Rudy has been, for the past year or so, questioning himself. Wondering if there is any meaning behind the fact he can’t just seem to find a job, in his field of expertise, or anywhere else. With every phone call about his resumé, listing his superior qualifications, to the several interviews, leading nowhere, he’s gone from a high of believing he can do anything to a low feeling he can’t.
People occasionally ask me how I am dealing with his situation, without much complaint. The thing is, I do complain, if that’s what you want to call it, to him, where my words should be aimed. I don’t talk in a way that makes things worse, rather I express how I am feeling, hoping he’ll understand that we are both affected by his lack of participation, in life. His desire to succeed has diminished. He’s frustrated, angry, and overall disappointed in himself. I handle it by looking beyond what I actually, physically see and go deep, observing what is not so apparent. Taking clues from what’s not being said.
The other day, Rudy and I were in the kitchen, talking, but not really, when he needed to tell me about a dream he’d had.
In the dream, he began, I saw you, hanging all over some young guy, your arms wrapped around him, and you were laughing, having fun. I never could see the guy you were with. He was so young, but you were you, the age you are now.
As I was listening to his tale, trying to understand his reason for telling me his love affair dream, his knees suddenly gave out. He began to breathe rapidly and his eyes widened liked someone experiencing a traumatic, unexpected moment. He grabbed a chair, sat, and lowered his head between his shaking knees. He seemed lost, unsure. I thought for sure he was going to faint, so I walked over to him, coaxed him into a sitting position, cupped my hands on both sides of his face, and gently told him to breathe.
Slowly, I told him. Slow down. Breathe in. Breathe out. Slow.
I wanted to calm him, soothe him, let him know everything was okay. But, also, inside my mind, behind all my kind words I wondered who the heck I had an affair with that caused Rudy so much turmoil. Once his breathing was, again, under control, he looked at me with eyes full of sadness, a kind of heartbreak I had never seen before.
The guy, he continued, never looked in my direction, and when I asked you what you were doing you shouted at me ‘That’s your problem, not mine!’ and that’s when the young guy finally looked my way, looked right at me. And I couldn’t believe who he was.
Again, Rudy cried, smashed his palms into his eye sockets. I stooped, rested my hands on his thighs, and waited for him to tell me more.
It was me! he shouted. It was my 21 year old self! You were having an affair with me!
Tears once again filled his eyes, reflecting the overhead lights, before splashing down his cheeks.
You? It was you? I asked, just to confirm.
Yes. Me. When I was probably only 21. When we first met. You were you, your age now, and you were cheating with me, but a young me, he answered.
That’s pretty intense, I told him.
All that I could think about was the symbolism within the dream. How it was full of meaning. His internal story. But, I didn’t say anything. I remained quiet, wondering what he thought about it. Yet, Rudy couldn’t control his crying. His blubbering. As if he realized the dream was trying to tell him something. I embraced him. Held him tight. Knowing this may be a breakthrough. A turning point. A new beginning.
And then he spoke. It means you miss the young guy I was, he told me. That I have left that not-a-care-in-the-world kind of guy, the ambitious one behind and have forgotten about him. And that is what you are seeking. The real me.
I do miss him, I honestly said, the person I met all those years ago. The guy I’ve grown up with. But, I needed to add, just so we’re clear here, if I was going to cheat, it’d be with you.
I laughed, but it was his smile that brightened the room.