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Twisting all the bad things into good

Dec 9, 2012

I Dreamed of Julie

and wherever you've gone
and wherever we might go
it don't seem fair...

you seem to like it here
Light Years, lyrics by Eddie Vedder

        I woke up around 9:30 this morning.
        My only day to sleep in.
        I wasn't ready to start my day, so I turned on some music and went back to sleep.
        Then I went back to high school.
        Pope John Paul II.
        Senior year.

        It wasn't a common "back to high school dream", but I was still unprepared for the final.
        This wasn't my recurring dream about arriving late, then roaming the empty breezeway with no idea which classroom I've already been marked absent from.
        I never had this dream before.
        It was lunchtime.

        I was leaning on a windowsill, my gaze fixed upon a group of girls outside, sitting at a picnic table I've been told is no longer there. I don't remember at which table or in which lunch period these girls could have been found back then, but today, they were all sitting together.

        There were lots of girls at lots of tables, but none were like the girls at this table.

        They were more beautiful than I remembered, their inner beauty so radiant, it could make a pretty face shine brighter than any supermodel's ever could.
        The airbrushed faces of every Playmate of every year would run with makeup and tears of envy if they saw the au naturale PJP girls of '94 the way I saw them this morning.
        Although we were back in high school, I felt the same way about them that I would nearly 20 years later, a way a teenage boy is not capable of loving or even looking at girls his age, his own insecurities and self perceptions always the most influential factor in his perceptions of others.      
        Even if none of them would look back and call high school the best days of their lives, today seemed an exception. It was like they knew what they know now, that very soon, they'd never be together again, not like this.
        They looked so happy.
        They only stopped smiling when they'd start laughing.

        I didn't realize this was a dream, but I suddenly knew this wouldn't last.

        Something wasn't right.
        I hoped it was me.

        I wanted them to keep smiling, even if that meant I had lost my mind.

        I would have done that for them.
        I didn't want any of them to stop laughing.

        Especially her.
        She was the one with the biggest smile.
        I couldn't hear her, but she was laughing the loudest.

        As perfect as they all were, she was the one I couldn't take my eyes off.       
        The first girl I ever bought flowers.
        The first girl I ever took on a date.
        The girl I took to my Senior Prom.


        She was the only girl at the table not sitting.
        When I saw her standing behind Candice, I prayed I was temporarily insane.
        I could deal with the humiliation of being taken away in front of the whole school.
        They could lock me away if it meant Julie could continue laughing, even if it was at me.

        I would do that for her.

        It would be my pleasure to be lead away in handcuffs or a straitjacket while her and the other girls, along with my friends, the rest of our Senior Class, the Juniors, the Sophomores, the Freshman, my teachers, and whoever else was around to point and laugh at me.
        I might even be laughing too.
        I would not be laughing with them though.
        I'd be laughing at them.
        Because I know something they don't know.

        I may have gone temporarily insane, but I'll stay forever enlightened.

        They can take me away, but they can't take that away.
        I can play Jesus for an afternoon.

        And the priests and nuns would have no idea what they had witnessed.

        A miracle, performed by a martyr, disguised as a madman.

        I'd make that sacrifice for them today.
        Especially her.
        She was the one who needed to be saved.

