[Reading Time: 10 – 16 minutes]
Note: This is completely raw and unedited.
After what seemed an eternity I fell asleep. Not that sleep was much better than the tossing and turning I was doing while awake. In my first dream I dreamt I was adrift at sea. The waves crashing against the side of the small boat. I was alone. Lightening lit up against the black night sky and thunder roared like an angry bowler trying to get a strike. I had nowhere to take cover and was having trouble keeping the boat from capsizing. I didn’t even know how I got here, let alone why.
There was someone in the water. They were calling to me. Calling for me to help them. I threw a life preserver overboard. As I was pulling them in I noticed it was Jeffrey, the old guy from Virginia Beach. He was humming row row row your boat and trying to get a round going, with me I suppose. I was trying to pull him in without pulling myself overboard. Just when I thought I had him he was gone.
The scene changed and I was on the beach. The sky was calm and the sea was gently lapping at the shore. There was a couple walking hand in hand and barefoot along the waters edge. The woman was pregnant. They were humming as they walked. I strained to hear them as they walked by. It was another childhood song. Rock-a-bye baby on the tree top…
“Are you okay?” It was Jack.
“Where am I?”
“You’re at the beach,” he replied. Well, I knew I was at the beach. Sigh.
“Yeah, what beach?” I asked clearly annoyed.
“Any beach, no beach, every beach. It’s all in your imagination, Emilia. You are wherever you want to be,” he answered. Was this some sort of riddle I was supposed to figure out? What did he mean I was wherever I wanted to be?
“That makes no sense,” I said, but I was alone. Jack was gone. The couple was gone. I stood up and started walking down the beach. But the sand stopped and now I was in the mountains. There were trees everywhere and the sun was starting to peek through just above the horizon. I was on a path covered with leaves. It was fall and the leaves were living up to their season. Crunch, crunch, crunch. I was not sneaking up on anything or anyone today. I followed the path and it just wound around. I was climbing the mountain. I looked to my right and there was a steep drop. Best to stay further in and along the pathway. The edge was a little too ominous for my liking.
Up ahead was a cabin. There was a little billow of smoke coming up and out of the chimney. I could hear roosters crowing in the background. I’m not sure why, but I knew this place. I had never been here before, but it was familiar to me all the same. I kept walking until I reached the door. I knocked. No one answered. I knocked again. “Hello?”
I turned the knob and slowly opened the door. Jack was inside. He was at the stove making what smelled like a stew. He looked up and smiled at me. Then he went back to his stirring. The smells wafted through the cabin and filled me with warmth. These were smells of familiarity. Smells of home. I stepped inside and pulled the door closed behind me. There were two mugs of hot chocolate on the counter and afghans were carefully placed on the two comfortable chairs in the living room area. The table had been set for two. Looks like he was expecting me.
I took off my coat and picked up one of the mugs of hot chocolate. There were some marshmallows in a bowl on the counter so I added a few to my cocoa. Then I walked around to where Jack was and took at peek at the stew. It smelled divine and looked even better. There were baby carrots and celery, potatoes, and green beans. It looked like beef, but could have been deer.
“It’s almost ready. Why don’t you have a seat in one of the chairs and watch tv for a bit. I’ll let you know when it’s ready,” Jack said. I walked over to one of the chairs. I placed my mug on a coaster on the coffee table and sat down. I pulled an afghan over my legs and looked around the room.
There was a fireplace with real logs and a real fire. This was the source of the chimney smoke. Over the fireplace was a painting. I knew this painting. My mother had the print when I was little. It was of a little cabin in the wood. There was a stream with some rapids in front and trees all around. It was winter and snow had fallen. Snow was lightly on the trees and gracefully covering the rocks in the stream, much like moss in the swamp.
Along the mantle was an old miniature grandfather clock, dark wood. I think cherry. There were also a few various trinkets and bobbles. The fireplace itself was red brick and worn. This cabin had been here for quite some time. Logs formed the walls and were carefully stacked and tapered in the corners. They too had seen better days. The window was simple and had a plaid drapery hung precariously over it. The furniture was simple. The coffee table was dark wood and well worn. The two oversized chairs were done in a simple brown pattern. Mine was quite comfortable. The afghans adorning the chairs were done in shades of brown and green with a hint of red. I guess that was to tie into the drapes.
“Dinner’s ready,” Jack called to me. I was so comfortable in this chair, but I mustered myself up from its warm embrace and shuffled into the little kitchen nook area with my hot cocoa in tow.
“This smells wonderful,” I cooed. The steam was billowing from the bowl, tempting me with every scent wafting my way. Jack sat down opposite me and playfully moved carrots and celery around with his spoon. He was releasing the steam, eager to take a taste.
