“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”
During my sleep that night and while I was waking up, I felt something erasing. The unexpected erasure of a glimpse into a future that was otherwise indelible. Everything gotten and all that was going to come was taken away. I saw cancelled eyes. Someone’s interior was missing.
It happened inside of dream logic. I believed I was having many recurrent images and sensations over many years. Something was playing interference with my last dream before awakening. This dream tricked time into a surreal elongation while I dreamt it. Like a phantasmagorical hall of mirrors the dream itself multiplied my perceptions. It felt like a repetition over my whole life. It was true I only had this mischievous dream during sleep once. Through the magnitude of imagined multiplication I knew something vital had changed.
Within this state I felt offputtingly calm and sedate. It was the pre-awakening phase and I was transitioning into my arousing consciousness. I felt the sensation of dread one experiences when the dream carries an overwhelming sense of being real. My awareness had not yet peaked up above the Sandman’s cloud enough to realize that I was not on the firm soil of reality.
I was in an unfamiliar place where several cars were parked. There was a hillside with residential homes all around and cars were stacked up along the road and in a wide driveway. I noticed that two nearby houses belonged to neighbors I recognized from years ago. Oddly, the driveway with cars led to the property belonging to my ex-wife; but her house was not there.
Many people I knew gathered on this vast slopped lawn. Fellow medical students from the past, high school friends, football teammates, colleagues from work, recent acquaintances, mentors, professors, together with their dogs interacting normally. Few of these people had ever met one another. This was a group that could never mix. Now, in the morning mist of a dream, these beings were stuck together out of time.
They stood and walked on this plot of grass drinking beer, pitching footballs and tossing tennis balls for the dogs. The activity all took place where a house once stood. Now, while dogs ran and jousted, a view opened up and laid bare a limitless expanse to the horizon. Every obstructing structure to the west was removed. The cascade mountains and the ocean were now visible from a densely populated location in the Portland suburbs.
Neighbors stood outside their homes. I recognized them all. Each one had lost weight. They were all emaciated and gaunt, diseased and cancerous appearing. It was a global failure to thrive in this community alcove. They stood motionless all absorbed in the activity on the great lawn. All the neighbors, in their apparent state of starvation and terminal wasting, remained fixed in a state of ramrod-straight posture smiling and waving while making unbroken eye contact with me.
I pondered the impossible view. I saw a great vacancy. There was an opening where it did not belong. The sky changed to an ox-blood color. The mountains in the western cascade were abutting the ocean and I could see waves licking the snowcaps. The sky kept changing color. I felt warm and I began to sweat.
I noticed that three of the cars in the driveway belonged to my children. Staring straight ahead each child was sitting in the driver’s seat in his or her respective vehicle. None of them acknowledged me or made eye contact. Their skin looked synthetic with a plastic sheen. They were crash dummies.
Suddenly, and as the sky changed, the dogs stopped performing their antics and became still as gargoyles. Tongues out, these animals were captured in stop-motion freeze-frame while visible warm air circulated through their snouts into the bracing atmosphere. The guests, continued walking and talking as if the world, to them, was unfurling in a casually unconscious state of normalcy. It seemed I was the only perceiver of bizarre alterations in reality.
The mahogany sky expressed creases and folds of gray and Alaskan blue. Light penetrated the sides of my view as street lamps turned on in the darkening mid-morning. It was an eclipse by a low-hanging moon obstructing logic and reason, stretching a tarp of sadness over hope.
Eras blended bringing unfamiliar souls together to ease the dream towards its tragic refrain. A soul has left the present moment’s grasp opening a crevasse into time’s loop ushering in an alternate hypnopompic reality. Before attempting to cope, dreams offer alternate explanations where elastic, volatile versions of truth set the heart down slowly into the waiting abyss of loss.
The arc lamps brightened as the eclipse propagated darkness. One of the neighbor’s homes was constructed entirely of Italian-style stone. The owner, with his skin hugging the bones of his face like a stocking, eyes missing, was standing near his garage. One wing of his house was deconstructed with the outer stonework absent and the naked frame exposing a skeleton of wood. I peered into his living room. His wife, vanishingly thin was standing unclothed and reading a magazine. He stood proudly in front of his home oblivious to the open-heart rendering of his interior and his unclad wife. All around the interior while his spouse stood motionless, furniture lay scattered and toppled over in a kinetic storm of slow-motion movement. The insides of the house were about to hemorrhage into the open spaces of the growing horizon.
