Just Out Of Reach by
(207 Stories)

Prompted By Dreams

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This morning (March 23) I awoke to a wisp; it was there, just out beyond my reach, on the outer limits of my brain. I want to write it down before I forget it. Dreams rarely make sense, but they can give some insight into what’s on my mind.

In this one, I was going from store to store (something I now can’t do, as the stores are shuttered due to the Coronavirus). These were lovely high-end boutiques. Laid out for the customers to see were a series of flimsy outfits, all the same in each store. Some high-end brand was staging a promotion and women could try each piece on and walk away with whatever she liked. They seemed to be “cruise-wear” as we used to call the fashion during the winter when the wealthy would get away and go south to escape winter. The outfits weren’t really meant for the beach, more to lie around some pool at a fancy resort. They were in animal print patterns, or leafy designs, in shades of teal, brown, orange. The items included a flowing beach cover-up that didn’t cover much, a bikini, some lingerie. All this was laid out, each piece side by side on the cushions of changing rooms for anyone to try on and just take; no charge. I didn’t understand that in the first two stores I entered.

Finally, I went to the store managed by my dear friend Michael, seen in the Featured photo. We met in 1993. He worked at Armani on Newbury St, the fanciest shopping district in Boston. He sold Dan a few items, then switched to the woman’s section of the store, sold me two jackets, but we became life-long friends; the kind you can tell anything to and so we have shared everything with each other. He appeared in my movie “The Strangler’s Wife” as a drawing student in the art class. We went to see “Angels in America, Part II, Perestroika” together. His birthday is 9 days after mine and we always celebrate together. We are true friends. He went from Armani to Akris, where I did buy a lot of clothing before the 2008 crash. He opened the Chanel Boutique more than six years ago, and recently opened the Bruno Cucinelli Boutique in December, before the plague hit. I hope he can survive this period.

Here we are 20 years ago, celebrating his birthday at my home.

In my dream, I found Michael in his store, also with all those fancy, diaphanous items of clothing laid out, like in the stores before. He explained to me that this was a product launch, all items were free, I should try them on and take whatever I liked (truly a dream come true). I rued the day that over the past few years, my stringent dieting had slipped and, though I was still exercising, I bulged in ways I didn’t a few years ago. I demurred, but Michael, who knows me well and has seen me in every way, shape and form through the years, insisted that I try. If anything, trying on those flimsy items made me double down on my resolutions to get back to a better, healthier diet (MUCH less bread and sugar) so the lovely clothing would look good on me. I took them (they were free anyway) and parted ways with me dear friend. Dream over.

As I wrote that out, I think I know what it’s about. Guilt is a pretty strong motivator. Getting to our summer house may be delayed, but I still want to look my best. Eating better is back on the menu. Hoping Michael’s new venture works out has also been on my mind. And with social distancing, one wouldn’t think of trying on clothing touched by someone else these days. Ah, longing for the days before COVID-19, even in my dreams.

March 28; I had several more dreams last night, increasingly anxiety-filled, but one funny one stood out: Kevin Cullen, a wonderful columnist for the Boston Globe, had become a regular writer for Retrospect (wishful thinking) and his story today (this is Saturday and the prompt today is “nicknames”) regaled us with funny stories from his visits to Ireland and coarse names he was given there. In real life, he usually writes human interest columns about regular Boston people, frequently  bringing me close to tears, but in my dream, he made me laugh. My psyche needed that!

Here are a selection of other dreams through the years.

One of my best friends, met at camp when we were teens, gave me the above alarm clock before I went off to Brandeis. I had it on the shelf covering the radiator next to my bed in my freshman dorm. I had all early morning classes. My clever roommate (see Carol) set her schedule so she didn’t have to get up early; the clanging of that bell drove her nuts. At one point, though she claimed to still be sleeping, sat straight up in bed and said, “Who do you think you are? The fucking ice cream man?” Another time, she sat up and said, “Hello, goodbye, no exit”. She was reading Sartre.

