Dearest Rachel –
I can’t necessarily speak for you, but I have always felt quite safe in our home. Despite its location on a major thoroughfare – or maybe because of it, as its high visibility and lack of street parking precluded most easy break-in possibilities – and its location literally on the ‘wrong side of the tracks,’ at least in our massive village, it’s always seemed a fairly secure location from most potential crime. Unlike the McMansions to the north, it’s fairly unassuming; even the additions are hidden behind the front view, so it doesn’t necessarily announce ‘wealth!’ to the average passer-by.
The interior isn’t particularly complicated, either. Apart from the circular path described by the front hall to the sunroom to the dining room (and, should you wish to take the spur, the family room that was essentially one and the same with it) to the pantry and the kitchen – which appealed to you since it replicated the path that could be walked through the home your mother designed and built for herself in which you grew up – it is a fairly standard split-level ranch. The master suite is a little exceptional, but it’s not difficult to explore, and the upstairs area is little more than a collection of bedrooms, despite the fact that none of them are regularly used as such. All in all, maybe not the greatest place to play hide-and-seek, but it never really mattered to us, since there were so few of us to occupy it.
On an entirely unrelated note (don’t worry, these will eventually come together; just not right away), you were always proud of your naturally curly hair, and took great pains to maintain it. Even when you finally decided to dye it – and insisted on either doing it yourself, or getting Kerstin’s help, rather than springing $80 for a professional job of it (not that many salons seemed to have been willing to go along with your request that it be colored a deep purple) – you endured a lot to ensure that the curl wasn’t removed in the process, complete with those cold showers on Sunday mornings before you would have me join you to deal with the neck down. In short, the idea of braiding it at any point in time would have been nearly heretical.
Not that you would have let me do it, in any event. That was something shared between you, Ellen and Erin (I don’t think Kerstin ever had her hair sufficiently long enough to braid in the first place) when they were over. And I don’t think that you would bother with sitting together in the stairwell to do so, in any event – although that may have been more because it was both cluttered and out of the way. That sort of activity was for the couch – or, just as likely, one of you on the couch (the braider) and the other on the floor (the braidee?).
Were I to sit in the braider’s position, it would have been rather to give your shoulders and back a thorough rub-down, rather than to try to do anything with your hair. You would, in fact, request my services more often than my wrists and thumbs would have liked; by those last few years, my hands would wear out surprisingly quickly, which I’m sure must have been a bit disappointing to you when I would give up before you were quite done. Then again, had I the strength to continue, I dare say you would probably let me go on until we both fell asleep in that position, so there’s that. And I certainly wish I could be asked to do that for you yet again; if you thought I was out of practice then, imagine what sort of shape my hands have got to be in now.
All that having been said, this is mere prologue to the dream that had me awake this morning at four. I’m actually surprised I managed to remember this much to write down to send to you.
It’s the sort of dream that would easily be categorized as a ‘nightmare,’ although not one teeming with phantasmagoric imagery. No, it was a fairly simple plotline of a home invasion, with the threat of murder thrown in for good measure. Basically, we were dealing with a burglar, armed somewhat improbably with a large knife (maybe actually a machete – I’m not sure where the line is drawn between the two). After a bit of cat-and-mouse between him and I, I had managed to get Daniel to safety in his upstairs bathroom (where he could escape to the flat master bedroom roof through the window, should the need arise. Meanwhile, I had positioned myself at the top of the stairwell – and I guess the tenting the construction crew have put up to shield the rooms not being worked on from the effects of their work was still up, because I can’t imagine any other reason why the burglar wouldn’t know to look for the stairwell.
Of course, the safety of this hiding place couldn’t last, but again, it wasn’t so much from his cunning as from my clumsiness. Then again, why would there still be a pair of your shoes in the house, much less sitting on the stairwell for me to knock over and send tumbling to the floor of the front hallway?
“Hostie!” I found myself thinking. Why my mind would go to a québécois expletive (and why one of the strongest québécois profanities would involve the communion wafer; language can be just weird) is beyond my understanding, but there we are.
And there he was, with the point of his knife practically at my throat. All I could do was to look past him, and mutter, “Sorry…”
“Sorry?” he growled. “For what?”
And, this being a dream, and not subject to logic or real-life memories, I replied, “I’m sorry I couldn’t braid her hair one more time.”
There was a pause as he processed this apparent non-sequitur. “Whose hair?”
“I didn’t see no wife here. I had nothing to do with that.” He then lowered his knife, moved down a step, and stared me in the face. “You’ve got nothing here to take. I’m leaving.” With that, he turned away and walked out of the house.
I remember feeling stung by that, and the fact that he seemed to think I wasn’t worth robbing, given that my only concern was for being unable to be with you one last time, even as I was facing what looked to be certain death. And I almost resented the fact that he let me live, when he could have sent me to meet you once again!
When I woke up, I noted the time, and tried to go back to sleep, but I kept composing this letter to you, so I’m probably on the verge of falling back asleep at any moment, now that I’m just about done here. It does occur to me that maybe this dream actually has an interpretation – I have been robbed of the most precious thing that I might call mine, and there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s no insurance policy that can replace you, no way to find or punish the offender responsible… I’m just stuck with having to deal with the loss. And I don’t like it.
I suppose that someday, I’ll come to terms with it, but I’m still not there yet. Until then, honey, do keep an eye out for me, and wish me luck – I’m going to need it.