Last night I dreamed you had a small, dark-haired boy to care for--but you couldn't, because you were busy with other, less important things.
I came to your city when you called me, asking if I could take the child and his routine for a day. Of course, of course! I would finally see your face, and couldn't wait for the moment when you would see mine. So we planned a complex route and a good time, a time when our meeting would be "safe", unlikely to unravel or offend the intricate patterns and tightly-capped relations you had established for so many years. We would meet at the end of the day, after school and daycare and some event. I managed to go to the right place at the right moment, found the child, and spent the day falling in love with him.
In the afternoon we met at a large social function, a birthday party filled with other children and well-heeled adults with watchful gazes. I pretended to be nothing, the nanny, the hired help. We left the little boy for a few minutes at play, and faced each other in an outbuilding, far in the back. I put my hands on either side of your face and said, "Look! I am so happy to see you!"
We embraced; I stepped back, to look at you. There was a mask over your face--a strange, eerie, expressionless thing that covered all but your mouth. I reached up to remove it, but you stopped my hand. "I'm sick," you claimed, "and too flawed. I can't let you look in my eyes."
There was a movement near the half-open door. A woman stared in at us, about to bring down your house of cards, judging by her expression and the speed at which she hurried away. You saw her, too, and immediately panicked. You urged me to crawl through a window, to get away at all cost, to abandon the property. I protested. I wanted to say goodbye to the little boy; I wanted to tell the truth, to stop hiding in the shadows. I left, in the end, after extracting a promise to meet in a different place, soon.
I spent some time in the city, which was old and golden, somehow; eventually, I met you in a building and a room of your choosing. There were other people there, but I found you at once, with your mask. Again, I tried to remove it. You seemed to have difficulty breathing. Again, you refused. You pulled me into your lap for another, more intimate embrace, but the mask disturbed me, and I pushed away and stood. For the first time, I noticed that we were in some kind of bordello, and that all the couples were masked or painted so heavily that features could barely be discerned. The golden light had faded, and a bare, electric bulb hung from the ceiling. I walked around the room, fascinated and disgusted with myself, until I came to the chair where you sat, uncomfortably, shifting as if the cushion was full of thorns.
I said, "I am not a prostitute."
"I'm sorry..."--the tone was dejected--"I only wanted the fantasy. I just wanted the fantasy!"
"I am not a fantasy." I laughed. You reached for me and I felt a mix of crushing disappointment and immense tenderness. I put my hands on either side of my bare face. "Take care of your child," I told you. "Take care of your health. Learn to love what's real."
Who are you?