I was in my kitchen, facing the sliding glass doors to our backyard woods when I saw her appear out of nowhere. Night, very late. I wanted to run. She expected me to. But I became lucid, walking toward her purposefully, and asked her things about herself. She turned, I touched her face, she looked surprised then lost. Something was on her nose, a piece of tissue maybe. Then, she showed me the Beatles in a way nobody’s ever seen before. My reward for looking beyond.
Frequencies. Images to make meaning clear. Meager, paltry words to explain what I experienced.
I see people, some familiar and grown, some not. But more importantly, I feel my son’s grown-up happiness. He is with his expanded family of friends, in an extended party, where he was meant to be. I feel their energy course through me, light, sound, and this warmth.
I watch my son’s happiness in a vibrant scene out of a movie finale, the sun setting, its dimming light shines hope, love all over the sidewalk in which he treads, skips, dances — a light all his own.
I turn to the unseen and say, or think, or feel, “This is where I want to be next.” They understand. Next time could mean next life, or hold on a little longer, then I can go.
The sun sets over a suburban Costco, no match for the dream hours earlier.
I choose to remember the first part of this dream. It is a swirl of memory mixed with imagination, and a touch of wishful thinking.
I found him, trailing me toward the end of my mental escape. Hands cupping fine water as a speedboat races back to shore, picking up wriggly, shiny hitch hikers, which I throw back into the deep end.
I grab onto useless details. The color of his pants, Bobby would never wear Angel Flights, crisp-white, jacket-less shirt. He is smiling at me. I remember wanting to trace those lips with my own in the summer of ’77, and this time in this nowhere place, I do. Bobby welcomes me into his house of understanding, past the locked gates, the kitchen formality — thyme and lemon pepper, the unchanging years between us.
Then, I am flying away from my stalkers, locked in another dream where shadows make broken glass sounds of a young mother losing her firstborn, a first cut to warm, virgin flesh, the cry of the premature dying.
Hold on long enough for me to tell him, for me to warm his insides before they splash into the deep end of the Montauk sea, where I first found myself jumping — three years before I knew.
primordial soup, inches from my naked body
how did I get here?
“You are killing me. I can’t breathe.”
these hired TV hitmen sit and stare, none of them wear a watch
the worst sound in the world, the sound of an approach, I think it and I’m out of the top-story window, toward the light of my childhood — between 6th and 7th grade — past Army barracks, the sinking sun in landscaped woods where my father waited to beat me for my mother’s whoring
but none of that matters now, because Bobby’s here, I smell him halfway down these black slacks as I lecture what he would and wouldn’t wear when I get to his sweet, angelic face hiding a mildly sardonic nature, his blue eyes bright with helpless regard, as if to say, “You got me.” I kissed him twice, drowning in my own saliva, wanting to bury my face in his flesh, wanting to warn him too late
I’ll go in the back way through this restaurant everyone forgets, including my kidnapper and his spies, they are everywhere, hunting us down
when I wake up, I realize I’m still in the dream, thinking doesn’t make it so, that red light means I have to physically lift my right leg and press on the brake
I spent most of the dream frantically cooking up a five-course grazing menu for executives at this travel magazine. “Nothing fancy,” the boss said. “The event pops up every few months. It’s your job to plan, prepare, and present the menu for our clients and staff.”
I thought he hired me to replace an editor/reporter. You know, to interview clients for publication? Initially, I came out the loser in a cost comparative analysis, after watching the predecessor do her thing, a masterpiece of technology-savvy brilliance. Blah, blah, blah-fucking blah success, ladder, Tom Cruise, the Power of Now, someone’s on the rag.
This flamboyant, Perez Hilton type assistant to the president stole my bag, I’m sure of it. He’s been dogging my every move, job to job, dream to dream. He hates me, because I don’t fit into his “Vanity Fair” production of cutthroat gossip hounds and style makers. I write nuts and bolts, paper and pen, typeset and T-square. I dress like a homeless person, he sniffs the air distastefully every time I walk into a room with my Talk Soup mug full of Kona and way too much cream.
I wish he’d disappear and let me work in peace.
Tomato soup. They need the fifth course to be pseudo-vegetarian, and ready in 30 minutes. My teenaged son gets a traffic ticket for speeding on his bicycle ahead of us on the way to the nearest grocery store for the cans.
When I wake up around 5 p.m., everybody in social media is talking about #lostkeys.
Know your place. Transcribe. Record. Report Look down. Look up. Look down again. See not be seen. This romance is not for you. Jump off the cliff, die your last breath, save as many as you can.
The truncated corpses, despot vestige, an old lady’s half-eaten croissant… are your business.
