Had another dream about whatsis-face, that guy I got hung up on in college, for reasons that baffled those nearest to me. My sister was the only one who sort of got it. She said, "you'd just never met anyone remotely like that before." He had a murky mind. His energy was a combination of Christian Slater's character in "Heathers," the raspy-voiced misfit who blows everything up, and a single scene in "The Unbearable Lightness of Being," where Daniel Day Lewis is confronted in his office by the KGB. The KGB tells him, "Look, you're a doctor. You're not political. We know you didn't mean these things. Just sign a little retraction, here on the dotted line, and you can keep your medical practice and everything will be fine." Daniel Day Lewis leans back, smiles with an unearthly, casual radiance, and shakes his head, "no." Cut to the next scene, of Daniel Day Lewis washing windows. That was whatsis-face.
To this day, I have no idea of what whatsis-face thought of me. I used to think that he just didn't, much. (At least at first--after I went totally psycho on him, I was pretty hard to ignore.) Then, much later, I thought that maybe I was simply Too Big. Too tall, too visible, too much the kind of person who attracts circles of chanting people at parties when she starts spinning and doesn't stop, and ends up on stage with the band, and publishes fraught, obscure poetry in 'zines that twelve people read, and leaves puddles of dirty motor oil in the art department hallway. I wouldn't have known what to do with me, either.
The woman he ended up with was much smaller. She was famed for having size-five feet. I have never been an overtly competitive female, preferring to withdraw with my wings folded rather than treat folks to the spectacle of two jealous harpies clawing each other's eyes out over some smug bastard, but she initally didn't even show up on my radar as a threat. She whined, she manipulated, she wasn't very bright. "Raaaaaaay," she would intone, toddling into the Salt Lick Cafe, "we're going on a daaaaaate this weekend. I want to make whatsis-face jeeeaaaal-ous." Please. I would not STOOP to compete.
Which was fine with her, because she was a lot more highly sexed than I was, and that was all she needed. Men are simple creatures, and I was, unfortunately, looking for complexity. One afternoon in midsummer, whatsis-face got ideas about being a big cocky jerk, and decided to invite both me and Whiny Girl to lunch without telling us that the other one was coming. I had a premonition about it when I saw her jump on her bike outside the art building and ride off with desperate purpose, so when I showed up to the assignation zone and found her already there, I sat down and made friendly conversation. Whatsis-face strutted up a few minutes later, and plunked down between us with a bag full of plums. He offered some to me; I drew myself up like an affronted Victorian nanny and refused. He offered them to Whiny Girl; she extended her lower lip, gulped one directly from his hand, and sent him a look that at the time, I thought of as disgusting and Over The Top. But even then I knew she'd won.
The events of the rest of that year are too tedious and gory to recount in their entirety. Poor old whatsis-face ended up with a bruised jawbone (people were coming up to me for weeks and saying, "Serena! I hear you beat up whatsis-face! Congratulations!) and I ended up in therapy. Whiny girl ended up with the guy, but only after using Ray and a number of his buddies with callous opportunism. Turns out that whiny, manipulative and stupid was exactly what suited whatsis-face. What can you do.
The thing that I felt horribly guilty about, for years and years afterwards, was not socking him in the jaw, but taking away his friends. It was frighteningly easy to do. His friends asked me, "why were you so mad at whatsis-face?" and I quoted him directly. "It's not personal. My feelings for all of my friends are pretty much apathy," and his friends didn't like this any better than I did. I was witty and charming to his friends, and ignored him, and within a month or two nobody to speak of was speaking to him.
(A few years after this, I took one of those Meyers-Briggs personality tests, and scoffingly read my results to my roommate. "ENFJ: it says, 'this type is exceptionally charismatic.' What a crock," and she looked at me strangely and said, "you don't KNOW you're charismatic?" I didn't know this, but I knew I was cruel. It was my first experience of how, when you are hurting unbearably, the pain appears to stop when you hurt somebody else. Only then it comes back again, and you have to keep hitting and hitting until it's way, way too much.)
I never went there again. Eventually I apologized, and he got his friends back, and hopefully appreciated them a bit more. In fact, being the Web-stalking psycho-bitch that I am, I know he appreciates his friends, and his wife the Whiny Girl, and is a nice upstanding member of the Sierra Club who volunteers for Children's Cancer and shit. Maybe I knocked some sense into him.
But this doesn't explain why I dream about him. Shame, I think, is why. For a long time the dreams were the same; our friends were the same people, or our communities, and we were occupying parallel space without really interacting. I didn't dare say anything, because I was that horrible psycho-bitch who socked him in the jaw and took away his friends, and thus was less than human. Whiny girl generally appeared at some point, too, just there, not doing much of anything.
Lately the dreams have changed. They're kinder. Most recently, there was whatsis-face in a wheelchair, and I was helping him around, cleaning up bathrooms. He got all happy and crazy and started drawing bright pastel patterns on the walls. Whiny girl came along, and I said "I better be going." Whatsis-face took my hand; I chatted with Whiny Girl. He held her, and he held me. I woke up happy.