        I hoped it was not too late.
        I hoped it was me, not the world, that wasn't making sense.
        Fearing she'd disappear, I only looked away from her long enough to take quick glances behind me, trying to find a friend before lunch came to an abrupt end with the sound of a bell.
        Johan was the first friend I saw. I called him over so I could ask if he could see what I'm seeing, but Brad interrupted our conversation before it started. Whatever he was talking about, it didn't matter. I wasn't listening. I scanned the room until I saw Jeff coming down the stairs, and without excusing myself, walked towards the furthest window from the conversation I just bailed on, called out to Jeff, pointing him in the same direction.
        Jeff came over and stood shoulder to shoulder with me at the window. I never looked at Jeff. I kept watching Julie.
        "She's dead, isn't she?"
        "Huh? Who's dead?"
        "Julie. She's dead, isn't she?"
        I could feel Jeff looking at me.
        "Yeah", he said. "She died last Summer. Everyone knows that."
        Outside my dream, in nightmare reality, Julie Bryant was murdered on November 2nd, 2010.
        She wished me a Happy Birthday 6 days earlier.
        Julie was still standing at the picnic table, smiling, laughing, shining.
        "Do you ever see her?" I asked.
        "Not since before she died. What's..."
        "I still see her sometimes, and I wanted to know if I'm the only one."
        "I don't get it."
        "I've been watching her over at the table with the other girls for the last five minutes." I pointed at the girls' table. "Right there. It's Julie. She's right there. Tell me you don't see her standing there, right behind Candice."
        I looked at Jeff.
        Jeff looked for Julie.
        He couldn't see her.
        When I looked out the window again, I didn't see her either.
        Julie was gone.
        This was the worst case scenario, Julie's dead and I'm crazy.
        I couldn't face Jeff, so I just kept looking out the window.
        The other girls were still smiling, still laughing, still shining.
        Jeff must have been able to see them, but I asked anyway.

        "My God, they're beautiful, aren't they? I never realized until today...just how beautiful they are. I hope they're gonna be okay. I love them. I think I would die for any one of them. They're all amazing, inside and out. Don't ya think?" 
        "Yeah, they're the best. What's up with you?"
        "They're daughters. That's it. They haven't even left home yet. Someday they're gonna be wives and moms. I just hope nobody will hurt them. They're good girls. I don't want anything bad to happen to any of them. That's all I want for them. For them to be safe." 
        I turned my back to the window, and when I did, I saw her again.
        "Turn around. She's right there."
        Jeff turned.
        "She's right there. Sitting across from Walker, clear as day. How can you not see her?"
        "All I see is Walker sitting at an empty table."

        Walker stood up and walked away.
        Jeff said, "Walker's not even there anymore."
        Julie was now sitting there alone.

        "Yeah, but Julie is. I can see her sitting there by herself."
        "Go talk to her then. What do you want me to say? Go ask her what happened."

         I could feel Jeff watching me as I walked over to the table.
         Julie smiled as I sat across from her.
         "Hey, what's up, stranger?" she asked
         I tried to smile back, but instead looked down at the table in case she wasn't there.
         The eyes of the whole cafeteria were on me, I could feel them.
         I didn't want to be humiliated, but I wanted less to hurt her feelings.
         My lips barely moved, and without looking up, I spoke as lightly as I could.
         "Hey, Julie." I raised my eyes to see her smiling. "Are you alright?"
         She replies with the pep expected of the captain of the cheerleaders.
         "I'm great. How's it going with you?"
         I'm nervous, and I'm watching my fingers tap the table.
         "Okay. I guess. So, everything's really alright?"
         "Everything's great."
         "Yeah. You said that. I saw you outside. You looked really happy."
         "Why won't you look at me? Did you get another fever blister?"
         I shake my head, and smile at my fidgeting fingers.
         "No. That's funny though. You're funny, Julie. I always thought so."
         "You're the funny one, embarassed about your lip, like I care. I told you why you get them, but you never listen to me."
         "Yeah, I know."
         "And what do I always tell you?"
         "Don't stress."
         "And what do you always do?"
         "I stress."
         "Don't stress!" she orders with a laugh.
         "I know, I just can't help it. But, I need to ask you something."
         "Ok" she says with excited anticipation, like how she said "Ok" when I asked her to prom.
         "I don't know, Jules. This is not easy. I'm sorry."
         This was nothing like when I asked her to prom.

         "What?' she said. "Just ask."

         The lunch bell rang.

         And then I woke up.

         I wanted to go back to sleep.
         It was Saturday.
         My only day to sleep in.
         I decided my face could wait to be washed, my teeth to be brushed, my book to be edited.
         So, instead of getting out of bed to start my day, I started writing.
         I know how quickly dreams can fade away.
         If I wrote it down, if I could finish before it faded away, I wouldn't forget this one.

         And that way, if I ever see one of those girls, I might remember to tell her she has never been more beautiful, and she has never shined brighter than she did today.



 Julie Bryant Mitchell    
                                       February 18, 1976 - November 2, 2010