The other night I had a dream about my abuser. It was different from any other dream I’ve had about her. Up until now, all of my dreams about her have involved her showing up unexpectedly and demanding my attention, and for one reason or another I’m powerless to refuse. They often involve her telling me how I was the one that screwed up and how bad a person I am. They leave me with anxiety, sometimes panic. I dread seeing her in the waking world; I illogically expect her to appear wherever I am.
The last interaction we had was over text message. Last summer she texted me, wishing me a happy birthday a month after the fact. She reminded me that we’d agreed to talk once she got back into America, which happened months ago. My reply was that, while I had agreed to talk once she got back, I no longer wanted to, as I had nothing to say to her.
She tried to reel me back in, saying that she would not be returning to college in the fall.
I knew she wanted me to ask why. To get me talking. To feel sorry for her. To win me back.
I replied simply, Okay, good luck.
When I put down the phone I laughed and cried with relief. I no longer had to worry about what I would do when I saw her at school. I wasn’t going to. She wouldn’t be there at all. The next time she texted me, I pretended she had the wrong number.
Though I exerted power in those instances, I still had nightmares about her finding me, and worried during the day that I would somehow bump into her.
Then I had this dream.
This time, I was the one who stumbled upon her. She was working at Walgreens or something, somewhere I needed to go for an errand. The dream was incredibly vivid. I don’t dream very often and when I do the dreams are often murky and hard to remember. But occasionally I have dreams like this—they feel very real, they cut close to home, and I remember many of the details.
In the dream, I approached the counter. She looked up, recognized me, and smiled. She made some comment about how long it had been since we talked. Asked if I was still sure I did not have anything to say to her.
I expected to panic, but instead I felt calm and in control. Even seeing her face and remembering everything about it, her voice, her hair, that smile—and I didn’t panic or freeze, like I always did in my dreams and expect to in real life.
I didn’t feel powerless. It was remarkable, liberating. I had control over myself, and maybe even her.
In the dream I calmly replied that I still had no interest in talking with her. I just wanted to run my errand. She persisted, bringing up incidents from the past. This time, she was reminding me of positive things. The good moments we’d had together. She was trying to reel me back in.
Again, I was surprised by my own composure, my sense of strength. I refused to let her win me over. I admitted that things had been good at times, but I was not going to give in and go back. I was short, cold almost. I could sense her wilting. This time it was she who was at a loss.
I remember distinctly this line from her—“I may have deserved my time in jail, but I don’t deserve this.”
In the dream I laughed inside. I’ve wondered since I cut off contact what she’s been up to—what trouble she’s gotten herself in. I imagined her boyfriend breaking up with her; I imagined her getting pregnant and hating the baby; I imagined her living in a hotel for months, as I saw she was doing when, in a moment of weakness, I checked her Tumblr. None of these scenarios gave me joy; but I speculated what kinds of situations karma, or her own reckless naivety, would get her into.
So hearing that she’d been in jail for a short time since we parted ways did not surprise me in this dream.
I knew she wanted me to relent, apologize, ask why she’d been in jail. I did none of those things. I continued on my errand. I didn’t falter or feel weak. She continued to follow me around. Once I had what I needed, I told her I was leaving, and had no desire to talk to her anymore.
She said something along the lines of, “Alright then, I’ll let you go. But I can see us being friends again, like we were. We had something really good and I don’t want it to be gone forever.”
Her dream self was very sincere, to the point where I almost relented, almost agreed that it was a possibility. Once again, my dream self surprised me by thinking, No. I’m not falling into this trap again. She hurt me, abused me, and I’m not letting them happen again. I’m not letting her back in, no matter how sad and sincere she seems now.
I left with no goodbyes, no promises. She could only stay behind, powerless to stop me or bring me back.
In the dream, I walked away feeling elated by my own power. I never expected myself to be so calm in her presence and so confident in my refusal to listen to anything she said. In all of my dreams, and all of my imaginings of what I would do if I saw her again, I was weak, I slipped up, I let her back in or let her hurt me.
Of course, it was just a dream. But the sheer possibility of my being so powerful in that situation gives me a hope I’ve never felt before.
And something even better—apathy.
I don’t care about her anymore, and I’m not afraid if I happen to see her someday. I can handle myself. I can show her my power.