It was the third time this week I’d had a dream about Harvey. I’d had them ever since he passed away, but these were different. Before, they were nightmares, causing me to relive the moment of seeing him lifeless over and over, waking up in a cold sweat in the middle of the night, but these were soft and peaceful. I felt like he was right there in front of me, just within my grasp- much like how I felt the other day when I thought I’d seen him in the restaurant. He was sitting in the meadow of wildflowers we always went to, scratching a pen to paper like he was writing something down before he forgot it. He looked exactly as he did the last time I’d seen him. His familiar floppy dark curls tangled together, blowing in the quiet breeze. In my dreams, he always wore a plain white tee shirt tucked into jeans with a black belt. It was simple, but he was just as beautiful this way as he was in all of his colors. I stood behind him, stepping through the grass towards him, breaking into a run when I realized this moment could slip out of my grasp again. Every time, he would vanish right in front of my eyes and I would wake up to reality in my bed alone, but this time he turned around. The concentration on his face broke and turned into euphoria as he loosened his grasp on the sheet of paper in his hand and let it float away in the warm summer air. He shot up from the ground and began to run toward me too. He said something, but I couldn’t quite make it out. He got inches away from my fingertips before I woke up, my pillow wet underneath my cheek. I sat up, pulling the sheets around my body, shaking from how close I’d been to touching him again. It wasn’t real. I told myself for the thousandth time.
I took deep breaths in and out before laying back down and staring at the ceiling. The night sky looked at me from my window and the stars were barely visible from the city lights, but I could make them out clearer tonight. They twinkled with a sort of bliss that I didn’t have, but reminded me of someone I knew could make me feel better right now. I rolled over and took my phone off the charger. 12:05 AM. I hesitated to text Jovie, not wanting to bother him, but the words he’d said to me after I finally opened up to him ran through my head.
“If you don’t let me know when you’re upset, I’m genuinely going to be mad at you. Because if you don’t let someone know, then how are we going to help?”
He was right. That day, I’d told him about what I’d experienced in the last year and how I felt like I’d pushed it aside and for the first time, I felt like I could breathe. I didn’t tell him the part where I thought Harvey might still be alive because I didn’t want him to think I was entirely crazy, but it was nice to be able to say something to someone. I trusted him. It’d been a while since I let myself trust a person that didn’t live an ocean away. I took a deep breath and sent Jovie the message.
M: can’t sleep :(
L: Did you have the dream again?
L: Honestly, I can’t sleep either. I’m feeling spontaneous...
M: what does that mean?
L: I’m on my way.
I sat up quickly and swung my legs out of bed, picking up a pair of black leggings on the floor and pulling them on. I could almost feel the chilly November air on my skin just by looking out the window. I threw a thick sweatshirt over my head, brushed out my hair and braided it loosely. I had no idea what we were going to do, but I was too tired about being dressed appropriately.
I sat at the edge of my bed and looked out at the city for a while. It was so alive even at a time when everyone should be asleep. The people, the size of little fairies, all rushed about like each destination was more important than the next. Somehow, this time of year always seemed like a race. But this year, I felt frozen in place at my apartment. I didn’t have anywhere to be like those people because this was my first holiday season away from Briar Creek. I sat with myself for a moment, tracing little snowflakes in the fog on my window before a knock at my door made me jump. I tugged a beanie over my head and opened the door to Jovie, standing there with a stupid smile and bags under his eyes to match my own.
“I’ve got a plan,” he declared proudly, tugging at the zipper of his burgundy Adidas track jacket.
“I’m following you, Jo,” I said, shoving my wallet in my coat pocket and shutting the door behind us. “I’m sorry for waking you up in the middle of the night.”
“You didn’t wake me,” he sighed, his eyes sparkled as he gave a crooked smile.
“What were you doing awake? Bad dream? Existential crisis?” I joked.
“Something like that,” his eyes gazed at the ground as we stepped out onto the street.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired,” he cleared his throat before pointing to the lights from the train station up ahead. “That’s where we’re going.”
“Where are we going on the train?”
“I don’t know. That’s the fun part,” his eyes beamed with an excitement for adventure. “I thought we’d just ride along and get off when we feel like it. I’ve got nowhere to be but here with you. Do you have anywhere to be?”
“Actually, yes. I’ve got to be somewhere promptly at 3:30 AM on a Sunday morning and I simply cannot miss it,” I joked.
