It was one of those sunny days we’ve been getting between the snows, temperatures in the low 60s, while the buds on the trees and the early spring flowers stayed bundled up, wondering whether it was safe yet to take a peek.
I decided to take advantage of the break in the weather and walk Scrappy over to the park. He was almost frantic, trying to mark every tree we passed, and my arms were wearing out trying to tug him along. “Let’s give it a break, Scrappy,” I told him, and dropped down on a bench beside Fred, one of our longtime neighbors.
When he didn’t immediately say hello, I looked at him more closely. “Hey, Fred,” I said, “are you okay? You look a little shaky.”
“Hi, Ace,” he said. “Sorry, guess I was preoccupied there.”
“No problem,” I reassured him. “Something wrong? You don’t look so good.”
“It’s nothing, really,” he said. “I woke up in the middle of the night with a bad dream, that’s all. I had a hard time getting back to sleep, and I haven’t been able to put it behind me yet.”
“Is it something you can talk about?” I asked. “Maybe that would help.”
“There’s no reason not to talk about it,” he said. “In the dream I left a copy of my psychoanalyst’s file about our sessions lying on the dining room table while I went upstairs to find a dictionary. When I got back downstairs, I found Viola reading the file, and I just went nuts.”
“I didn’t realize you were seeing a ...” I began.
“I’m not,” he said. “I’ve never seen a psychoanalyst or psychiatrist or anyone like that. That’s all the dream’s idea.”
“Oh. Hmm. Okay, what then?”
“I screamed at her, I told her anyone could see that it was marked ‘confidential’ and she had invaded my privacy and done something unforgivable. She kept trying to calm me down, but I wouldn’t have it. I told her this was a breach of trust between us and that we were through. She grabbed my arm and pleaded with me, but I shook her off and raged around the house, yelling and smashing things. It just kept going on and on. When I woke up, my stomach was churning, and I’ve been upset ever since. And I don’t even know why. It was just a dream.”
“Wow!” I said, “wonder what was in that file?”
He glanced at me sharply. “There is no file,” he said. “It’s just the dream’s file.”
“But the dream must have had some idea of what would be in a file like that,” I speculated. “Maybe you have some secret you’re ashamed to have Viola find.”
“Sure there are things I’ve said or done that I’d rather Viola didn’t know about,” he said. “But after thirty years of marriage, she’s seen and managed to forgive the worst of me. I don’t think this is about what might or might not be in a file.”
“So what’s the issue then?” I asked.
“I keep trying to figure that out,” he said. “It has something to do with respecting each other’s privacy. With honoring the other person’s right to decide whether or not to share something with you. With the boundaries of intimacy. And she didn’t ask. She just saw it and picked it up and read it. I felt violated in some horrible way that I can’t quite explain or describe.”
“That must be pretty important to you, if you were going to call it quits after thirty years of marriage and three kids.”
He hung his head wearily. “I guess so. I just don’t know why the whole thing came up in my dream.”
We sat there silently for a while, both caught up in the aftermath of something real in the unreal.
Finally I broke the silence. “This may be a long shot,” I said, “but have you been paying any attention to the news reports on ways the NSA is spying on all of us?”
“Not much,” he said. “Why?”
© Tony Russell, 2014