“Wake up,” she whispers to him, in the predawn hour of 5 AM.
“I’m up. I’m up. What’s going on,” he replies groggily, trying to choose her over somnolence.
“I had a nightmare.”
“You wanted us to meet on a boat cruise that boarded at 2:30 in the morning. It’s scary at that hour. I was out in the streets, trying to find parking in all of these shady areas. I didn’t want to be there.”
He pulls her closer, “We both know there’s nothing I can do about the stupid actions Dream Me seems to take.”
She playfully tells him, “Well now you have to stay awake to show you’re in solidarity with me.”
“Oh really?” he asks, “Then should I have woken you up when I was feeling fidgety through the night?”
She turns towards him and throws her body over his. This is how they sleep for the remainder of the early morning.
A few hours later, she wakes up before him and decides to cut him some slack. He deserves to sleep in. She quietly exits the bedroom and begins her day.
As she stands over the coffee-maker, she remembers the worst part of the dream. When she awoke, she thought he wasn’t in bed beside her. She reached out and found his hand. She held it until her anxiety dissipated.
She decides to grab a croissant from the chic new bakery a couple of blocks away.
“It’s time to re-engage with the world, Aisha,” she says loudly to the empty apartment.
Anything would be a welcome change of scenery from the messiness of this place. Cleaning and organization were never her strong suit. That was his area.
It’s a beautiful San Francisco day. The sun lights up the city, and people amble in groups, probably heading toward brunch.
She’s staring through the glass case at the impressive variety, trying to make a selection when she hears a familiar voice, soft and confident. A voice with an innate smile.
The blood leaves her face and her shoulders tense. She’s frozen in the awkward position of hovering over a glass display.
Croissants no longer matter. She quickly chooses a plain one.
“Would you like me to heat it for you?” asks the girl behind the counter.
“No, thanks,” she answers quickly and quietly.
“What do you want to do after this?” the woman with him asks.
“Hmm. I’m not sure. We could hang out by the pier,” he responds.
Aisha can see their reflection through the glass case. This moment is surreal.
She pays and turns around to leave, looking down at the floor. She is not, by any means, ready to acknowledge that he is with someone else.
“Aisha?” he says.
No one says her name the way he does, as if he’s handling something delicate with extreme care and gentleness. She meets his gaze.
“Hi,” she responds.
He is genuinely trying to be an active part of this new relationship.
She is nice, so nice, and not nearly as complicated as Aisha had been. In fact, Aisha herself had once predicted that he would be happiest with a simpler life partner.
If only she and he seemed as real as he and Aisha. In the aftermath of their bond, everything had a layer of artificiality.
Nights were the hardest. One would imagine that sleep would be easier without the constant tossing and turning of another person in the bed. And the nightmares. Oh god, her need to narrate them to him right when she’d awoken.
Now, he finds himself awake at odd hours, reaching to calm a form that is no longer there.
No more fights. No more figuring out what stupid thing he’d said now. No more Aisha wrapping her arms around his back and apologizing for being a little too theatrical earlier.
Aisha. Her name still litters his mind. Even a year hasn’t been enough to eliminate persistent memories. He hasn’t seen her, hasn’t heard from her, hasn’t reached out.
“Just keep doing what you’re doing,” he tells himself.
“What do you want to do after this?” she asks him. Her voice snaps him back to the present.
They are standing in a new pastry shop with a huge selection of croissants.
Aisha would have loved this place. Croissants were the only pastry she ever gave a damn about.
“Try. You have to give this a shot,” he self-chastises.
“Hmm. I’m not sure. We could hang out by the pier,” he responds. Public areas mean less expectation of intimacy.
That’s when he sees her. She seems to be purposefully concentrating on the ground.
“Aisha?’ he hears his voice ask.
They lock eyes.
“Hi,” she says, and he forgets all of his resolve.