The other night I had a dream in which I encountered a woman who I once knew as a child. I’ll call her T. T also went to my mother's nursery school and lived in our neighborhood. I probably had play dates with her as a toddler, and I'm pretty sure I attended a birthday party of hers and vice versa. We were in the same classes quite often through sixth grade, and I think we were fairly friendly in school. But we were never friends. The last time I probably ever saw T was in junior high because I went to high school for one year in NYC and then moved to Holmdel and continued school there.
T was blonde with blue eyes. I never had a crush on her like I did with so many of the other girls. (My crushes all had brown/dark hair.) Still I felt connected to her somehow. Maybe it was because I don’t think she truly fit in with all the other girls. I remember one time in third grade when T had what appeared to be a booger on her arm. Another girl said, “Ew, you have a booger on your arm!” T just calmly flicked it off with her finger and said matter-of-factly, “It’s a disease.” Well this made me and the other girl laugh hysterically. Obviously a disease doesn’t look like a booger and can’t be simply flung off your skin without leaving a mark. Even a third-grader knows that. T didn’t seem to be bothered by our laughing or teasing. Or at least she didn’t show it.
It’s strange how this tiny incident has somehow been affixed in my memory for all this time. How many other insignificant moments were there, day after day in school, that did not make an imprint? For me it was a humorous anecdote, and I guess that is why I have allowed it to stay with me all these years. Perhaps I have subconsciously repeatedly revisited that moment for a light-hearted cerebral tickle. Maybe my brain replayed it because it was a bonding moment with the other girl (of course, dark-haired), who I knew would never include me as one of her friends, even though she basically lived right behind my house on the other side of the woods.
It never really occurred to me until now, but maybe that memory never left T either. And, if so, from her perspective, it was likely a source of pain. I certainly can recall a dozen, if not more, memories of being teased and bullied in school. I don’t often choose to relive those moments, and I rarely talk about them.
When I joined Facebook about 11 years ago, I looked T up. I didn’t send a friend request. I just stalked as much information as I could from her public profile. She was (is?) married with kids. Part of me was hoping that wouldn’t be the case. From what I could gather about her husband, it was a high-school romance. I can’t imagine having fallen in love with someone from my school days and still having that person in my life (married or otherwise). That’s a long-ass time. Almost goes as far back as my booger memory. Unlike me, though, T has a physical being from her past that she has held onto, with whom she has created a family and and continues to create new experiences and memories every day. I have a snot story.
I never really thought about T much throughout my adult years. Not consciously, anyway. I wonder if she remembers me at all? Throughout my life, certain women have reminded me of her. Most recently, two women in two different improv classes seem to have triggered thoughts of T. They both had those physical attributes that for some reason have always and only been associated with her in my mind. A scattering of freckles, slightly dirty blonde hair, somewhere between curls and frizz, and eyes that sparkled like cold blue Christmas.
So back to this dream I had.
T was just a head. Something tragic had happened to her. Miraculously, she was still able to live, but as a head. No torso, no neck, no nothing. No life-support system attached to her. It wasn’t a head floating in large glass laboratory tube. Just a head.
T the Head didn’t seem to remember me, or if she did she didn’t let on. She didn’t show any of her emotions except for a slight bitchiness, and who could blame her for that? Still, I was hoping for some kind of acknowledgement of our shared history, no matter how insignificant it might have been to her. But just like she did with the booger, she played it cool.
Maybe that’s how she had to be with people. After all, she could only get around if people carried her. She let me carry her for a while, albeit in a begrudging way. T the Head wasn’t too heavy, but there was enough weight that my arms would get tired and cramp after a while. I felt bad that I wasn’t stronger, and I worried that would drop her if my muscles suddenly gave out.
Setting her down was a tricky matter. T the Head didn’t stay upright unless you balanced her just so. She could easily just topple to the side, or worse, do a literal face plant. My deepest fear was that she would suffocate if I didn’t keep an eye on her. T the Head was like a baby with the mind, experiences and personality of a full-grown adult who had lived a life -- now helpless and completely reliant on others.
Eventually I found a spot on a lawn where the grass wasn’t too high. The ground was soft enough that T the Head would sit perfectly upright and level without any need for a hand or additional props to keep her stable. It might have been the big field with the swings and jungle gym in front of Lafayette Mills School, which was walking distance from T’s childhood home. It wasn’t something I questioned at the time. It was a dream. It was dark -- nighttime in a dream kind of dark, so while the light on the ground was bright enough to see the freshly mowed green turf, nothing in the distance was visible. A horizon of blackness.
I left T the Head there and walked away, certain that she would be safe. Her gaze fixed in one direction. Permanently, perhaps, staring forever into nothingness. Unless someone stumbles upon her in a dream and offers to carry her around for a while.