Dream Baby

When May called me for lunch that morning at the office, I accepted gratefully. After all, I hadn't dreamed of her for several nights now.

The restaurant we went to, Valentino's, was the one that, by unspoken agreement, we used when there was some sensitive subject that we didn't want to be overheard discussing. It had separate booths, it was far from downtown, and, most importantly, we hardly ever saw anyone we knew there. The food and service was correspondingly bad, but usually that wasn't our main concern.

I usually got there first, brought a book, and waited for her to show up ten minutes or so later, but this time she beat me there, and I joined her at her booth. There was definitely something wrong. She looked pale, and was picking nervously at her napkin.

May was still as beautiful as the first time I'd seen her. I had instantly been struck with her, but it had taken some time before we'd actually gotten to know each other. And longer still before we admitted that we were actually in love with each other. The only problem was that I was happily married.

And I still was. "How's Sue?" she asked.

"Fine," I said. "Liking her new position. She has a different supervisor now, who's not so much of a prick."

"Good," she said. We were interrupted by the waiter, who took our orders, and then we sat silent for a couple of minutes. She crunched the ice in her water glass, obviously trying to say what she'd brought me here to hear. I gave her time.

Finally she said, "I suppose you're wondering why I haven't been in your dreams lately."

If it hadn't been for the dreams we might have ended up having the usual tawdry extramarital affair, with the usual risks of discovery(my wife was far from the suspicious type, but she wasn't stupid). It had been happenchance that we had discovered we could share each others' dreams. All we needed to do was resolve, on sleeping, to dream of the other(which was harder than it sounded, but we'd gotten quite good at it), and there we were, in some dream-surroundings(with a little practice we'd started to be able to customize those as well). Dreaming quite lucidly, and quite erotically, as one would imagine.

The first time I'd awakened with a clear memory of the dream, an extremely pleasant feeling washed with only a little guilt. Sue didn't seem to have noticed anything--no humping around in the sheets, no screaming May's name in my sleep, or anything like that. Not even any stains on my pajamas. Thank god for the brain-body detachment of dream-state. I'd met May at Valentino's for lunch that day, and started to describe my dream, intending it as a prelude to suggesting making it a reality. But she kept interrupting with her own details, and gradually we realized that it had been more than just a dream.

"It almost took some doing to not dream about you," she said. "After so long figuring out how to do it. But I did it."

"Why?" I asked, my heart rate increasing. I had no idea where this was leading. Did she want to take our affair to the physical plane after all? Had she found someone else? Had Sue somehow found out and talked to her(but not me)?

"I'm pregnant," she said.

Into my stunned silence she continued, "My period was late, but I stopped taking pills because they give me so many goddamned cramps, and I didn't figure we'd be needing them. Anyway, I thought it might be just the pills, but I went to the doctor anyway, and she gave me one of those tests and it came out positive."

"Jesus," I whispered. Then, "Whose is it?"

"That's what I'd sure as hell like to know," she said. "I swear to you, Simon, I haven't slept with anyone since I met you. Well, okay, when I first met you I was still with Jason, but that was over more than a year ago. And I swear, nobody since. I'm not the slut everyone takes me for, you know that."

"It can't be mine," I said, still not quite believing. I half- suspected her of pulling some prank, but she was in such deadly earnest that I figured it was safer to go along.

"Who else's?" she said reasonably.

There was a silence almost, but not quite, long enough for the waiter to have arrived with our meal. "So what are you going to do?"

"That's what I wanted to ask you about. What should we do?"

"We? I can't. No. Even if it is mine--I didn't think my sperm could travel on the astral plane--" The joke fell horribly flat. "I can't acknowledge it. It'll be like admitting we had an affair, which we didn't."

"Which we did in all but the most physical way."

"Exactly. But nothing provable. Unless this place is bugged, they can't prove a thing, because nothing that anyone else can see has happened between us. We're friends who like to talk dirty once in a while at lunch. Dreams are not evidence in divorce court."

"What if the kid's DNA matches yours? Or however they do it these days, I haven't been paying attention."

"I--I don't know."

"What am I going to say to my mother? 'I'm in love with this married guy, and having his baby, but we've never slept together, and he won't admit it's his.'"

"Jesus, you don't--"

"I better start asking about maternity leave at work, I guess. Or maybe just quit--I get the fisheye enough as it is, my reputation can't really stand another shot."

"You could have an abortion."

She glared at me. "Don't even suggest it. We've had that discussion already, though it was a wee bit more hypothetical then."

The food did arrive then, and I ate it mechanically, my mind still performing a frantic circling motion. I'm sure the only advantage she'd had over me was about...I thought back. Three days more to think about it.

The silence lasted after the meal was done. All the things we normally talked about seemed too banal to bring up, and the one topic of relevance had seemingly been exhausted.

Finally the bill came. "This one's on me," she said with a bitter hint of a smile. "Listen, I think it's best if we don't see each other for a while. Or talk. I've already been working on the other medium, but I'd appreciate it if you made an effort too, in case I slip. It won't do us any good."

"I'm sorry," I said, knowing it sounded woefully inadequate as I did so.

"Yeah, well...it's both of our faults, isn't it? By definition. We thought we were safe, but apparently not. I'll...I'll let you know what I decide. And I swear I don't want to hurt you any more than you do me." Tears glistened at the corners of her eyes. "Maybe this is it."

I sat in the booth for a few minutes after she left, finishing my coffee. I'd have to start drinking more, I decided. Who wanted to spend all of their time sleeping?

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com