My First Love

There Goes the Groom

Dreaming about your dream lover can sometimes turn out to be a nightmare

The one that got away

A month before the wedding, I dream that Danny and I are sleeping, curled together in a cozy curve. I wake up smiling, feeling a peace I haven’t in ages. I reach out for him and feel the cold sheets. He’s not there.

But why would he be? We broke up five years ago, and now he’s getting married.

I’ve known about Danny’s wedding for some time, but I didn’t care: I was the one who ended it. I was over him. Or so I thought. After the dream, I see I was mistaken. Danny and I are supposed to be together. This wedding should be ours. I have to stop it.

Danny and I were each other’s first loves, the nauseating couple kissing on New York street corners, whispering private jokes at dinner parties. But it wasn’t enough. Two years into our relationship, he wasn’t ready to move in together, get married, get something; he wasn’t ready to leave his drinking buddies, his roommates — the whole idea of his single, carefree life.

So I moved west and started a new life with people who didn’t know about me and Danny. Over the next five years, I grew my career, dated a lot of guys, one of whom I’d just broken up with. Something was missing, but I didn’t know what.

And then is when I start dreaming about Danny. In my sleep, we are as in love as we had been at the start. I wake up missing him. I had forgotten a heart could ache like this, like a tooth — a searing, physical pain. But then again, I had forgotten it could sing, too, expanding like a breath.

“You’re not in love with him,” my friends tell me. “You’re just upset because you don’t have anyone,” they say. This might be true, but what if it’s not? What if this is my Hollywood moment? What if it’s my last chance for my first love?

His number's still on my speed dial. “Hey Danny,” I say, without identifying myself. This is how we always talk, as if we’d just spoken yesterday.

“I was wondering when you'd call,” he replies. I can hear the smile in his voice, like we're about to have one of those casual banters characteristic of our post-breakup, non-reconciliation talks, when I was full of bravado. But I’m not that girl anymore.

“I just found out you were getting married,” I lie.

He tells me all about his future wife: how she’s older, like me, and how he’s moved out of New York to be with her, started his own firm. “I couldn’t have done this without you,” he says. “I’ll always have a place in my heart for you.”

That’s when I start to cry. The loud, sobbing tears that have been pouring down on me these last few days.

It takes him a minute to realize what's going on. “Oh, Ames,” he sighs.

I want to tell him I still love him. That I’m ready to make it work. But he interrupts my hiccupping hysterics.

“Don’t do this to me, Amy,” he says quietly. “Please don’t do this to me now.”

I hear a high-pitched barking in the background and suddenly wonder if I’ve been watching the wrong movies. Maybe this is more of a “My Best Friend’s Wedding” moment, where the guy has moved on and the girl doesn’t know it. Danny has a dog. He left New York. Danny is happy.

Danny quiets the dog, and then me: “If you loved me — truly loved me — you’d be happy for me,” he says.

I’m not that good of a person, I want to reply. I don’t, though, because this is my moment. Now. Now. Now.

In the movies, time stops for a flashback or maybe a montage of happy times. But in real life, historic decisions are made in a heartbeat. Within this silence, Danny and I breathe together; I can’t say for sure that we would make it if we had another shot. I can’t say which is more true: these last years of certainty knowing he wasn’t for me or this past month of remembering I loved him. So I shouldn’t plant doubts in his mind right before he’s about to wed.

“I just called to wish you good luck,” I say, clearing the tears from my voice. “And to say goodbye,” I add. I know this is the end. It has to be.

But it isn't. A few years later, I will have another dream that Danny is expecting a baby, and it will turn out to be true. I will not know which is more disturbing: my psychic connection to him, or the fact that he is betraying me again, by bearing our child with another woman.

“It wasn’t meant to be,” my friends say, and I tell myself maybe.

Sometimes I believe it. But other times, in the middle of the night, or driving through the sparkling streets in the rain, I will wonder, not if he was The One, because I don't know if there really is such a thing. When I think about Danny, I am thinking about myself: Will I ever be able to love like that again — effervescent and overflowing, flowers spilling from a basket? I will wonder, and I won’t know. I just won’t know for sure.

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