It was just a dream. I say this because I hate stories where, in the end, you find out none of it really happened. So I’m letting you know. It was just a dream. But still.
Somehow, I was back in sixth grade. There was a school trip to some museum or other. We had just come out of the building. The sun was still out, it was probably nearing summer, or not yet winter.
The museum was near the water. It might have been a river or bay or the ocean, even. But there was a low wall, with a substantial ledge, and quite a drop to the water below. Looking down, I could see the water slapping against jagged rocks, the spray bursting and falling.
Then we were on the ledge, my friends and I. You know how dreams are, you just sort of end up in places. You don’t really travel.
So we were on the ledge. Sitting. Our backs to the water.
I think we asked a classmate to take a picture of us. Do you talk in dreams? Things get said, but do you say them? I can’t recall and the dream’s slipping away.
My friends and I thrust our cameras at him. They were the disposable kind, mine with the number 14 showing beneath a small, plastic circle.
And we smiled and pulled funny faces while he made his way through the bunch, winding them as he went.
Then our teacher was there, slightly hunched over, her brittle hair sticking absurdly out, arms waving manically. She cried, “What are you doing? Get down from there, are you trying to commit suicide?!”
Maybe she didn’t say it, thinking back, I can’t hear any sound from the dream, just images, like a silent movie.
We laughed at her. Suicide? Where does she come up with these things?
I windmilled my arms, mimicking her, what a crazy teacher. My friends did it too.
We were laughing.
I amped it up a bit. My gestures became frenzied.
My arm hit my friend square in the chest. Her eyes bugged out. I had knocked the breath clean out of her.
I laughed. Idiotically. Then she tilted backward. I wondered why she was doing that.
She went over.
She’d fallen sideways, but somehow her face was turned up, and though she was falling downward, her face loomed larger.
I reached out to grab her, to stop it, but my hand caught air.
I wake up. Laughing. No, not laughing, gasping. I sit up quickly. My hand, at my side, is still clenched.
I can’t breath. Don’t have air in my lungs. Just gaping, empty, nothing.
My heart kicks in. Goes into overdrive, thumping madly.
It wasn’t real. It was just a dream. Had never happened. Just a dream. I feel like crying. I miss her, my friend, who never existed. I miss her so much. Just a dream. Just a dream.