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2003-05-18 | 12:40 p.m.

This morning I dreamed I was walking down Wilson Street--I think it was supposed to be Wilson Street--except it had all changed, because of the new school over there, which in my mind wasn't a school of osteopathic medicine but a new campus of the community college, or something like that. Anyway there was lots of modern architecture, school store, escalators, all sorts of stuff in steel-blue and glass. Hard to get around in and lots of students everywhere.

Finally I got through that mess and continued to trudge uphill, toward my destination. Very important it was to get where I was going. As I passed an imposing building I saw that it opened onto a sort of plaza with café tables, and as soon as I saw the fellow sitting there I recognized him as Brian. I looked away immediately and kept walking, but he leapt up and stopped me, and I tried to say hello and keep walking, but then his mother was there, and maybe one of his sisters lurking around in the background. She didn't look anything like I remembered, which I attributed to the passage of time. Briskly, I exchanged pleasantries with them, so briskly that I noticed her hesitate, and walked on. He followed me. I kept walking. He told me he still loved me, and said all those flowery things that I always loved to hear, but I kept walking. On and on it went, and though I thought I smelled desperation on the air, my heart longed for it so much that I worried I was giving in, even as I walked on.

But then another thought occurred to me and it was on my lips to speak as I woke up: Duff loves me more. The dream was over so I couldn't tell Brian, though I would have liked to, but it was there in my mind. Duff doesn't have the same way with words, but he takes care of me, and he always has. He doesn't go off to find himself every six months, but works hard day after day to make sure I have health insurance and a little retirement fund. When Brian would imagine his future, I couldn't help but notice that I was never in it. But Duff always wants me there. He doesn't make a big fuss about it, doesn't lay out his plans in iambic pentameter, but when he talks about his dreams, there I am, right there in the middle of everything, waving back at me.

Now I know some of you--well, Nancy anyway--will say, what the heck is she still thinking about that other guy for? He's ancient history! To which I can only say, I don't know. We don't get to choose what torments us. I think I've come a long way over the last ten years, but I definitely have something to prove to this particular memory. It isn't really him so much as something he stands for, which I may or may not have my finger on. It's not as if he's always on my mind. He just turns up sometimes, in the dreams. Is he testing me? Today it seemed like he helped me find a deep current of my gratitude for Duff. Which is probably a good thing. I take too much for granted sometimes. I write in the diary and think, Woops, forgot to mention Duff was there.

I did say it, as I woke up: Duff loves me more. And Duff heard me and we moved closer together and filled up the gaps between us. He said, "Hmm?" and I said, "You take good care of me."

"Well, sometimes I do. I try anyway."

"But you do. You always have."

And then he said he loved me and tried to figure out whether the kids were distracted enough downstairs for us to do the deed. Which was good because there's only so much mushy talk I can stand.

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