A fever dream without a fever, mayhaps. A long night-to bed early, early to rise-spent tossing and turning and in restless spaces between blankets and sheets and a pile of pillows meant to make me feel less alone. Cloth lovers’ arms around me, all.
The dream was winding.
This way. That way.
At first just the two of us. Then, as we walk, another. And another. Four of us approach the door of the modest apartment. Excited hushes and shushes precede us as we drawn near. A rhythmic knocking, and sparkling eye, the night paints the scene around us dark, the fire from inside the building peeps out between old insulation edging the door and through the slats of the dusty blinds. Blinds exist in a state of perpetual dustiness. The lock clicks open, the door wedges out a bit and a beam of warm light escapes. Whispered secrets pass from guide to gatekeeper and back again, and we are permitted entry. At this point, I am aware I am a visitor in a foreign land. This threshold is not a normal one, but one into a different realm where other sorts of things and people rest. I am not of this place, but am permitted on a trial basis. The room yawns before us. I try to follow my guide, but he has long legs and knows the terrain and the inhabitants. Where his casual greetings suffice, I am asked who, what, and why. Where he steps nimbly over lounging bodies and furniture, I scuttle around a labyrinth of barriers no taller than 4 feet.
When I realize I have completely lost my guide-or maybe it was him who completely lost me-I notice a witch, mostly naked and lacquered in gold and black paint. Her skin shimmers and cobwebs hang from her hat. Her long black hair tumbles in a tangled mass over her shoulders. She beckons me over with a neon green-tipped finger. I sit in an overstuffed chair beside her, suddenly aware that I am very tired. My bones sink through my flesh and come to rest gently as the cushion compresses beneath me. She leans across the chasm between the furniture, her face so close to mine I can see her pores and smell the moss in her hair. She smiles and asks how I am. I mumble-a string of consonants and vowels, a string of nonsense-she smiles knowingly and sits back in her chair, her curiosity sated. A sly smile precedes her invitation to the romp.
It is now the room comes alive. There are live bodies streaming like water in a gully. Singing, dancing, leaping, laughing through the room. They skip through the space like blood through a heart, from one hallway across a gap to the next to shuttle forward. I am swept up in them. I am swept up by them. They continue choosing to keep me. They continue abiding my bumbling, grief-addled mind.
We do not exit where we entered. Our escape is made through a cabinet in an impossibly small kitchen. We walked through night dark before arriving at the apartment; we now bound in the cold, clear light of midday. The sun pelts us-our eyes stunned and renewed. In this new place I am watchful, but do not spy my guide. The others, sparkling and tall and short and wide and thin and green and blue and silver all usher me through the streets. We dart across traffic-the drivers turning loops in the roads, our bodies small, darting birds testing our speed and agility. We listen to crowds of people in fields playing soccer with friends and walking down sidewalks conversing. We see a great museum, dead. The marble horses in front shine a plastic green reminiscent of roadside carnivals. The columns which once beckoned visitors to learn now shimmer with cheap gold plating and disco ball lights. I turn to discuss this marvel of evolution with the others.
And I wake up. The sounds of their flutes recede. Is that the fire alarm going off down the hall? The building shudders and sways. An earthquake? The air heavy. The end? It is 3 am-dear witching hour dear witching hour, but only because I went to bed at 8-and no, there are no alarms, there is no earthquake, there is no end. The ringing in my ears recedes as I grow more alert. The gentle movement of the building is wind pressing outside and my pulse pressing from within. The air becomes air again, light and clear as is best.
Today is 7 years and 1 day since my mother passed. Today I ache and can’t tell if it’s grief? The dream? Stress? Grief.
Time moves slowly. It moved even more slowly yesterday. Maybe this perception of time crawling is a sign that I need to steep in this visceral experience.
Sometimes the missing is great.