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Dream of Them When You Can

Clouds are illusions

By Steffany RitchiePublished 3 months ago 4 min read
Photo c/o author

Every night at midnight, the purple clouds came out to dance with the blushing sky. Emmy stood in the restaurant parking lot watching the breathtaking sunset sky fall into an inky swirl as a light breeze circled her body in the sticky August heat. 

She felt like if she closed her eyes she could float into the sky and disappear, and very much wanted to in that moment.

Emmy had collected her father's cremated remains that day and it seemed impossible that the sun would rise again the next day. She did and did not want the day to end. It was one of the longest days of her life, but if it ended, it was real, and it could never be undone. Her dad, gone, forever. As though he had never existed. 

No one knew him like she had, well, no one who was still around. They didn't know the jazzy walk, the stylish flair, the child-like attention to things that most grown-ups forgot about. The gift he gave her to let wonder in and allow Emmy the faith that unicorns and other magical things were real.

They didn't know the dark clouds that rumbled in him and occasionally spilled onto her, scarring her heart and soul. Or the sunshine feeling that his love and generous affection could give.

Now she felt that none of it mattered. There would be no healing the pain, no magic. Once she was gone they would both be ashes or in the dirt, forgotten, a blip in time. Two unremarkable, lost souls. Emmy felt like hers had split in two, even though she hadn't seen him before he died for over twenty years.

Except that was a lie. He had come to her in a dream, plain as day, right around the time he must have died. Emmy was in denial when it happened, because back then it felt better to have him not pester her subconscious. She didn't wish him dead, but she didn't want to think about him either.

The dream wasn't just a dream, she knew that now. She had a similar dream with her deceased grandpa when she had been very ill. He was right there, alive and well, vivid and real. He told her she was going to be just fine and he was right. She knew he had reached through time and space to help her, but it was hard to put into words without sounding crazy.

With her dad, it had been different. In the dream, he was in pain, and upset. He knocked over some cologne on a bureau, cologne she knew to be his. His hair was long and this threw her. Her dad had never had long hair when she was growing up except for when she was a baby. She awoke and it felt scarily real but she dismissed it.

When Emmy went to go through her dad's things and saw recent photos, he had grown his once red, now white hair long. She didn't know if she would have recognized him on the street. The cologne, and a photo of her, were on his bureau.

It was then that she knew the truth of her dream. It wasn't a dream at all, it was a window into his reality. And if a dream opens that window not once, but twice in her case, it seemed only reasonable that it would open again at some point. Maybe this time she could set things right. She could go somewhere, wherever he was, and fix it. 

Despite all of the pain her dad had caused her over the years, she wanted nothing more than to hug him and tell him everything was ok. She felt like he needed to hear that, and that fate had cruelly robbed her of the chance. 

The day she heard he died "Both Sides Now" by Joni Mitchell was playing on a loop in her head before she heard the news he had gone.

The sunsets the week she emptied his house were the most vivid she had ever seen. She pictured him driving around the hills where he lived, enjoying the same sky, only weeks before. The sky and the violently beautiful clouds felt like an affront and a caress at once to her broken heart. How dare they glow so alive, setting the landscape on fire, when he wasn't there to see them? 

Or maybe he was the clouds, and that was all there was. Was that any more ridiculous than any other fragile crumb of hope we tell ourselves about what happens when the blood stops pumping in and out of our hearts, too heavy with life and loss to go on? 

Maybe when they leave us our souls float and ignite into fucshia and blazing orange and all of the tie-dye cosmic swirl of possibilities. A gloriously garish display of everything we ever were, dreamed, and loved, all the way up to the lid of the heavens. And this multi-hued rage before twilight is the final gasp of life as it was. The clouds are really just there to see us through and give us a final bow.

Emmy read every other local obituary the week her dad died. No one loved and lost more or less than any other. She cried for all of them: sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, fathers, husbands, wives, moms, and friends. Her mortal body was now a bottomless vessel of salty tears.

All any of them wanted was for the blistering skies to return their lost loved ones, even if it meant they stayed gray forever.

One night she watched and waited for the purple clouds to blacken. She was exhausted by the weight of grief and regret. It felt too heavy for one person. She wanted to be up there, with the unicorns and her dad, weightless. Emmy closed her eyes and made a wish and felt her feet leave the ground.


About the Creator

Steffany Ritchie

Hi, I mostly write memoir, essays and pop culture things. I am a long-time American expat in Scotland.

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