I remember the first time. She needed a hand to hold. It was one of those dark dreams where she was alone in a strange and dangerous place of shadows and ominous darkness. She dreamt of walking there, not knowing what lurked around the next hidden corner, or what hid in the shadows that haunted the dark places of her dreaming mind.
She dreamt of a hand to hold, something to reassure her, to tell her she was not alone. That hand was mine. Her hand felt cold and small in mine, but her grip was tight and strong.
She knew the way, she knew the corridors and dark alleyways of her own mind, but still she felt she need to dream someone who could walk those places with her. She knew that at any time, her dream of dark places could let her go and she could fall, and fall forever, never waking up.
I was there to hold onto her.
Back then, I did not have a name. I was little more than the reassurance of the hand, holding on to her. I did not know her name then either. I did not know anything. I was just there to hold her hand.
Later, though, when Marni dreamt of me again I became more than just a hand. I was a tall dark stranger she met in a bar in some exotic foreign city. Not one of those creeps who hit on women sitting alone, but someone she felt she could understand and who would understand her.
She’d been reading detective fiction, old style hard-boiled. She called me Marlowe and gave me an early 20th century suit and a hat.
I eased onto the bar stool next to her and laid my hat down on the bar.
She smiled at me. ‘You came,’ she said.
‘You called.’ I replied.
We didn’t need to talk. It was her dream and she knew all she need to know about me, as she needed to know it. I didn’t need to know anything. I was more than just a hand to hold this time, but not all that much more. Anyway, when you are a figment of someone else’s dreams there are not that many secrets they can keep from you.
Although, Marni tried.
But I do not judge. I could see the pain that made her dreams so dark and dangerous. I could see the memories she was always running from and I understood why she needed a hand to hold.
She reached out across the bar and took my hand in hers as we sat there, drinks untouched, with everything that normally would be said left unsaid.
‘You can’t save me,’ she said eventually, not looking at me.
I knew she was right. I knew she would run out of places to hide in her dreams eventually. That one day all she was running from would catch up with her and she would have to turn to face it.
I also knew that when that day came, when that dream finally caught her I would be there by her side holding her hand and never letting go.