Probably 45 years ago I had a dream that still stays with me. In it I said, “Today is the Ides of March. Julius Caesar and Aristotle Onassis died today”. I may not be Cassandra, but my statement was true. I came into work and told my colleague. She didn’t know what to make of that one. Her life got very complicated and she left the company shortly thereafter, so perhaps I did foretell disaster for her.

Here’s hoping we all have more pleasant dreams in the future. As my father and another friend said recently, let’s keep a PMA (positive mental attitude). The Eurythmics said it well: “Sweet dreams are made of this, Who am I to disagree?”


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Tags: freshman roommate, will 'o wisp, just before waking, guilt, motivator, Michael
Characterizations: funny


  1. John Shutkin says:

    Thank you for sharing your dreams with us, Betsy. I did not originally think the one about all the gowns and Michael was ultimately about guilt. But you probably know better. Plus, of course, so many of our dreams are about anxieties of some sort, so I could certainly see how guilt could be the genesis of this one. (Though I was hoping for just a fashion show instead!)

    I am glad that you have since had the clearly more positive dream about Kevin Cullen. And it would be brilliant — and humbling — if we could get him to join Retro in real life.

    And thank you for sharing at the end your father’s thoughts about PMA. We all need that now!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Well John, those weren’t gowns that were on display in all those stores. “Cruise wear”, as the items were called back in the day, were bathing suits, beach covers, lounge wear to take to Palm Beach; things like that. Not fancy, but these were flimsy, flowing garments (in my dream). But of course, just the idea of walking into stores and trying on clothing is so beyond the pale at this point, that I think my unconscious was calling out for some freedom and something exotic, which these items certainly were (I don’t own anything like them).

      Kevin was kind enough to read the story and email a short, funny reply. He said when his wife dreams about him, it’s usually a nightmare. Gave me a good chuckle this morning. I told him how much I look forward to his columns each week.

      And finally, I agree with both my father, and a very dear friend who texted me a few weeks ago about PMA…yes, we ALL need it!

  2. Great Betsy, once again I’m in awe of your recall of details and your perfect accompanying photos!

    The recurring real estate dream I wrote about for this prompt is probably among the few dream details I can remember!

    May we all stay safe until our current living nightmare is over, and there is no more Covid and no more Trump.

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    I love the detailed description of the cruise wear that was free for the taking. That is indeed a happy dream for these times. Of course, as time go on with this coronavirus crisis, I suspect all of our dreams will become more nightmarish. So let’s try to hold onto the happy ones.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      You are right, Laurie. I had this first dream several weeks ago. The thought of going shopping and trying on clothing was still off-limits, but getting free, beautiful clothing was (as I said), a dream come true! My dreams are certainly more anxiety-filled now.

  4. Marian says:

    Thank you, Betsy, for your detailed recounting of your dreams. I love the diaphanous clothing and remember cruisewear well. I doubt I’ll ever go on a cruise again because of Covid-19, but I will remember your description nostalgically.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      We were supposed to leave for a cruise (starting in Barcelona!) next Friday! We obviously cancelled that! We have the option to re-book the trip for June, 2021 and even get a bonus package (the cruise lines are desperate). We will have to look into the cancellation policy, but are considering it, as it took us to places we’d never seen (now, all shuttered due to the virus). Sigh. Guess I won’t need that clothing!

  5. Love the vivid description of your dream, Betsy, but I have to admit I’ve been down the rabbit hole after reading “he appeared in my movie…” I just had to look it up and that led me to the IMDB and then back to Retrospect and your story “No Shrinking Violet,” and now I’m caught up. And, now I also have your exercise and health consciousness in perspective as I’ve noticed you mentioning those things before. I wish you (and everyone, of course) continued good health, and I hope you get to take that cruise in 2021, in which case you WILL need that clothing…I see shopping in your future!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Wow, Babs, I’m impressed by your research instincts (and interest). And thanks for pointing out that these are recurring themes for me. As for shopping, I really don’t need much in the way of clothing, so probably not much in my future, but thanks…I agree. Wishing everyone continued good health!

