I've been having really crazy dreams at the moment. Really bright, Technicolor dreams with full-on plotlines, sub plots and recurrent themes and characters. I've been told by the doctors that it's as a result of all the medication I'm taking, and -- for the most part -- I enjoy them. I've been on yachts with celebrities, holidayed in far-flung destinations I've always wanted to visit, I've had children and watched them grow up. I've connected with old friends and celebrated great times with people I love.
The dreams seem to go on for hours and hours, and sometimes I wake up feeling a little exhausted, needing to off-load to Chris exactly what's been happening since I shut my eyes 8 hours previously. And sometimes I wake up feeling a little empty.
One of the recurrent characters in my dreams recently is my sister. She is absent in my waking life, and only appears at night while I sleep. She appears while I am sitting in my old family home, everything as it was when we were children apart from we are adults now.
The mantelpiece has the same ornaments atop it, the TV is in the same place. There is the dinner table with our fork marks scratched into the wooden surface. My bedroom is the same, the blue fish wallpaper with shelves covered in books and the light switch I painted with nail varnish. I am enjoying being back here, breathing in the dust and the memories and the bittersweet pang of knowing that this isn't real, and I will wake up.
She is there, and she shouts at me, the bubble bursts and I am gone again, and I've lost the familiar smell and I can't see my old back garden anymore.
The next night I am gone again. This time I am walking my new (entirely fictional) dog. We are running through my old school fields, the grass is long and we can stop, lie down and hide from everything for as long as we want. I can feel the hard ground under my back and I am looking up at the sky and everything is OK.
We are alone, until my sister appears. She walks over, takes the dog and leaves. I wake up.
I always wake from these encounters feeling like I am grieving, grieving for someone who hasn't gone anywhere physically but couldn't be further away from me mentally. I haven't heard her voice since May 2011, not looked her in the face, our only communication a series of fractious texts that are stilted and painful to read back, full of snarling and gritted teeth.
Time passes and takes with it birthdays, Christmases, holidays, ages. I missed the whole of her 22nd year. She missed my 25th.
I wake up from these dreams uneasy. What will happen when I get married, or she does? What happens when we have children? Will she care? Will we tell each other? I doubt I'd be invited if she married him, he wouldn't like that. The thought cuts through me. We won't be each other's bridesmaids. We won't accompany one another to the dress fittings. There will be no excited exchange of messages. There will be only a void, a dark space and niggle in the back of my brain reminding me that she is out there, she hasn't gone anywhere.
Whenever I see my parents, I ask whether they've heard from her. I catch up on the news, if they have any, and store it away. We don't have each other's phone numbers anymore, we aren't on each other's Facebook. I catch fleeting glimpses of what she's been up to through the grapevine. I am assured she does the same.
I remember being children, being so different, complete chalk and cheese. I remember being only 3 years apart in age yet it felt so much more. And then as adults, when I hoped it would all click in to place and we'd have that bond, our relationship faltered and crumbled around us until now, what is there left? Are there just the memories of childhood, is that all we have now?
I feel like I need to reach out now, that enough time has passed. I don't want to miss every birthday. I want to share the future, not just the past.
I want a sister. I just don't know if she wants me.