Sometimes, I see in my dreams people I used to know.
It's an honor, because I only ever see people who had an effect on me. Most of those people are girls, because that's whom I spend most time with. I look for female company, for a multitude of reasons I don't entirely understand.
This time, it was Julia. There was nothing special about her appearance: she was not an exaggerated character, nor did she do anything extraordinary. We simply spent time together, and I got to see her beautiful smile directed at me once again. I don't remember the plot, because most of it happened during the deeper phase of sleep. I just remember that she was there, and we spent time.
I used to be a part of Julia's group in the uni before transferring to another. We spent some time back then and didn't lose contact for a while, though we did see a lot less of each other since. I asked her out for a walk a few times last year. It wasn't romantic: I knew she had a boyfriend. She wasn't always available or willing, but the few times she was, being around her felt amazing.
I'm 6'2'', and she's just about my head's worth lower than me; I'm fairly big, and she's petite. I guess I felt like I was her protector, and I did my best to take care of her. She also felt like a child to me: a bit naive, not shy to smile when something amused her, but also somewhat arrogant, snobbish the way children treat people when they're young, as if the whole world belongs to them. I guess I felt it was my duty to protect her, then.
For all of the guesses, I'm still not sure why I liked her so. It was never sexual, and I experimented a few times to check. It was also never romantic. I loved that smile of hers, wide and shining, with a deep "hm" of laughter every time. I wanted to take care of her, and she didn't feel like she had a favour to return.
We lost touch around last winter, when I became gradually disappointed in our relationship. I was eager to reach out to her, but she - not so much. One refusal too many led to me deciding it's not what I wanted to pursue.
Then we both turned to curating freshmen. After an inter-department competition led by us, curators, I reached out to her again. I still liked her, and it felt like she still liked me. We spent some more time together and eventually got closer. I always felt like she was distant from me, and I told her how I felt about it. One day, she let me into her inner world. She told me it bothered her that people thought that she uses them and leaves them on their own once she's done - which, at the time, was exactly how I felt, too.
I guess she wanted me to reassure her that this was not the case. I didn't. It made her break down. It bothered me that I couldn't understand what I did wrong when I started explaining to her how I saw our relationship. I decided that, whatever happened, it was worth apologizing. When I did, she hugged me and said she was glad we worked this out.
A week later, an online chat didn't go well, and after that, it is as if I stopped existing for her.
I rarely see her these days, though I look for her often enough - a reflex rather than mindful desire. We barely have common classes nowadays. I'm not even sure she's still in the uni. Still, I tend to notice her. Her face is not simply familiar: it's dear to me. Maybe it's because I tend to value positive moments far more than negative. Maybe it's because she's out of my reach now: I find myself reaching for something I can no longer have with a lot more vigor. Maybe... there's something else.
For every relationship I end, overtly or otherwise, I retain doubt whether it was a good choice. I don't have a lot of people in my life because, unlike here, in the physical world I'm very private and shy. Whenever a person leaves my life that had an effect on it, I regret it because I don't have many such people. I wonder if I'm doing something wrong that people keep leaving. I wonder if I'm just not a good person to be around (and that, by extension, all the people who choose to stay around are, themselves, damaged as I am, and are of little worth as people to me). In moments like this, when loneliness hits me hardest, I wonder if I will ever have true friends.
It wasn't different with Julia. I was sad after she passed by me in the uni without as much as looking at me. "Another one", a thought ran in the background. "Another one I've lost".
With time, things started to become a little bit clearer. It was never about me. It was about me and other people, about how we interact, how we attract each other. Always mutual, never just about what I wanted. It's still an alien perspective to me, especially when loneliness hits, but through exploring the depths that most people dare not reach, I'm getting better at learning what it's like to be friends with someone.
For all the good lessons, I still have no idea why I dreamed about Julia tonight. It wasn't the first time, I know this much. I've seen her in my dreams once before. We had a nice chat, and for once, she was curious about me. The emptiness, the void I felt about her vanished for the moment. She was present, for once. It's not something I get to see in reality - so why try and create a phantom version in my head, just for a few minutes?
I don't know. I'm not sure I will, ever. Some things in life just vanish once you're past them, with not a single thread to pull to finally figure it all out. Julia is one example, but I have many, and on days like this, when I can barely get one thing done, I think about them more and more.