“Sugar is sweet,” Jack said. This completely threw me.
“What?” I asked and jerked up to look at him. But he was gone. The smell of the stew no more. No fireplace and fire. The afghan, gone. I was alone, but where. The sky above was blue. It was amazingly clear. Not a cloud in sight. The air was crisp and cool. I looked around and I was up high. On a mountain top, perhaps. I could see tree tops in the distance. Birds were chirping in the trees nearest me. The colors were that of spring not fall. The seasons had changed.
I started walking, slowly. I heard a rustling and I think I heard whistling, in the distance. I move a little faster now, down the path and through the trees. There is a clearing with flowers. The spectacle is one like you would only see on tv. You know, like in one of those nature shows. There were shades of blue and yellow, pink and white. I picked up a dandelion that had gone to seed and blew. Wow, I hadn’t seen buttercups in years. I remember putting them up to my nose and yellow pollen sticking there. I was told they smelled like butter and just had to find out for myself. They don’t.
The whistling was getting louder. And there he was.
“Jack?” I asked, “What is going on?” This was getting weird, even for me. I really hope he gives me some answers and not more questions. I think I was going to be hoping for awhile longer. I was getting no response.
“Jack?” I started to circle where he was standing. He was looking down and whistling. He was digging. It looked like a hole for nothing in particular. It wasn’t very big or very deep. It was almost as if he was just digging to be doing something. I stood in front of him and watched him dig. He looked up at me for just a moment, then resumed his digging.
I gave up. I started to walk off farther into the clearing. I could see more mountains on the horizon and the sun was moving over head. It appeared I was heading east, but I couldn’t be certain. I wasn’t used to being set adrift in so many different places in such a short span of time. I was hoping I would happend upon a stream or something since I was getting bit parched.
I walked on for what seemed to be quite a while when I saw him. It was Jack. I turned and looked over my shoulder to see where I had been. Did I just walk in a circle? I couldn’t have. I never turned and I’m still in the meadow area. Yet, there he was digging that damn hole. I sighed and kept walking. I slowed as I neared Jack and glanced as I started to pass. Then I stopped. He put the shovel down and picked up a small glass jar. It was an old baby food jar with what looked to be dirt.
I stepped a little closer and realized what it was. He was placing it in the hole he just dug. I knelt down and helped Jack as he started putting the dirt back in the hole, careful to not tip over the jar. The hole was not that deep and didn’t take too long to fill back in. Once the last speck of dirt was packed into place Jack pulled a small ceramic plaque out of his bag and placed it securely in the dirt. Then he stood and cried.
I stayed on the ground kneeling and looked up at him. Jack was my best friend. Had been since high school. We met in drama class in tenth grade. I took it so I could break out of my shell a little. Jack took it because he liked drama. We sat next to each other. Drama is not where we became friends, though. Drama happened to be the class that determined our lunch. Jack had some friends, but they were not in the same lunch. I hung out with a few people at lunch. We would sit at the tables outside and drink milkshakes and eat french fries or rice krispie treats.
Sometimes I would work on homework, but mostly we just talked about boys and what we were going to do that weekend or what we did the weekend before. Jack would sit outside too, but he would sit alone. He read a lot. One day I decided to sit with him. I later found out he wished I hadn’t, but was glad I did. After all, it is the moment we started our friendship. We didn’t talk, we just read. We did this for about a month, off and on. I still sat with my friends on occasion and they thought it was weird I would sit next to Jack and just read. I thought it was kind of nice.
One day we started talking. I don’t remember what it was about. I guess it doesn’t matter. It was that year we became friends. And I can’t remember how I ever got along without him. He was accepted into my other group of friends, too. But mostly when we hung out it was just the two of us. We were never anything more than friends, but I loved him as much as I could love anyone. I think he loved me too.
After high school we attended Palm Beach Community College together. Only, it was called Palm Beach Junior College or PBJC [Peanut Butter and Jelly College] back then. I guess I could’ve gone off to a four year school, but I honestly could not bear to leave Jack behind. I didn’t know what I wanted to be anyway, so it just made sense to spend the first two years figuring it out, with Jack.
Our birthdays were a few months apart. Jack was slightly older, but I didn’t hold it against him. For my 21st birthday we went club hopping. We ended up over at Singer Island. Somehow we must have drank way too much, because we woke up on the beach half dressed and feeling like we had just licked a cat. It was one of the best birthdays I ever had.
Two months later Jack and I spent another memorable night together. This was one memory I could have lived without.
I looked up at Jack, tears streaming down my face. He mouthed, “I’m sorry,” turned and walked away. I just stayed there, staring at him as he walked away. My heart breaking all over again. Then I woke up.
Image courtesy of gatorgalpics.