‘you must stop this promiscuous showering’

My husband did something in a dream that made me angry and upset. In a dream. When I woke up, I was still pissed, and it took a minute or so for the emotion to fade from my body. The man himself was cuddly, innocent and oblivious. When I told him about the dream, he laughed.

This reminds me of something that happened to a guy I know, and like very much, named R. I met him as good-natured twentysomething rogue. He was the kind who said he’d never get married and there seemed no reason not to believe him. Then he surprised himself and us by falling very hard for a woman. She was the kind who said she’d never get married, and you thought,Okay, well, maybe I believe her. They moved in together and things seemed to be going well. We saw a dimension to his personality — tender, affectionate, romantic — we never even knew he had in him.

Except he was having these dreams.

The love of his life would go down into the street and find strange men — old men, ugly men — to bring back to their apartment. She would give them showers. There was nothing sexual about these showers. She would wash these men, rinse them, pat them dry and then, I presume, send them on their way. “You must stop this,” he told her. “You must stop this promiscuous showering.” She would say, “But I’m not doing anything wrong. They’re only showers.” But he was of the firm conviction that these men could shower themselves.

These dreams went on for months. He’s a smart, rational, educated guy, but he woke up pissed off and stayed pissed off — at her — for hours, sometimes the entire day. Meanwhile she was killing herself trying to figure out what she was doing wrong…and starting to arrive at the possibility that maybe this great guy she’d discovered was in truth a moody psycho.

By the time I heard about the dreams, it was as amusing anecdote. The couple surprised us — and possibly themselves — by getting married and they’ve been working and traveling and living abroad for years now. They finally did have a conversation about the dreams, and it was, I think, a turning point in their relationship. When I see them again I might ask them about it: how a conversation like that even goes, when ‘woman of my dreams’ takes on a whole new meaning.

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