In Dreams

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I wake to Rafa's groans

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I wake to Rafa's groans. And not the good kind.

This sounds like someone's strangling him, almost like he wants to scream but can't. The noise startles me out of sleep, and I gasp and sit up in bed. A half-moon glinting through a window gives off just enough light for me to see Rafael. He's beside me, lying on his back, his eyes screwed shut. He's kicked the sheets off, and his fists are clenched at his side.

Oh shit. He still has the nightmares? I press my hand to my forehead, hesitating. Hoping he'll settle and go back to sleep.

"No, no," he whispers.

I shake his arm. "Oh God, Rafa, you're having a nightmare. A dream."

Before, he never liked to call them nightmares. Said that because they were always of the same, real event—how he came from Cuba to Florida by boat as a boy—that I shouldn't call them by such a negative name. They were reality, not nightmares, he'd say.

But I knew otherwise.

"Baby." I squeeze his bicep. I turn on the nightstand light, frowning with worry.

He's covered in sweat, and his eyes fly open.

"You still have them?"

I can tell he's trying to regulate his breathing. "Haven't had one in years."

"Is it same dream?"

He struggles to sit up, propping a pillow behind him. "If you mean, the same dream about my mother abandoning me, being afraid of sharks circling a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, and my stomach burning from hunger, then yes. I do. It's kind of difficult to forget those things."

His voice has taken on a bitter, resigned tone. I nod. "Do you still wake up with the headaches?"

"Yeah, I do," he says through a clenched jaw.

I swallow. He moves as if he wants to get out of bed. I stroke his forearm. "Stay here. Please?"

Kissing his forehead, I touch my palm to his sweaty cheek. There are tears in my eyes as I head for the bathroom. He hasn't gotten better, not after all these years. He's still angry with his mother and the way he'd come to the US as a child.

First I fill a glass of water. Then I run a washcloth under cold water and wring it out.

Dammit, Rafael. You have all the money in the world. Why haven't you gotten help?

I sigh when I can't find aspirin in my cosmetics bag, then I spot his leather dopp kit on the counter. I open that, not caring about his privacy. To my surprise, I find what I'm looking for and return to bed.

Rubbing his hands together fast, he presses his palms to his face, passing them over his skin as if to wipe away the nightmare.

He glances at me. "You found the lavender oil in my bag."

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