Today, I nearly dislocated my neck, back, and shoulders holding onto the last remnants of an ongoing dream. We were four to six, an even pair for every man and woman. Who would pair up? Put your bets in, game on. A split-level part of me watched as the playboy befriended the bookworm who would always wash her soiled underwear in a dirty sink next to a forgotten part of the Winchester Mystery House — the room with the headless bees. I, the voyeur and the bookworm, the narrator and the storm.
We ate from the same table, the same universal source. Bread and butter, music and jam.
It is always war where we live.
I woke up, forgetting my name, misplacing the time on my dusty nightstand. Who is this old lady with a monstrous face, and where is her half-eaten croissant?
Do you understand that you can have this thing without owning it?
I dreamed of Bryon today. We were married. Time seemed recent, or not far off. I can’t say, reincarnation. Like it would fix everything. Slap a label on the side of a piece of meat, sell it to the masses for pennies on the pound.
Besides, the scenery… Does that even matter in dreams?
All that mattered was the feeling I had, waiting for him to show up in that doorway. He was a gift. Every day. In that doorway. And everyday, he came home to me.
Today, we are strangers. I’ve reached out to him. To help. Some nonsense. I don’t know the man. Sometimes I don’t want to. He seems resigned to what remains of the day, buried beneath… probably the same things I am…
He’s this man in a desert, after experiencing an oasis. Beauty, charm, success, passion and privilege, mad, mad fucking love. Everyone bought it. I used to watch like the movies on Friday nights, up on the silver screen, gobbling up my popcorn and Raisinets.
I don’t understand love and attraction, the difference between a few well-chosen, kind words (“It’s only polite. Write her back.”) and sweaty, late nights under the covers making your peace with motherhood, apple pie, and the flag.
I don’t under the silence between us, when I can remember a thousand unspoken conversations between the kids, dinner, and the day our world exploded.
you are a composite facsimile
drawn into me, we’ll wait for the bullshit disorder to check out of this random
hotel room, a shirt and tie, the sea below, my childhood neighborhood in Aiea
where I never met you yet
you wait for me, taller, sometimes taller than I could ever imagine, this looming
shadow of a darling tree, its extended branches dangling, twisted, caught in my hair
“Say yes, Carol.”
Yes, yes, yes to freedom and pleasure, and the sex between our twisted legs.
He says he will wait forever, he swears
he smells the locks of my hair in this perfume I shoplifted at the airport.
I leave him holding my scarf to his mouth. It is a compelling final image.
I’m not talking about haunted dreams, but a haunting. Not so much scary but heartbreaking torment. I imagine ghosts who aren’t ready to leave have a helluva time of it in purgatory, watching these people they’ve become attached to move on with their lives while everyone walks through them. I’ve had those dreams too. They always leave me feeling extremely exhausted, empty as the 5th of July.
In this morning’s recurring dream, I’m back on Juniper Street, Ft. Dix, N.J. The neighborhood’s gone. Empty tracts. One modern, slate-grey building surrounded by greenery on a slanted hill, brand-new sidewalks…left standing. Only, the air is thick, like the humidity of Indian summer, surrounding stranded objects with this cloudy, smoky haze: The Dobbs’ rusty lawnmower, set of lawn chairs from Woolworth’s, two eyeless dolls, a dog collar, my dad’s Army dog tags.
Obviously the haze represents the past. I’ve left this street behind. I’m older now.
I’m inside the modern building, asking these employees with a thick New York accent about the neighborhood before. They can only trace the last decade, which does me no good. They talk up the latest photographic line of equipment. Oh, so it’s that kind of store.
At the same time I’m telling them about my year and a half on that street, my mind sends me to other places, my old high school with brand-new students. This red/blond-haired boy slows down as he passes me and my friend, glances my way on purpose, then stands just a little ways ahead, at the curve of the school driveway waiting for his ride. He gives off the sense that he wants to linger. I go to him, suddenly shy, but he’s already with a friend, so we close off. I’m his age now.
I remember Bobby’s blond hair, my husband’s.
“Where did Bobby go?” I keep asking.
“You have Google,” they reply. “You already know.
“That’s not what I mean.”
When I wake up, I want to go back so badly. I want to try again. Only, this time, I want to do all my living before I’m 26, before my body begins to disintegrate on the fast track through my mortal coil. I’m far from the only one at this party.
Everybody has an expiration date, some earlier than others. Not always determined by dying, either. Maybe by a previously undiagnosed disease that rears its ugly head prematurely. Maybe another ticking time bomb that went on undetected. Maybe a minor health matter left unattended, metastasizing into this great big deal breaker for any first date.
Without getting into health-related specifics, in my case, I was viable up until college. I could’ve held on to some pair-bonding asset for five more years. Had I gone to doctors and dentists right away in 8th grade…perhaps, perhaps.