“Yeah, alright, I wouldn’t be surprised with you, Miss Poetry Paper Editor Lady.” he chuckled. “Is that what you are?”
“I thought I was Miss America,” I twirled the end of my braid between my fingers before looking up at him.
“You can be whatever you want, Maeve Peterson.”
We walked to the station with a different type of energy I hadn’t felt before. We didn’t know where we were going but we didn’t care. I was happy to get out of my miserable existence in the apartment. This was how I wanted to be. For once, I didn’t feel tied down by work or by a feeling, but I was simply existing and that was it. There was nothing else being asked of me but to be. It was nice. I watched others pass by, existing with no ties in the same way. It seemed like everyone lived that way at night even though it wasn’t necessarily true. We’d all wake up at 8AM on Monday and go to work because we secretly enjoyed it. For a while though, we were floating.
“So are you going to tell me why you weren’t sleeping earlier?” I questioned Jovie, but saw him get visibly uncomfortable. “You don’t have to tell me. It’s okay,” I said quickly and laid my hand on his shoulder, feeling guilty for pressing it. I hated it when people did that to me.
“It’s fine. It was just some stuff with friends,” he spoke through a strained voice, clenching his jaw.
“You wouldn’t know them,” he shoved his hand in his pocket as we walked through the doors towards the ticket booth. “I got you,” He pulled out his wallet, handing the station worker some bills in exchange for two tickets.
“Thanks, Jo,” I said as he handed me my ticket.
We sat on a bench in front of the arriving trains and waited for one to come along. Jovie seemed distracted by his thoughts. He was more quiet than usual, looking down at the grey speckled floor. When I asked if he was okay, he gave me the bullshit “I’m tired” excuse and a forced smile. He obviously didn’t want me to ask about it anymore, so I let him sit with his thoughts for a few minutes before a train pulled into the station for us to board. It was almost completely empty so it wasn’t hard to find seats. I was kind enough to let Jovie have the window seat as I squeezed into the aisle seat.
“When are we getting off?” I asked. He thought for a second.
“I guess when we feel like it,” he grinned, seemingly over his thoughts from earlier.
I smiled to myself, loving the feeling of limbo this kind of travel always created. The possibilities were endless. We talked for a few minutes before Jovie got distracted looking out the window and my eyes began to get heavy. Before I knew it, I woke up with my head on Jovie’s shoulder as he gently tapped me awake. I jumped a little, realizing I didn’t know how long I’d been asleep and we could be in another country for all I knew.
“How long was I out?” I asked.
“A few hours. We’re in Germany now,” Jovie stated, reading my thoughts. My face froze. He tried to hide the corners of his mouth turning up before bursting into laughter. “I’m kidding. I think you drooled on me though.”
“Shut up,” I gently elbowed him and rolled my eyes before getting up, my legs feeling especially heavy underneath me. “Where are we?”
“I don’t know, but I saw a beach,” he stretched his arms up in the air, the hem of his shirt rising to reveal a glimpse of his stomach. I spun around towards the exit and hopped out of the train onto stable ground.
“What time is it even?” I asked, skipping ahead of Jovie, letting the cold night air wake me up from my unplanned nap.
“Almost 3 AM,” he replied.
“Are you tired?” I asked, turning to look at him. He was watching me with a glimmer in his blue eyes.
“A bit, but if I would have decided to take a nap on the train, we would have actually ended up in Germany,” he teased.
“Would that have really been so bad?” I laughed.
“I could think of worse places to be with worse people.”
Jovie and I walked through the town, following the GPS on his phone to find the beach front. No one else was awake here. It seemed like a tiny sea front town that people dreamed of retiring to- at least from what I could tell in the partial darkness. We could hear seagulls and ocean waves as we grew closer to the pier and the streetlights stopped giving light as we got to the sand. I almost tripped a few times and continued to get sand in my boots until we reached the middle of the beach. The ocean breeze was fierce, tangling my hair with salty fingers as we sat down in the sand.
“I should have brought a blanket,” I commented.
“What, can’t deal with a few grains of sand in your pants?” Jovie joked before flopping back in the soft white blanket of shore underneath him.
He laid there with his eyes closed, arms outstretched, and heaved a sigh. The wind stopped, the seagulls stopped talking to each other, and the waves grew calm as everything was suddenly quiet and peaceful. I laid down next to Jovie, folding my hands behind my head and shutting out the rest of the world for as long as I could. I don’t know how long we stayed like this, but it didn’t matter.
