#278: A DREAM OF DESPAIR AND FISH
I floated along. I knew I was alive and had a particular set of circumstances that described a life I had fallen into performing, and I was floating. My feet carried me down avenues at night when I left work, my head bobbing high above, my body a vacuous space between two necessities. Emotions washed around me as water around a stone, although I was keenly aware of a melancholy that pervaded every conscious moment. I drifted, I hovered, I slid along. I touched nothing.
Memory was everywhere, insinuating itself into every stitch of time's fabric, and it robbed me of the present. I had loved someone a long time before, and we had married. The event that destroyed the life we had fashioned together evaded me, darting out of sight whenever my gaze fell on it, but I still felt its sting. I was the walking wounded, cored out like an apple.
There was an old acquaintance of mine who had found out where I lived and wanted to meet. I had moved to Europe a few years before with my love and had stayed there afterward, moving from city to city in search of a sense of weight once we had dissolved. This acquaintance had tracked me down in a city by an inland sea, and we agreed to meet with a couple of her friends at a café across the bay. The café was a small and warm place with an outdoor patio lit by electric lanterns. I looked forward to the sweet beer they brewed and hoped that seeing an old friend from before my time there would bring me back to myself, if only for a short while.
I felt myself skimming over the concrete sidewalk on the way to the café. I hovered by the table as we said our hellos. The chair may as well have not existed, as I simply lowered the level of the suspended bell jar of my head to settle in for the evening. My friend had her usual broad smile and wide eyes, and she filled the evening with humourous stories about events that had happened to her since we had last seen each other several years before. I watched and watched, surprised at how golden her skin still looked, how bright the blue of her eyes remained.
During my solitary walk back to the ferry, I felt as though I had been buffed, my surface had been ground down ever so slightly, so that I caught and muffled, rather than reflected, the light from the lamp posts. I had regained a bit of the sensation of weight, of bodily here and now, but it was not what I had hoped. My torso was heavy, meaty, moist. I was congested with failure.
The ferry was crowded and humid. The mass of people congregated below deck and huddled beneath blankets against the cold of the spring night. Dread filled my found bones and sinew at having to be pressed against so many people I did not know and at having to breath the regurgitated air from so many unknown lungs and mouths. This dread was nothing, though, compared to the sensation of the strange man's eyes.
He was sitting cross-corners from me, and he stared directly at me without making any effort to conceal his interest. His hair was cut in a long shag three decades out of date, and his face was long and leonine. I covered the nakedness of my face below the bridge of my nose with the corner of the blanket I was sharing, and my body dissipated as though it were vapour under his gaze. Once again, I was insubstantial, little more than two feet on the floor and a head floating behind a blanket.
The Fiery One, long removed from Europe and the regrets he had hoped to leave there, returned to the continent with the hope of finding me. Like me, he had discovered no solace in the intervening years and was trying find it in the last place he had been without need of it. In an effort to remain anonymous while trying to locate me, he hired a handsome young man to search me out.
The young man was having difficulties with his assignment. When the Fiery One met with him to find out why it was taking so long to track me down, the young man informed him that without his being there to spot me as well, no identification could be made. He claimed that my face kept shifting in age from one period of time to another and that only the Fiery One would be able to properly recognize me in all my changing forms. The Fiery One found this news disconcerting. He had hoped that he would not have to be too deeply involved in the investigation of my whereabouts. He had wanted our reunion to appear spontaneous and casual, and if he saw me beforehand the illusion might be ruined.
The Fiery One agreed that he would help the young man to positively identify me, but first he wanted to spend some time gaining his bearings. Part of him had not believed that he would be able to find me, and his past transgressions weighed heavily upon him. The country home we had owned together years ago was up for sale, and although the house and property were in a deteriorated state, he bought the place and moved in to ruminate about his past affairs.
I found myself transported, watching the Fiery One and his young employee from the back entrance to the house. They were sitting on a low wall between the shed and myself discussing what it was they should do next, because they had lost track of me somewhere in Belgium. The Fiery One was expounding on the utterly absolute desolation he was feeling at having lost me a second time and how now all he had left was the mouldy remnants of a house that no longer felt like his own.
It occurred to me that I was both corporeal and incorporeal. They were unable to see me at all, and my physical experience of the environment was intermittent at best. When I attempted stepping out into the yard from the back door of the house, I found myself either squishing cold mud between my toes or wedged shoulder deep in it. My waxing and waning levels of solidity were making it impossible for me to properly manifest myself, but my distress at seeing the Fiery One so broken propelled me. I felt that through sheer desire I must make myself known to them. My heart would allow no other option.
I tested my footing on the mucky soil. The ground was wet from heavy rain and deep puddles spotted the yard in between clumps of sod. I stepped out onto the ground and looked down at a pool of water. There were two small goldfish darting around in it, and I recognized them as being the same white fish with black and orange speckles that the Fiery One and I used to keep before... before... I still could not grasp what had happened between us so long ago. My mind had excised that bit of history and would not allow its re-entrance. I wondered at how the fish could still be alive in this puddle when their pond had been overgrown with no one to tend to them.
It occurred to me that I had been at a weakened level of corporeality due to my own dejection for years and that my present fluctuations were probably due to the Fiery One's search for me. The proximity of his monstrous disconsolation had forced my hope's last hand before I had a chance to know that the despair meant he was near.
I looked up at the Fiery One and the young man where they were still sitting on the stone wall. Both of them had their heads hung low: the Fiery One's was bowed out of hopelessness, and the young man's was lowered in order to make out the Fiery One's speech. Suddenly, the feeling of solidity welled up within me, and in an attempt to get their attention while I was more corporeal, I stepped forward forcefully. It felt as though I could push my way through some kind of wall into the physical world that they were able to inhabit so completely.
I did not break through and instead found myself rib deep in icy water. The shock of the cold pushed my physicality to the forefront again, this time enough so that one of the little fish squirmed up inside my shirt during its panic to escape the suddenness of my arrival.
The Fiery One remained on a low stone wall, looking into his hands, while I fumbled with the hem of my shirt, hoping to safely release a terrified fish.
I had this dream shortly after falling asleep last night, and when I woke up out of it at 12:45 am, I looked about the room in earnest for the Fiery One. He was not there, so I called out his name repeatly, louder and louder with each call. I looked over at my glass of water, half expecting to see the fish I had been trying to save, when the Fiery One came into the room and crawled into bed to comfort me. The dream made me miss him so terribly, even though he was there with his arms around me, and I wished at that moment that I could put his whole body inside mine, open up my chest wall and envelope him, feel whole.