His mind reminded him of her regularly. They had had nothing together, certainly nothing resembling a relationship. Still, his subconscious manifested her as a symbol of a multitude of multifaceted desires: she was a glittering diamond in his mind, each cut intended to refract some light of want within himself he would rather bury in the depths of his cemetery of a heart.
So many things were buried there. His attraction to the Chinese woman with her sharp intellect and quiet artistry; his delight for the effeminate Japanese woman with her girlish mannerisms yet brusque and blunt outbursts; his first love, tall, blonde, blue-eyed, her wiry fingers intertwined with his as they walked together through the woods; his fantastical and almost mythological love for an icy photographer he knew only through their platonic online exchanges —
With his first love, he’d kept looking back, eloping with the past because the future was so misty. The mist never lifted.
Eventually he became disconnected from those flowery reminiscences of the past as the present became all pervading. He could tap into the glimmer of what once was, but he was no longer swept away by it, deeply rooted in his earthly presence of “now”.
He would see all of them in his dreams, in passing, as strangers on the street. Some part of his sleepy cognizant self would murmur, “I know her”, but nothing more. I know, but we are strangers.
But her his mind would do more with. In his dreams, he would spend time with her, getting to know her, carrying her in his arms and feeling her warm embrace against himself. Nightmares, he called them. Nightmares that left him with a pleasant sense that he would purposely ignore but secretly covet.
In reality, there was nothing that had so much meaning as those worthless dreams. He refused to be led on by those dreams as a matter of experience and pragmatism: for what had the pursuit of dreams earned him but rebukes and emotional pain. In his mind, one of the very definitions of being a man was being able to ignore those child-like aspects of himself and walk confidently past them, even though they remained standing, staring longingly at his back, forlorn at being so easily cast aside.
He was not sure whether he was wrong, which was to say he had no definition of what was truly right. There was only forward and being able to move forward, and harboring dreams led him on tangents that stalled him from moving forward.
It wasn’t that forward carried with it any promise of satisfaction or contentedness. It was only that some instinct more powerful than mere wishful thinking screamed out that he would rather keep putting one foot before another, than be led askew upon some wayside —
Though deep down, he knew it was those waysides that led to wonderful scenes, beautiful gurgling creeks where weeping willows dipped into the gently flowing water, while above, the sky glowed vermilion and cream as the sun disappeared behind a swaying tree-line, the scent of spring in the air.
Still, he would look away, taking one more pain-ridden step upon that stony road forward, towards an empty horizon.