I stand on a road at night, whispering to myself, half out of my mind. The forest looms on either side like a frozen wave, transparent with shadows of the moonlight. Fixed overhead, the moon itself blazes in vast pure space, clutching the ice on the road, making it glow like a cold river of stars.
The rest of my memories lay scattered in the forest, gnarled by the weather of time. Furtive dirt paths connect each one, wriggling between dusty pillars of redwood, crumbling varicose oak trees, and blind, grasping bushes.
In this place and time, most of the memories are not happy. Some burn in their secret clearings like hot coals. A few have poisoned their land. Some have no place, and wander between the trees, looking back warily.
So the four years around my high-school graduation are lost here, along with the changes I underwent, and the people I knew. I was agonizing over my place, or perceived lack of one, in my family. I remember obsessing over various girls. I was beginning to puzzle my way through the bear traps of religion and mortality. Something in the bottom of my soul was pushing me beyond the rapt, flowery answers that were available in books and most other people.
I already knew I wasn't the smartest person in the world, since there were people whose cleverness frightened me. I knew I wasn't the sexiest person in the world, and I occasionally worried about that. I felt the male cravings of lust long before I had any concept of romantic love, and that had me bewildered and frustrated. Over all time but especially in these four years, I immersed myself in each fear completely, breathing it in, giving myself to it, letting it wash through me, letting my mind wander anywhere it pleased, through imagining brutal crimes of lust and hate and self-destruction, through the worst of any feeling that emerged. I kept my body relatively safe and clean, but my brain went everywhere. Everywhere.
If I hadn't let that happen, who knows what I would have done, or turned into, under all that buried pressure. Many people go through the same thing, I'm sure. I was just lucky enough that my attitude and position kept me from any permanent damage, and I was able to proceed from it, with my potential for success in the world undiminished by a drug habit, or a criminal record, or a disfiguring injury. I feel like a walking miracle, like a wolf who has become a happy vegetarian.
I had this dream the other night.
My beloved and I are sleeping in the living room of a beach house, on the floor. I feel her red hair on my face, and smell her scent with each breath. Around the few shadows of the wooden furniture, afternoon sunlight cradles everything in warm relief. The sliding glass door is open, and a tongue of wooden planks begins there, running over humps of sand to a walkway near the ocean.
My beloved's mother is walking impatiently up and down the raised path. It's not her mother in real life, but a woman I am unfamiliar with. She is talking to us distractedly as we snooze, waiting for us to get up and take her out to dinner.
We're all driving in my car together. My beloved is in the passenger seat, holding my hand, as we like to do. Her mother is in the back, and we are all talking happily. Her mother is a political activist, and is encouraging us to show our support for her cause. The brakes on the car are very bad, and instead of stopping at an intersection, I have to coast slowly through it, hoping against an accident.
The car winds out along a ribbon of pavement, over the sand of the beach. The curves get too tight and the brakes in the car fail me, and I skid off the road into the sand, spinning in place for a while. My beloved's mother isn't bothered by this. "Tough road," she says.
I ride my bike up to a busy intersection. I realize this is not the best route to the restaurant, and that I don't know why I'm taking it. My beloved and her mother are still passengers, somewhere inside the bike. I pedal out and merge with traffic, heading downhill into the center of town.
In the center of town, there are no paved roads. Only avenues of sand, and wooden paths built over them, in no particular pattern. In my head, I determine it to be a combination of a school playground, downtown Santa Cruz, and an all-ages amusement park. My only apparent clue is the sand, but I determine this anyway.
I'm supposed to meet my beloved and her mother here for dinner. I try to ride my bike through the sand, but it gets stuck, so I discard it and step onto a wooden path.
I pass by a jungle gym, and many children playing in the sand. Some are wearing swimsuits. Twisty metal slides arc over my head in the blue sky, with kids sliding down them. On my right, I see a tall metal structure, a lattice of poles and stair-steps built around a central pipe, like a gigantic metal smokestack. Water drips and splashes on it. Children are standing on the stairway, forming a line that snakes between the metal struts, and ends at the lip of the pipe. It's a ride. They jump in, one at a time, and are blasted high into the air. Then they land in a lake nearby. As I watch, the ride malfunctions, and one of the kids falls anticlimactically into the water beneath the structure instead of going high in the air. He is unhurt, but I still see that the ride is a very dangerous one.
I walk on. Ahead of me, I see a girl and a boy walking side by side. The girl has red hair like my beloved, and I jog up alongside her to say hello. Perhaps the boy is a friend of hers?
It's not my beloved. It's another girl, and the boy walking with her is her brother. I remember this girl from when I was between 16 and 20. I have strange, semi-lucid memories about her. She has the red hair, and the freckles, and the voice, of my beloved. Sometimes when I look at my beloved, I see a ghost of a memory of this girl, reflected back from my mind. It disorients me, but it doesn't particularly bother me.
But now this girl, with her brother, has emerged into a dream.
I tap the girl on the shoulder. "Sorry to disturb you," I say, "but I need to know something. Do you have any relatives back east?"
She stops walking, and turns to face me. She looks me straight in the eye, and says, "I know what this is about. My full name is," -- and here she says some extremely long, complex hebrew phrase that I can't possibly remember -- "and I know your beloved."
"How do you know her? How are you two connected?" I say.
She doesn't say anything. Instead, she leans up against the light-brown grain of the brick wall that my middle-school was built with, and grabs my hand from my side.
Next to her, smirking, her brother speaks. "We know what you're here for. We know why we are here."
The girl opens my hand, and presses the palm to the inside of her naked white leg.
"We know that you have her now," says the brother. "But..."
The girl opens her knees, and slides a little down the rough wall. The bricks pull her dress upward. "... but I want you to have me, too" she says. Her expression is serious, insistant.
I remove my hand, and raise my other arm, and place one hand on each of her knees.
"No," I say.
I push her knees back together.
"Are you sure?" says her brother. "This is your chance. You'll wake up soon."
I look at her. So much like my beloved. Her brown dress matches the brown wall. She has gathered the dress up over her waist with one hand. The other is reaching for me. I stand frozen in place, staring at her sex, utterly confused. Who is this? Why am I dreaming this? Is there something at stake, or is this just a random event?
The hand is still reaching. From within the dream, I press outward, building up charge, reaching for my body. While still asleep, I force my eyes open, and see the room I'm asleep in. I force myself awake. I've had enough of this.