The dream recurs on at least a semi-monthly basis, always a mixture of familiarity with alarming disorientation.
From the very first time the dream occurred, I felt at home within the small New England church. And, for whatever reason, I immediately understood where I was. Starting in an abrupt stupor, I was immediately seated roughly two-thirds from the altar, in about the tenth pew toward the back. The rustic church was made mostly of wood, some of it stained, other parts (such as the beams and rafters) painted a gleaming white. There was stone, too. You could tell it was before a service was to begin. People were milling about, generally making their way into the structure.
Somehow, I knew the location, but not why I suddenly found myself there. This caused some considerable consternation, as you might imagine it would. The church looked to be like what I imagine those centuries-old old Protestant churches are like in New England, hence the sense of knowing where I was, or at least where my brain thought I should be. There was no explanation for why I was there, however, and that put me on edge. I am a Midwestern boy, through and through. I do not belong in an old New England church, sitting in the pews awaiting service.
In the different iterations of the dream, various people come and go, never the same from dream-to-dream. The one constant is my husband, Ashley. He is always sitting by my side when the dream begins. And yet... this is not my Ashley. I can sense it in my bones. He looks, talks and acts like my spouse, but it is not him. He means well, but deep down I know that my husband -- my life -- is waiting for me a thousand miles away in Illinois. In the previous dreams (about two or three in total), I have broken into a cold sweat, made my excuses to Ashley as he nodded in concern, and left the church. Once outside, I would look around, deciding how best to return home: car? bus? train? plane?
There, the dream would end, literally fading to black as I walked away from the church, down a gently sloping hill as multi-colored autumnal leaves gently swayed by me after dropping from their tress. Of course my brain would place a New England church scene during autumn, it's only logical. At any rate, that is how the dream ran its course every time. I felt bad for leaving fake-Ashley behind without an explanation, but part of me wondered if, somehow, things would sync-up once I'd made it home to Illinois. Had I been split somehow? Were there really two of me? Would my safe return to Champaign allow for another me to appear back in New England, allowing fake-Ashley to be with his own version of Matt?
These questions bothered me as the dream occurred again last night. This led to, for the first time, an attempt to explain to fake-Ashley what was going on. Another first? Donald Trump was attending the service. He entered the church with his entourage as he shook hands with the congregation. I wanted to be out of there as soon as possible, so I leaned over to Ashley, asked him to come outside with me, and we exited the building. Conveniently, there was a wooden bench underneath an old tree just a few few feet down the hill, and that is where we sat while I conveyed the situation.
It is difficult to explain, but while I knew that the person sitting next to me was not the real Ashley -- or at least not my Ashley -- I nevertheless trusted him implicitly. The words, much as I have laid them down here in this post, came flowing out of my mouth to him. He sat and listened, his brow furrowed and, finally, when the story was done, his eyes widened and he said, "Well, it's all very strange, but I think you need to do what you feel like you have to do. I love you and will be here waiting for you. Or for my Matt. I hope he, or you, comes back to me."
With that, we hugged, stood up, and I made my exit. The dream faded to black. I still don't know how I planned to make my way back to Illinois. But it was in this dream that, for perhaps the first time, that mattered less to me than knowing that Ashley would be ok. That someone -- either my displaced self or a New England replica of me -- would be coming home to him soon. I know it's just a dream, a hazy unreality within the neurons and synapses of my own brain, but then that is ultimately where everything about us resides, including our love for others.
Perhaps, in the next dream, both Matts will find their way home.