"Why the hat, Harry? Are we role-playing?"
"No, it is just part of me."
"You don't wear one out there. In the real world." She drifts across the ethereal grass, the blades tickling her bare feet.
"Over time, we accrete a 'costume,' if you will. It's a representational weight that becomes real after time. You—all of my patients—see me in a specific way. I have a pre-chosen role in your dreams, and as such, well . . . I get a hat."
"Are you my savior, then? Is that the way I'm supposed to relate to you? My Knight, my Father, my Hero."
"No." I reach for her but she coyly flickers out of reach. "It's just . . . Nora . . . this is your world. I am visitor and, on a more physical and neurological level, I am mapped into your psychic rhythms. I need some sort of 'spirit armor,' if you will, to protect myself. To keep me separate from you."
She floats back, her arms open and inviting. "But why, Harry? Are we already not more intimate here than we could be in the flesh?"
"That's the problem. Too much intimacy, and I will forget who I am."
She frowns. "Well, we don't want that, do we?" She reaches up and tugs on my hat, fitting it more snugly to my head. "It's a nice hat." Her hand drifts down, lingering on my face. Her fingers are cold and she can't hide the tremor in her touch.
"Thanks," I say. I want to take her fingers and warm them between mine, but we both know it would be a futile gesture. She's cold out there. Her time is short.
This is our last visit together.
Yes, my hat protects me. From many things.