If I knew I would rot away from the inside out at this faster-than-normal rate, I would’ve made my first time with Bobby in the summer of ’77. I would’ve felt his bare chest against mine in the woods, knowing the risk. Not caring, because I could see ahead, I could see nothing but heartache, missed opportunities, and bittersweet, pointless death. I could see for the both of us.
I would’ve given him my virginity then and there. We would’ve found a way to make love as often as possible before it was too late, before I moved, and he died anyway — long before his 40s.
Do you know what I mean? He died anyway.
Dying firelight in the woods before Juniper turned to Maple.
I would’ve made love more, slept less.
Travel. Lord, I love living out of a suitcase — the ultimate high, my very first love. Seen the Cliffs of Dover, driven around the Ring of Kerry, thrown myself on the mercy of romantic Victorian literature at Poets’ Corner, sipped grand crème in Paris, rode the train to Stuttgart and back, tried paella in Spain, found Ian Mitchell (Bay City Rollers) and fucked him too.
I would’ve done all of these things before I turned 30, if I was lucky. I’m not sure I would’ve ever married. Not this next time. Maybe not ever again.
I have a feeling I wanted to see what it was like, behind the white picket fence inside those rows of warmly lit houses with the farmhouse tables and the roaring fire. I pressed my nose to their windows so many times. I couldn’t take it anymore.
Well, now I know.
If I’m foolish enough to keep coming back, I’m either going to devote myself to bettering humanity like Mother Teresa or I’m going full-on back into Roman debauchery, where I originally started. None of this back-and-forth, seesawing, hemming and hawing bullshit.
That’s kind of how I am. Half of me knows I have to lead this pure life, to dig and dig to find what’s important and devote myself to it. Take a bullet. Die a saint.
The other half? Every so often, a dream, an image, a piece of music, some stupid TV movie will remind me of the fairy tales that were never a part of my life — and my heart will burn for some of that. When it does, a voice inside my head reminds me to, “Watch it like a movie, Carol.” Because maybe that’s all it is, a pretty movie that doesn’t involve me, like all the ones I used to watch as a child, wishing I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.
In this dream, I’m with a group of friends and this guy who can’t stop staring at me. Some of them are new, and some go as far back as high school. We’re tooling around together on the last few days of vacation on this campus of hotel rooms, an amphitheater, and an indoor mall.
This guy, we hit it off. Just like old times when youthful sparring would turn into the first chapter of a romance novel.
When I looked down at myself, I am young again. So that makes some sense.
All of a sudden, we’re at a table in a Mexican restaurant after having swum in the pool all day (he was with us then), joking around. A few of us are missing when the subject of me and him pops up. They start saying the same thing, “He’s in love with you.”
I caucus the room, “Who here believes he’s in love with me?” Everyone raises his/her hand, even Beth.
She pushes a basket of blue nachos toward me. “Aren’t these neat?” I nibble on the tortilla chips, nodding, then pipe up, “I bet everyone $50 — not per person — total that you’re wrong! He’s in love with love. If it isn’t one girl, it’s another. Isn’t there supposed to be a cheerleader’s convention going on?”
They roll their eyes and break into separate tables. I am irritated with them. Why are we here as a group if everyone’s going their separate ways? I get up and go, trying to salvage my last night at this place. Maybe I can find that Peruvian restaurant I spotted earlier when I first checked in.
I’m halfway down the campus when I hear his voice calling my name. As I turn, he is running toward me, toting two large briefcases and pulling a cart full of gear.
He asks if I have paper. He’s in a hurry, the show’s about to start. That convention? Turns out it’s an Olympic event, too. Lots of music. I watch him scribble his email address and something else I can’t remember now.
Inexplicably, he then asks what I’m listening to, eyeing my record collection. He picks out my current album, Level 42 live, one of the British pop-funk band’s best, and places it on a turntable, setting the fine needle just so at the beginning series of notches. “Stay here,” he whispers. “Listen.” I hear the most beautiful, sexy music explode in my ears, as the event unfolds before us. He smiles, with approval and relief, as if to say, “Thank god you have good taste.”
He’s behind an audio console, turning knobs, speaking into the mic, a co-announcer too. There are others beside him.
He watches the play by play while watching me. We are tethered by the music.
Maybe he does love me.
When I wake up, that commercial comes on again — the one appropriating Orleans’ 1970s hit, “Dance With Me.” I’m supposed to listen to it with fresh ears. I was supposed to do this weeks and weeks ago when I first saw that commercial. I know I was, I just ignored it.
He’s speaking to me through the song. His message is timeless, if only I would believe him.