Last night, I dreamt you. I dreamt you were an old man. You were the kind of old man I’d never imagined, though. Your hair had gone white and your barrel-shaped body thin, deflated.
You came up to me in a Kmart, a place I never shop, and asked if I recognized you. I didn’t. The only thing that gave me a hint it was you was the stark difference of your brown skin against a straw like white beard.
“I’m sick,” you said.
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“Be with me. Be there. For me," you said.
How could you ask that of me? Laughter bubble up at the base of my throat. How could you? Even in a dream, why would you ask that? My breath heaved until I was bigger. Full of anger. I looked up as if looking for God in the sky, but I only found myself. I created this dream.
“You stopped being there for me 30 years ago,” I yelled.
The words oozed from my mouth and held all the black fetid water that comes with anger. My voice quivered, and I grew taller than you. Bigger. You were in my shadow now.
You shrank from me as if I’d raised a hand to you. The words were enough I suppose.
I just did the math. It was actually 22 years ago. Twenty-two years later, and I still dream you. I dream versions of you because I haven’t seen you in fourteen years. I don’t know what you look like, and even in a city where six degrees of separation is smaller, I’ve never run into you.
I like that. I don’t like that.
The brave version of me wants to prove I don’t care. It thinks I would act as if nothing happened after. Maybe you wouldn’t even recognize me. The real version of me knows I will be brave but cry in the car like the day I left your house when I asked why you didn’t take care for me the way a father should have.
Last night I dreamt you. In the dream your family tried to make me feel guilty.
“Es tu Papá,” they said, “Lo debes de cuidar.”
I sneered, “You should take of him. You’re his family.”
My sister told me I should forgive you. She’s said those words in real life after Ita died, too. She said she didn’t want me to have regrets. My dream tells me if you die, that it will be sudden. I imagined the phone call in the dream. My mom calls. I feel sad, but then I don’t know the rest because you are a stranger.
I am angry at a stranger.
Last night, I dreamt you. It showed me that my subconscious thinks of you. It wonders what you have become. It wants to know if you care who I’ve become. It tells me that even though you are a stranger, the little girl in me foolishly loves you. It also tells me that the adult me wishes she didn’t exist anymore.