bookstore just to give her a sense of normality. Her parents finally pitched in and we sent her to therapy. It took years for her to recover but it was worth it. At the end, she and my mother both got better and became friends. I was happy for them, my kind of happiness. Feya didn’t want to return to practice medicine again just “to see people dying“, so she trained in medical insurance instead and immediately found a job, while I left the bookstore and became the PR for a small tv station. Life was getting better, while we were wilting away.
One night, over dinner, she told me that she missed the old dreams, the tension and anticipation, the adrenaline rush whirling through her brain.
“It was like dope,” she said laughing. It was the first time she was mentioning the subject in years.
“But you know he’s not actually dead,” I said.
“Of course, I know, silly. But he’s dead for me. You see,” she continued, “I had to learn to die so I can live, I had to learn to let go, so I can love. He said he’d come back and we would build that house together, but it wasn’t about him, it was always about me. I dated so many men… all this time thinking that I was cheating on him, that I should wait for him…If I could just be faithful, I thought, then maybe he’d come back. But then the dreams would stop. And all I had left from him were the dreams in which we had a house together…You see…that’s what I wanted. A house together, not a life knowing him.”
“It’s complicated,” I managed after a short break.
“Yes, it is. But now I can truly say that I love him. And I am not upset that he left to live and fulfill his life, or that he didn’t come back for me. I’m not upset anymore. I love him for the man he was…he man he is. And if one day he comes back to me, then that’s our house together, the house from my dreams. Together we are one. Apart we are alone. So it must be.”
One day, Feya gather up her stuff from my mother’s home and moved out. We were both in our early forties. I had just acquired a boyfriend and I was happily dating while Feya was advancing her career, in the absence of better things.
“I may have to build that house after all,” she said laughing and shaking her now short but still black curls.
Only then I understood that we don’t have to give up our dreams even if their unfulfillment or continuum pursuit hurts us. Dreams are personal, they are nobody else’s business, they are ours. We must find them within ourselves. And we must survive them.
Only then they will come true.
They came true for Feya. Shortly after she had finished building a small house in the countryside my phone rung.
“Guess what,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
“He’s back,” she said, simply.
But I wasn’t surprised to hear.
“What do you say?” she insisted.
“Well,” I replied, “how does he like you house?”
There was a second of silence before she replied, annoyed:
“Oh…” she sighted, “he wants to put a porch on the front…”
— The End —