"Aw, come on, Jillian," Kyle pleaded, "You must have done it at least once. I mean, four years of college, two hundred miles away from home, straight A's."
"I'm sorry," I said, giggling, amused by my younger brother's persistence. "Let me think; in four years, Shari and I painted each other's toenails, gave each other a shoulder to cry on, and broke a good quarter of the dorm rules. But sex? Nope, never happened. But why so curious?"
"Lately I've been having these strange dreams," he said, disappointment in his voice. "I was hoping someone who'd experienced it could explain what they mean."
"You're seventeen," I said, laughing. "You're supposed to have those kinds of dreams!"
"Not that kind!" he said, grimmacing. "It's a lot more confusing than that."
"Look," I said, gazing outside, "I have a dozen large boxes that need moved in back. "I'm willing to listen, but need things moved before Mom and Dad get home."
He nodded and headed towards the minivan. "In these dreams," he said, lifting a crate, "I'm female and in love with another woman. Sounds like fun and games so far, right? But I'm depressed, almost suicidal." He stopped for just long enough to emphasize, "No I am not anywhere near that in reality. Just these weird-ass dreams."
As we carried the first two boxes inside, he explained how the dreams usually took place in the rear suite I was moving into. My parents had always rented out those rooms but decided to give them to me as a graduation gift.
"Janet Thorton," I said, the name just making its way past my lips.
"Who?" Kyle asked, setting down his box in what would be my living room.
"This had to be twelve years ago," I said, surprised that I remembered the name. She lived in this suite. I remember she had a female visitor on a couple occasions. One night, they argued, the woman stormed out, and Janet moved away a week later."
"She was gay?"
"I can't say for sure," I replied, heading back toward the driveway. "But probably about forty-five, unmarried, no kids. I remember a crate of her things being put up in the attic after she moved. It's probably still up there."
"Can we check?" Kyle asked, eagerly.
"Sure," I replied, nodding my head. "After all the crates are in."
Kyle's dreams may have interrupted his sleep, but they also created an unusually speedy worker. For every two boxes I carried in, he had three.
After stopping for a glass of ice water, we were in the upstairs hallway, bringing down the attic ladder.
My father is a pack-rat and my mother a compulsive organizer. Between them, they created a very complete and well-laid out testament to their twenty-two years of marriage. The large, brass-framed wedding pictures showed my mom was well along with me by the time she said "I do."
There were years of Christmas toys, including a succession of every video game console ever released. Most were damaged in some way proving that Kyle was not a good loser.
Then I came to my dolls. I remembered one day tying up all the boy-dolls with my jump rope so the girl-dolls could have some privacy. Stupid Kyle, putting weird thoughts in my head, I thought.
"We talked about it," I confessed, "but it never happened."
"I see," Kyle said, smirking.
Gauging my mom's organizing techniques, I figured out where Janet's crate would be located. "Here it is," I said, pointing to the large wooden box, covered with a large bath-towel.
"Is this legal?" Kyle asked, nervously pinching the dusty towel.
"If she wanted this stuff," I replied, "she would have contacted us by now."
"Okay," he said, still not convinced, but pulling the towel off the crate.
On top was a large, unframed picture showing two women. I recognized the thin women with short brown hair as Janet. I couldn't be completely sure, but guessed the busty redhead was the woman she had argued with the last time she was here.
"I remember them," Kyle said, half mumbling.
"From the dream?"
"No," he said, staring at the picture. "Yes, but both, the dream and real life."
"Her name is Marci Perkins," I said, looking at the address of a never-mailed letter. Kyle opened the envelope, took out the letter, and started reading. A disturbed look came across his face.
He handed me the letter.
My dearest Marcelina,
You beg me to return to you, pretending our being together could somehow fix the many deficiencies that doom our relationship.
In truth there was never any hope for us. Your eye is too easily dazzled for me to trust. My soul is too battered to ever be the eager lover you so desire.
Could you be content in a sexless relationship? I am content, and doubt whether I even want intimacy in my life.
But you did not have to hurt me; to suggest I bare my soul to some man simply because he has an advanced degree. You are being insensitive and selfish.
You say I am unhappy. So what? You delude yourself into thinking you are happy. What do you have to be happy about? A job mixing poisons for the stupid to slowly kill themselves? Degrading yourself by wearing the tight, revealing clothing your boss and customers enjoy seeing you wearing?
No, my love, I cannot be a part of the lie in which you live.
"Sad," I said, handing the letter back to Kyle.
He quietly placed it back in the envelope. "I remember climbing out my bedroom window," he said, pulling the towel back over the crate. "I liked hiding out on the roof over the suite. I guess I heard them arguing. Then painting those rooms last week must have triggered the dreams."
I laughed, remembering something I'd heard in college. "One of my professor once called dreams 'a trip into the mind's attic'."
Kyle broke out laughing, perhaps thinking about those other dreams of his, visiting his own personal attic.