Every night, I have the same dream. I’m sitting in my living room, dressed in my cutest date outfit, debating whether or not I want to meet Daniel for dinner. He’s a sweet guy with good intentions, but he views himself as a Casanova, and insists that he’s a professional fashion photographer. In reality, The only female interaction he gets stems from silly photoshoots. I know that during dinner, he’ll ask me to model for him, nude, and I don’t want to witness the emotional breakdown that will follow when I decline his offer. Daniel will ask me where he went wrong in his life, blame it on a childhood incident where he massacred a nest of baby birds, and then sob until I redeem him for his past sins.
I have never met Daniel in person, yet he is my only companion in dreams. He is the entity of every man I have ever had a relationship with; a symbol of self-loathing, personal insecurities, and destructive behavior. I resist his dinner invitations because I have perfected the art of running away from old flames, yet lately, as my dreams become more vivid, the scent of his cheap cologne and weary smile suddenly seem alluring.
On one fretful night, I find myself in a cheap Italian restaurant, a plastic tablecloth
expanding infinitely to keep Daniel and me apart. He’s nervously speaking, and I can see the apprehension weighing down his expression as he prepares to ask me about the modeling job. My body is rigid as I contemplate the various ways of saying ‘no,’ when Daniel pulls a mesh hamper into view, filled to the brim with dirty underwear. He takes the underwear, and starts unfolding it onto the table, until there are miles, and miles, and miles, of boxer briefs between us. He quietly asks me to do his laundry for him. At this moment, I would rather be in a dank photo studio, naked and smothered with marinara sauce.
Now, while fully awake, the task of doing laundry haunts me in the most self-conscious, embarrassing manner. I let my clothes pile up, and when I finally run out of underwear, I concede to the task. I take my clothes downtown to a Laundromat, and the most flamboyant fashion I can muster, I turn the mundane task into a full production. As I watch my clothes spin in the washing machine, a blur of suds and color, I feel the dream slip away from my mind. I close my eyes, yet I cannot picture Daniel gummy teeth or smell his cut-rate aroma.
I never see Daniel again. Instead, I dream of the Italian restaurant, empty except for myself, pushing rigatoni across my plate and a freshly ironed dress on my back. The table is lined with photographs of woman, naked, contorting their bodies in catlike positions. Each one of them looks at me and tells me that I’ve done right. They say from here on out, I’m free to do what I please, that I’ll never be forced to do anything again It’s good to hear these women say these things, but I don’t feel any different. I don’t feel enlightened, or powerful, or anything. I only feel satisfied, but I think that’s all I’ve ever been looking for--satisfaction.