“We’re good together,” I said.
“Perfect together,” you sighed. “I wish we could be together every night for the rest of my life.”
I surged with equal parts ecstasy and despair. What did you mean, “every night?”
I couldn’t have imagined you would be ashamed to be with someone like me. I thought nothing of the fact that we never saw your parents for dinner or met up with your friends for drinks. You were mine, and I was yours, and our time was our own. Besides, there wouldn’t have been room for others anyway. All night, every night, I wound you up until you unspooled around me, over and over again.
One evening, as I raked my fingers through your hair, you wept. “I wish this was real.”
“It is real.”
You were still.
“It is real,” I said again, less certain.
You held my face in the mirror image of how I held yours.
“When I was a child,” you said, “I could never tell when I was dreaming. I could fly, turn into a dolphin, be chased by a pack of rabid wolves…and it felt so real. But nothing was as scary as waking up. I’d lie in bed, absolutely paralyzed, unable to even blink. I swore I could hear the voices in my dreams, calling me back, keeping me from moving. Only they weren’t in my dreams. They were in my room, in my bed, under my sheets.”
My poor girl. I kissed the corner of your mouth. “How did you get over it?”
“I’d wait a few minutes, and eventually, everything would go back to normal. I’d sit up, stretch my arms out, and just go about my day.” You shrugged, and your gaze drifted elsewhere, like you were remembering things you hadn’t realized you’d forgotten.
I touched your hand. “And now?”
“Now, I just dream about amazing sex.” You beamed, your eyes and your mind coming back to me. “And a man who is too good to be true.”
Like every morning for the years we’ve been together, our afterglow was shattered by a piercing siren, an alarm of sorts, that blared from the sky. You vanished, as always, and I was left alone.
But in your absence, I was met with a sudden, crippling understanding: I was your dream lover. And I existed only in your dreams.
Lindsay Zibach has written for Disney XD, The Hollywood Reporter, and Fast Company, and is a former producer for The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Nat Geo WILD. She won the Grand Prize for the 2016 Zoetrope: All-Story Short Fiction Contest and has an M.F.A. in Writing from Spalding University.