I can’t tell if the screams are those of a woman or a child. They are shrill and intermittent, fading in and out, mixing with faint musical notes. I know that I am dreaming. The familiar fog of my dream-world wraps around my head, blurring sight and sound. Touch has never been reliable in my dreams. Maybe that is one reason why it is so important to me when I am awake.
Generally, I have no control in my dreams. The key is to know it is a dream. Vivid dreams, dreams that fill the senses with a skewed version of reality manifest themselves into a type of realism that the mind may not be able to penetrate and understand as unreal. This is not one of those dreams. This is one full of mists clouding my head allowing only vague impressions to penetrate: the screams come and go, musical notes tinkle in the distance, and a light flickers high above. None of it makes sense, but I know it doesn’t make sense and search for the message behind the symbolism.
Does the message really matter? It’s just a dream anyway….
v v v v v v
When I wake, it is to a comfortable world, familiar in the way that hotel rooms are familiar, different as in not exactly my home. I find comfort in the firmness of the mattress and the clean smell of the sheets enveloping me in warm softness. Stretching with arms raised, I feel the metal bars of the wrought-iron headboard. Very tempted to stay in a place I know is safe despite uncomfortable dreams, the smell of bacon, eggs and coffee is too great a temptation to ignore.
Jeans and a t-shirt wait for me on the trunk at the foot of the bed. Barefooted, I slip on the sneakers tossed next to the trunk, without socks just as I did growing up, to my mother’s constant consternation. A brush and barrette rest on the dresser to my right. My hair is long, clean and full of static; clinging to my hands as I pull it back out of my face. I don’t even need a mirror. This is good, because there isn’t one.
I walk down the hall running my fingers over the soft blue paint. It’s a nice, relaxing hue. The living room is the same pale, calm blue, unbroken except for the doorways and the overly large fireplace on the wall to my left. It is odd. There are no pictures, no paintings, no knick-knacks to reveal anything about myself, my life.
Beyond a squeaky screen door, the closed in porch beckons. Breakfast can wait just a little bit more, I think, as I step into the open space. The only clutter is a wicker bistro set just to the right of the door. Crystals, heavy and lifeless, hang in the windows that line the outside wall of the porch. The sun has not yet slanted through to wake the rainbows. The cushioned chair looks comfortable, so I sit, drawing my legs up into the extra space careful not to bump the table with a mug and notebook on top as if waiting for me.
The blue mug holds warm coffee. The notebook next to it holds me.
Picking up both, I sip the coffee and flip open the notebook past the unreadable hurriedly written pages, to one filled with my own precise penmanship.
I don’t know the smooth linear motion of time. I only know what I have already written and what I choose to read.
My house sits on a rise and my favorite spot is the back porch that looks down a slope a hundred or maybe two hundred yards to the edge of a forest. There are no neighbors.
Lifting my eyes to look past the crystals, I watch puffy clouds drift lazily through a sky the same color as the walls inside. The grass, a bright surreal green, blends with the darker leaves of the trees surrounding the rise.
Returning to the notebook in my lap, I can almost hear my voice whispering to me….
To the right of the glassed in porch I can see the kitchen window. From either the porch or the kitchen window, you can see just inside the forest, which is not thick at all. A shadow just beyond the edge runs through the trees. This is a small gorge. At the bottom runs a shallow creek over rocks not deep enough for fish, but is home to tadpoles and crawdads. When I go there, I wear sneakers. It’s steep.
To my right, on the other side of another screen door, are the windows of a breakfast nook. I see a pale yellow table through the glass. Looking toward the trees, I can almost make out the rockiness that could be the edge of something deep or shallow. I can’t tell from here. All I can tell is the dark line just beyond the front line of trees. My left hand falls to the unblemished white sneakers on my feet. I’ll check it out later.
The house rests in the center of a large meadow. Just when you think it never ends on either side you see a green haze which might be the forest curving around.
What is important about this place is not the beautiful house (though it is beautiful, if a tad small). What is important is the forest. The oak trees here have not seen centuries pass by. They might be only as old as me. There is plenty of light filtering through those trees and when you look up, bits and pieces of the bright blue sky greet you. Yet it is a place of darkness even if it is only a feeling hiding deep within your heart.
Studying the forest, I am not sure if I understand about the darkness. It looks like a happy place to me. The trees dot the ground with shade. It seems like a perfect picnic spot or a challenging hide-and-seek place, at least for the one hiding. I can imagine the colors fall would bring, though now all the leaves are a dark green.
I lift the coffee mug to my lips. It is empty. I want more. My legs are asleep. So I take a minute to get the prickles out before standing with the notebook in one hand and the cold, black mug in the other.
Once inside the door, the pleasant aroma of eggs, bacon and fresh coffee lead me to the kitchen. Dylan stands at the stove. Grease pops. The coffeemaker beeps. I drop the notebook on the table. It is a dramatic difference between the bright white paper of the notebook and the yellow of the table. Yet it is the yellow of the table that looks out of place. I don’t like yellow.
“Good morning, Sleepyhead.” Dylan looks up from his cooking, his face unshaven and his blonde hair too long and slipping into his eyes. I can’t help it. I never could fight my physical attraction to him. This close, his body is a magnet and I walk over to put my arms around him. He puts the spatula on a napkin on the counter next to the stove, pulls me close and drops his lips to the top of my head.
I love the feel of his arms around me, the clean scent of his cologne, not strong or heavy enough to mask the familiar smell of him.
“I see you left your hair down today. I like that,” he says running his fingers through the length of it. “It’s getting very long.” He lowers his voice and whispers in my ear. “I like that, too.”
I bury my head in his chest. This is nice. This is comfort. This is home.
Bacon grease pops louder this time. I jerk back with the shock of the sting on my hand. Dylan grabs it before I can stop him. Both of us peer down at the drops of blood oozing from the pale skin on the back of my hand. That’s not right, I think. Burns don’t do that.
Dylan grabs the dishtowel hanging from the oven’s handle and wipes away the blood. It stains the white cloth and looks like a whole lot more than a few drops. But when I look at my hand again, the blood is gone. The first signs of a bruise have replaced it. That’s not right either, I think. But I’m not a doctor. All I know is that other than a slight throb, the sting from the burn is gone.
I pull my hand from Dylan’s and let him return to his cooking. I’m not a chef either.
Taking a seat at the table, I pick up the notebook and flip through the pages.
Everything makes sense today. Dylan says that when you are sick, all you have to do is will yourself better. I’m sure he’s right. Mind over matter.
All I have to do is crawl my way back. But I can’t find the path. There is no signpost.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is all there is.