By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty
She opened the cab door and looked back at me. I wanted to stop her, pull her away from the curb. I thought maybe I could jump in the cab – or in front of it. Anything to keep her from leaving. But I was frozen in place.
Her face was reassuring and playful, yet desperate and sad. She had to leave, but wanted to be found. I had to find her. It was clear: she was the one.
Just before she got inside and drove away, she told me her name:
And then I woke up.
I had this dream over 15 years ago. I was just a high schooler at the time, but in my dream, I was an adult, which made it seem to me like a vision or prophecy. After all of these years, I’ve never forgotten that dream. Or, more importantly, that name.
At my high school, there were no girls with that exact name, but that wasn’t surprising. The odd part was that I couldn’t even think of anyone named Natalie.
In the years since, I’ve never dated a Natalie. I’ve never been friends with a Natalie. I can’t even readily identify anyone named Natalie in my personal world.
The dream hasn’t always been at the forefront of my mind. In fact, it rarely is. But whenever I think of it, I wonder what it meant.
I’ve Googled the name. It doesn’t exist. At least not according to Google. (And, as we all know, if Google doesn’t know something, it ain’t real.)
I’ve even tried to puzzle out the name in a variety of ways. Maybe it’s an anagram for some phrase or thought? Nope. Maybe it’s an anagram of the name of someone I’ve dated? Nuh uh.
Now, before you tell me I’m taking this all too far, let me tell you the following:
I know I am.
It’s all ridiculous and absurd. I’m trying to invent a heart-shaped reality out of nothing.
Or maybe Natalie is out there waiting for me right now.
Or maybe I have already met the person Natalie was meant to represent.
It’s probably all nonsense, but I want to believe in it.
Normally, I don’t want to believe in fate, and even though I believe in God, I don’t want to believe God is a puppeteer controlling our every action. But when it comes to love, I want to believe there is something more. I want to believe in forces and fate and serendipity and soul mates. I want to. I want love to be the most powerful thing we have in this world – so powerful that it’s not even entirely of this world.
Yet, I can hear the brutish, killjoy, logical side of my mind saying, “It was just a dream, dummy.”
Maybe so, but if I can navigate the grey area between logic and fantasy, perhaps I can approach that dream from a different perspective. Maybe Natalie Endfall was a symbol, a metaphor. Maybe the message from my youthful, lovesick heart was that I will know “the one” when I meet her, and there won’t be any doubt about it. (How is that for a hyper-romanticized oversimplification of the maddening complexities of love?)
At its most basic level, I at least believe the dream carries a message for us all:
To everyone who has found their “Natalie”: Be thankful. Hold that person close and cherish them.
To everyone who has lost their “Natalie”: Make it right. Go get them.
To everyone who is still searching for “Natalie”: Keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. And once Natalie arrives, don’t ever let her get in that cab.