      • Betsy, I’m like a dog following a scent when it comes to Google! Since I’m fairly new to Retrospect, I’m still getting to know everyone, and I’m slowly reading older stories, especially when they’re mentioned in a current prompt. I’m fascinated by so much of what you’ve experienced and accomplished, and to learn about the live modeling is one more thing. I love and admire that you are so comfortable in your own skin!

        • Betsy Pfau says:

          Well, I still admire your determination for following the path through Google, wherever it may lead, and learning more about all of us. You, too, have felt safe enough to reveal yourself in meaningful ways to this community, for which we all thank you for your beautiful writing and trust!

          The founders of Retrospect, Patti and John Zussman (John wrote last week) are high school friends of mine (Patti was one of my bridesmaids and remains a dear friend; John and I grew up around the corner from one another), and John went to Harvard with Suzy. He invited us both to be beta writers, which is why we have so many more stories up. We both took to this and kept going.

          Depending how far down that rabbit hole you choose to go, you’ll see I haven’t always been so comfortable in my own skin…lots of mommy issues. So I work at it in my own way. But thanks for your kind words.

  6. Suzy says:

    Betsy, I echo everyone else’s comments about how great your vivid description of your dream is. And what a dream come true it would be to go into these stores and have beautiful, fancy cruisewear free for the taking. Your friend Michael sounds very interesting, I hope he is not hurt too badly by the fact that people can’t really go clothes shopping now. Maybe he could do delivery, like the restaurants are doing? No, probably not feasible.

    And what a kick that you had a dream about a Boston Globe columnist, wrote about it, sent him the story, and got a response from him. I love that! You should print out his email and hang it on the wall!

    I hope you get to take your European cruise next year, if you decide you still want to. I have been on two cruises when my kids were young, which were great at the time, but after this corona business, I’m not sure I would get on another cruise ship, unless it was a very small one.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      If I wake up and make a concerted effort to remember the dream, then I can keep it for a while before it fades away, but usually they are gone before I can imprint them. They are certainly more full of anxiety now!

      Yes, I was very pleased to get a response from the Globe columnist, and a humorous one at that. You are right, I should somehow preserve it. I am worried about Michael’s business. I’ve tried to text him, but he hasn’t answered, which could just mean that he’s preoccupied. But I will keep trying.

      We have been on a few, very small cruises (100 people or so) before. They were always golf-oriented (I’ve written about two of them – one was to Scotland, one to Normandy), with touring for me and well-done. This was the first slightly larger (290 people), general cruise we were going to try. The one next year is slightly longer and even bigger (500 people), which doesn’t make either of us happy. We MUCH prefer small and intimate. We have no desire to be on a floating city. So we are still considering, but we’ve never been to Spain or Portugal and the trip ends in England, which gives us a chance to see David, so…we’ll consider our options.

  7. Your first story about your dream felt as though it was about friendship and desire (if it were my dream😁) And so it was interesting to me when its meaning for you was about guilt and looking your best, once you had written it out. Its crazy to me that we can have dreams that stay with us a lifetime and for me, great periods of time where I can’t remember most of them.
    I laughed out loud at your roommate and your one sentence explanation: “She was reading Sartre.”

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      That’s so interesting, January. The Boston Globe columnist also said he thought my first dream was an ode to friendship. Perhaps you are both correct, since I spent so much time explaining that friendship in my essay, and my concern for my friend. I wrote the piece several weeks ago and, truth be told, my diet hasn’t significantly improved, so your interpretation would seem more accurate at this point.

      I agree, it IS interesting that those other dreams just stay with me forever (while most dreams fade away the moment we wake up). And I’m glad my punchline made you laugh out loud, as it was true. Carol was reading Sartre at the time she had that “existential” murmur.

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