“You know, sometimes I feel infinity closing in on me,” Jovie broke the silence. I turned my head to look at him.
His eyes were open, focused on the stars in the sky. We were almost in complete darkness, the soft moonlight cast shadows on his face and the slightest glow from the street lamps shone from far away like tiny light houses.
“I feel like there’s always a limit on my time. Like I’m always rushed- especially this time of year... But moments like this make me feel like I’m in control. And with those moments of control, I choose to pause it all for a while.”
I listened to him speak, his soft raspy voice music to my ears. There was something about his voice that made me feel safe.
“I know what you mean,” I sighed, “I think losing someone important has made it even worse. Reminded me that I’m not in control of my life and my time, or anyone else’s for that matter.”
“Don’t you feel like looking at the universe like this makes you feel some sense of control?” Jovie asked, the waves echoing the sound of his voice in the background as his eyes darted between stars in the sky.
“It makes me feel small, but I like feeling smaller sometimes. It makes me feel like I don’t matter in a good way. Like, when it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how I spend my time or what I do. The universe is going to keep doing it’s thing. There’s trillions of stars in that sky and we don’t have a thing to do with one another. We’re miles and miles apart. They live their life and I live mine.”
“They don’t have much to do up there do they?” I looked up at the twinkling gems in the black sky.
“Must be nice,” Jovie huffed. “You know this is kind of my thing, right?
“Yeah. As a kid I was extremely into learning about space and the planets. I thought I’d be an astronaut by now for sure.”
“And why aren’t you?”
“Other things took over. Life happens. Mainly, I couldn’t get my grades up and didn’t care enough to try harder. I still enjoy it though. I know way too much about space. I should take you to the planetarium sometime. I’ve got an annual membership,” he smiled proudly, patting his pocket where he kept his wallet.
“I’d love that. I don’t know too much about it honestly,” I pushed myself up from the sand, shaking it out of my hair. “I’m going to have this in my hair for the next year.”
Jovie laughed, sitting up next to me. The seagulls began to have conversation again and we watched as their forms dove into the ocean only to rise back up.
“Are you doing anything for Christmas this year?” Jovie asked, the question catching me off guard.
“Um, I don’t... I don’t know. It’s over a month away so I haven’t really thought about it yet,” I lied. I had definitely thought about it and I was definitely dreading it.
“I don’t really have a lot of family around and I know you don’t either so I was wondering if you wanted to do something. If you already have plans with Serena or-”
“No, I don’t. I would love to do something. Honestly, I’d kind of accepted the fact that I’d be alone this year.”
“We couldn’t have that,” Jovie smiled at me reassuringly before turning his gaze back up to the sky. He took a deep breath and held it. “Is it... is it hard without him?”
“Uh... It’s um-” I began to stutter, not really knowing how to answer. I wasn’t used to this honesty between us. Jovie was usually so bright and cheery, trying to get my mind off of things.
“You don’t have to answer that if you don’t want to,” he said calmly, eyes finding their way back to me. I avoided his gaze, but not the question at hand.
“It’s something different every day. Some days are easier and some days, everything reminds me of him, but it never goes away completely. I was scared I’d forget about it all when I moved here... and part of me wanted to. I wanted to forget the things that hurt, but I realized that those were a part of it too and I couldn’t have the good without the bad. Sometimes it’s thinking of the good that hurts the most. I can steal hear his laugh in my ears and I’ve reread his favorite book at least ten times just to listen to his voice in my head quoting every line. God, he was a pretentious fuck,” I laughed, feeling tears begin to prick in the corners of my eyes. “But I loved him. I loved him so hard it hurt then and it hurts now.”
“Do you think you’ll ever see him again?”
“Yes,” I answered without hesitation. It was the feeling of almost touching him in my dreams, smelling the scent of cigarettes and vanilla whenever I thought of him, hearing his thoughts in my head when I read an article he would have hated, and knowing that a love that deep wouldn’t know anything but forever.
Jovie and I sat under the stars until they slowly melted into the light and allowed the sun to cast a pinkish yellow hue across the clouds. The waves began to recede back into the ocean, leaving little crabs to scurry across the sand looking for their friends. The wind blew again, but this time very gently, only slightly blowing through Jovie’s hair as we began to make our way back to the train station. Everything was alright.