In her dream, Charlotte forgot that her husband was dead. Her dreaming self did seem to know that Rob was absent. In this imagined space, he had left to get out of her way, to allow her to grow into the person she was meant to be. So at the beginning of the dream—or rather at the part she remembered later—she was cleaning a house she’d lived in decades ago, sweeping the hard wood floor in the dining room, and thinking about Rob. “I wonder if he’ll ever come back?” she said aloud to no one. And then there was a sharp rap on the front window.
Charlotte looked up and there he was. He was younger than she’d ever seen him in life, barely out of his teens, the way he’d appeared in high school photos–lanky, almost gaunt, with a thick head of brown hair. He was grinning his signature smile that always fanned his jaw into dozens of laugh lines.
Charlotte rushed to open the door and embrace him. She was her elderly self, hugging a teenager. “I was just thinking of you,” she exclaimed, delighted with this synchronicity. He returned her hug, but brushed past her into the room. She followed like a puppy. “Why have you come?” she asked. She was certain he had a message for her. But he said nothing. She stared at him, studying his youthful face, remembering now that he was dead. The realization came peacefully, without disappointment or shock. After all, it had been years. She was used to his absence. She awoke quietly, noting again how mundane her dreams often were.
Later she went for a walk around her neighborhood. She stopped to photograph the wild turkeys that wander the narrow streets, three adults today and eight babes. It was a good morning, cool and blessed with the delta breeze.
When she returned home she paused on her porch to gaze again at the pictures she’d taken with her phone. She heard a rustling sound coming from the corner near the garage. She lifted her sunglasses and saw a peacock not three feet away, his feather-crowned head as high as a Great Dane, just huge! Charlotte nearly dropped her phone. “Oh, my God!” she exclaimed. It was much more surprising to see a peacock on her porch than to see her dead husband in a dream. The alarmed bird dashed off the porch, darting between two rose bushes, over a bed of marigolds and lupine, across the lawn toward the street.
“Be careful!” Charlotte shouted, as if the bird were a child or trained seal. Miraculously, the peacock did stop, freezing like a concrete statue on the sidewalk. Finally she could drink him in: his flagging tail, magnificent even as he dragged it behind him, the starry crown on his small chinless face, his long brilliant sapphire blue neck. She remembered suddenly that she’d read once that peacocks have ugly feet, because God had to do something to these beauties just to keep their egos in check. She chuckled, remembering. Rob had ugly feet. They were short and broad; his second toe longer than his big toe, his pinkie toe recessed and squat. She thought of him pulling off his hiking boots any given Saturday afternoon to expose these misshapen dogs with soles as tough as wet horse hide and toes nails like quartz.
She continued to stare at the poor bird. “Please be careful,” she said again, whispering this time. The bird turned slowly, choosing a safer route, sauntering up the sidewalk. He lifted his tail tentatively and Charlotte caught a glimpse of a few eyes on those famous feathers. She felt satisfied. Someone was watching out for her.