I'm trying to sleep. I've been lying here for what seems like hours, but logically, it has only been about fifteen to twenty minutes. I don't fall asleep as quickly as I used to. Maybe it's age, or maybe it's because my mind just doesn't want to rest when its supposed to.
The thin blue comforter that covers me is thrown every which way, as I try to get comfortable. My glasses lie off to the left of me, on my night table. One hand clasps the bright red heart pillow I made in memory of a friend, and my other hand hangs over the edge of my bed.
My heart is thumping. KA BOOM ... KA BOOM ... KA BOOM. Its erratic rhythm makes it feel like my heart is going to explode out of my chest. What a mess that would be, I think to myself. I whisper to myself, "Calm down, Christine, calm down."
I want sleep to overtake me, so I try to take a deep breath inwards. I feel my chest move inwards and then out. A big WHOOSH of air comes out of my dry parched mouth. As I let my breath in and out, for added measure I try counting.
1 ... 2 ... 3 ... 4 ...
I giggle as I think about the old wives' tale of counting sheep. Who in their right mind would want to count sheep when they're trying to sleep? I ask myself. The very image of a sheep jumping around my head makes me dissolve into a fit of giggles. After a few minutes, I will myself to calm down. After all, if I don't get some sleep, it will mean two nights without sleep. I've heard that after so many hours without sleep, you could get delirious.
Moving ever so slightly, I feel my nightgown bunched up around my hips.With one hand I pull my nightgown down again over my knees, and turn to grab the four pillows that lie under my head. I fluff them up as much as I can and finally settle. As my body goes still, my eyes close. I can hear myself breathe deeper and deeper, until finally I don't hear anything at all. At first everything is black and then I start to dream.
I'm still in bed, but I'm not alone in this dream; I feel a presence, and hear the ever so slightly scraping of a chair, and someone sitting down beside my bed. I'm not frightened though, I've felt presences from the spirit world before, and I know that most spirits are gentle and just want to check in with their loved ones. My eyes open a little, but I have to squint because without my glasses, I'm as blind as a bat.
I make out a blurry vision of a guy wearing beige-coloured dress pants, and a light-coloured long sleeve shirt. He is sitting in a black plastic chair that I thought I had thrown away in my building's garbage months ago. He looks so relaxed. His left leg is crossed over his right leg, and he's not wearing any shoes. I just see plain white socks. Socks that are so bright, you would think they came from the Tide detergent commercials on television. His hands are clasped together in his lap, as I see him looking at me. There is a certain sense of calm that permeates from this guy's presence and though his face is obscured in shadows, I know who it is and I smile.
It is my friend Chris, who passed away ten years ago coming this Valentine's Day, February 14, 2014. I feel my blankets dropping away from me as I sit up. I shiver for a second, as a cold draft from my bedroom window hits me. I want to pull my sheets back up around me but instead I wrestle my legs free. I swing my legs over the edge of my bed. I'm sitting there contemplating what to say when all of a sudden Chris leans over and gently grabs my hand. His hand is a welcome touch and it makes me feel secure. It's a security I haven't felt since he passed away. A torrent of words come flying out of my mouth.
"Chris? What are you doing here?
"How come you're dressed like that?
"I remember at your funeral, you didn't have these clothes on, your mom dressed you in pyjamas!
"How are you?
"Where have you been? You don't visit me like you used to," I say.
"Christine ... Christine ..." Chris says quietly. "Shhh! It's okay, it's okay. I came to see you so that I could tell you something."
"Well!" I say indignantly. "This is a fine time to come and see me -- I'm trying to sleep, and I don't exactly look my best!"
"This is the only time I can come, Christine," Chris says back.
"I dreamt that you didn't really die, Chris, that you just went away, just like other people in my life have. Where have you been?" I ask again. "Why did you go away?" I whine. I feel tears forming in my eyes and feel their slow descent down upon my face.
I want to pull my hand away from Chris' but I don't. It's comforting to feel his hands again, to feel his skin upon mine. It brings back memories of when we lay together on his bed, and watched the TV shows he liked, or the time we were trying to figure out our relationship and whether or not we would just be friends or be together.
I remember his hands upon my skin, caressing me, and me telling him, "Oh my god, this is going to drive me crazy!" and his reply back.
"It's supposed to."
I remember his breath on my cheek, right before he would lean over to give me a kiss. I missed his touch, his presence and his company because in the brief time that we knew each other, we had spent every day together. It was nothing for me to just stay over, even after we decided to stay friends. Sleeping beside him gave me comfort. After he was gone, I was so alone.
A sadness overcomes me and the tears start falling rapidly. I don't do anything to wipe them away because I've always been told that tears are healing. But even after all this time, the sadness still bothers me and so do the tears.
"What did you come to tell me, Chris?" I whisper. I'm not sure why I am whispering when there is no one else around to hear our conversation.
"Are you coming back? Will I be able to see you again?" I ask.
"Christine, I can't come back, you know that."
I look down at his hands holding mine and whisper, "Yeah, I know, but I wish you had never left.
"Do you know how much I miss you? Miss your company and hanging out?"
He lets me babble for a couple of minutes, but then I hear him clear his throat. It's a low growling kind of sound. I see his Adam's apple move ever so slightly, and then he speaks.
"Christine, this isn't easy, but I came to tell you that it's time for you to let go."
"Why?" I ask, even though I know deep down inside, the reasoning behind what Chris is going to tell me. I know it's been ten years, and I haven't been romantically interested in anyone since he passed away.
"I'm afraid," I say quietly.
"I know, I know," Chris replies. "But ten years is a long time, and you need to move on. I need to move on. I have much work to do in the spirit world, and can't get it all done if you are still hanging onto me here in the physical realm."
"But Chris, there's so many memories of things left unsaid."
"I can't move on until I tell you."
I feel a tear drop down upon our hands that are clasped together. Chris looks down at the tear that has fallen, but doesn't wipe it away. For a few seconds, we are just sitting there silently. Just like we used to when we would hang out at his apartment.
I mouth silently ... "I love you, Chris."
He nods his head and says, "I know."
Not long afterwards, he lets go of my hand and stands up. I tell him "Don't go" but he says "I have to."
I wake up not long afterwards, and smile. Though I feel sad, there is also a sense of calmness surrounding me. Chris knew all along.