The Bigger Person

The dream was so horribly vivid that I thought I was awake and watching the news on TV. A friend of mine from my working days had been on a bus outing in California with her church group. There had been a terrible traffic accident, and she and another group member had been killed.

It’s been many years since I saw this woman, K. She and I, when we were both still smokers, would run into each other taking breaks behind the student services building where we both worked. I was in disability services on the ground floor, and she worked on the first.

When we would meet up, we’d talk about movies we’d seen and books we’d read. She was a big fan of Kindle and had been a user from the moment Amazon launched the reader. She always had book recommendations for me. As an English major who read quite a bit, I still couldn’t match her recommendation rate. To say she was an avid reader is an understatement.

Another thing that we talked about was her marriage. She was very open when discussing her dissatisfaction with her husband. He’d lost his job and showed no interest in finding another one. They’d been living off of her income for almost a year when she first brought him up in our conversations. She said she’d like to divorce him, but oddly, she and he had discussed him continuing to live in the same house after the divorce.

This sounded extremely uncomfortable to me, like having to live out a life sentence in prison. I asked her how she could live with him after divorcing him.

K said something along the lines of, “I think I’m going to have to take care of him for the rest of his life. He’s pathetic. He never grew up. Instead of a husband, he’s more like my child. I want to be able to date other men, but they’re going to have to accept that I have this ex-husband who’s a kid I have to be a mother to for the rest of his or my life, whoever dies first.”

K never mentioned anything about religion, so I’m not sure why I dreamt she was on a church retreat. The dream was so vivid that I worried it might somehow be prophetic, either about something that had happened already or something yet to come.

I hadn’t seen her since we both quit smoking, so it had been about nine years. I drove to UH to see if I could talk to her. When I went to her office and asked for her, I was told that she no longer worked there. I asked if she was still working on campus, and the woman who was helping me said to hold on, she’d go back and ask if anyone knew anything about where K might be.

When she returned she told me, “No one here knows where she is now. We don’t know if she moved to another job at UH. Just that she left about five years ago.”

I thanked the woman and drove home. The dream still ran like a movie in my mind. I could see the violent outcome of the crash for K and her church group friend. So much blood and shattered glass. I saw them slumped on the bus floor, the windows gleaming with the sun behind them, a cracked mosaic pattern, a glittering spiderweb.

Back home, eating lunch, I stared out the window and wondered about the state of K’s marriage, whether she’d divorced her husband, and whether she was taking care of him still. The idea still boggled my mind. To be so disgusted with someone and be forced to live with him like an albatross around her neck. Truly, it would take something like a saint.

Not that dying would be better, but I couldn’t live like that. Maybe she had to be a religious person to be willing to bear so large a cross.

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