My Bête Noire

In early spring, I’m standing in an apple orchard. The tree limbs, barely in bud, are pruned to gaunt, gnarly arms reaching… no, flailing — but frozen in their agony. I lean against the old stone wall bordering the field; it almost looks sheltering, but to my right the farmer has pulled down a gap to drive a tractor through.

Between me and the trees stands a man in a black cloak with a pointed cowl, and a hem that kisses the ground. The figure it covers is tall and slender, but the shoulders are wide, and so are the hands in black gloves.

Against the cold I wear a bulky coat over sweaters: too much bulk, it’s tight, restrictive, oppressive. I’m restless, tense. I want to move, to walk. Still I stay rooted, gazing. The cowl hangs far over his face; I see no features whatsoever — only shadow. I feel uneasy: I should be able to see mouth, or chin…. Who is he? Why do I feel both scared and drawn to him? Something deep in my gut moves, my heart aches.

He doesn’t speak. Why doesn’t he speak? He’s supposed to speak; there’s something important he has to say to me. To do for me. To do to me? My heart races, but I can’t speak either. I’m not capable, I’m just a stupid fat girl frozen in nightmare.

This dream came first when I was a teenager, then recurred for many years. Not often — maybe once every year or two. I named this dark figure, with his terrible pull on me, Mr. Right.