At the edge of the home’s exposed wing a worker kneeled. He swung his arm in an arc of motion simulating hammer blows onto a strip of bare wood. There were no tools or nails, nor signs of hardware, just this man dressed in prison-striped overalls, focused and sturdy in his posture, swinging an invisible hammer. He was the only person nearby who was not in the throes of vanishing emaciation. His arm bounced with each swing like he was holding an inflatable child’s mallet. The raw wood, chalky like desert bone started to crumble as his invisible swings continued.
There was not a shadow or cloud anywhere. The noon low light, operating with an absent sun and the moon still rising into the red-rock sky, chiseled angles into all life forms. The real became statuesque. All was frozen. Beings and animals were sculpture. A thudding sound reported from the blows of the invisible hammer. A being was rubbed out. A life was over. A thudding continued incessantly transforming into a buzzing sound. I was then awakened by the buzzing of a phone call.
It was a call from an unfamiliar number that hung up before I could answer. Then a text message:
“Dad, answer, call me quick, it’s an emergency.”
I dialed the number.
“Dad Mom is dead.”
I heard my son in the background
“Dad Mom is fucking dead, hurry, please! Come quickly.”
A young woman wakes up with her boyfriend next to her. She is in her mother’s house, in the spare bedroom enjoying time away from Los Angeles and work. She wakes up and watches the calm breath rising in an out of him. His young wisps of beard, untrained in the art of abrasion, gently shift with each breath. She kisses him and wonders if he will remember the gesture.
After putting on her robe she walks to the kitchen to make coffee. It is eleven thirty in the morning. The television in the living room is on. An empty wine glass with lipstick on the rim sits alone in the sink. It is now almost noon. Where is her mother? Where is the dog?
She walks to her mother’s bedroom and sees the door ajar. Inside the room, the bed is empty. The sheets are in pointed, edgy unmade piles that only restless sleep creates. The bathroom door is wide open and peering around the corner she sees a foot protruding from the bathtub with toes pointed down. There is no water in the tub.
A muffled scream
Drops of black blood
Smudged on the tile
Skin torn on the pewter tub
Dry bristles of black-rooted hair
Stalks of jagged hate
Kiss the bottom of the drain
A deafening scream assails the house. Her boyfriend runs. She is in the bathtub cradling her cold bruised mother’s cheek in her hands. There is no reframing this reality. This is no parallel universe found in the seams of a meditation. No one is dreaming.
It felt like there would be no more sunlight. The room was drained of all hope. The dog was also in the tub at her feet. He had been there the whole night and morning, lying hungry and thirsty, unable to leave what was no longer there for him.
Tears drained down her cheeks and her boyfriend’s eyes welled up. He went to embrace her but she pushed him away. She kept shaking her mother’s head trying to wake her up.
There had to be a way, a way to still connect and find out what happened or at least say goodbye but she was not ready to say goodbye never imagined she could be in a cold gray tub with morose purple cheeks in her hands instead of the bright morning eyes of her mother asking the same invasive questions that made her blush only now she wished so much for the worst moments with her mother even a tortured toxic fight now would be like love caressing her torn-to-shreds regret about all those things she said but didn’t mean and the weeks of not talking followed by the hugs and all the secrets still hiding that she was going to share over the family time during upcoming dinners that would now never happen because all she was and all she would ever have with her mother was taken away this morning in a icy instant before she could gather everything she wanted to give back to her that now will have to sit like a deep fiery blacksmith’s hammer banging away inside her heartbeat in a sea of desert sadness that will only dissipate in small bits over a very long time.
I found myself sitting on her bed, in her bedroom, for the first time in five years with her dead body on a stretcher next to me. It was night. I watched her head resting motionless atop the expanded stretcher on wheels with cross hatched aluminum struts holding her up like cadaveric art on a horizontal easel.
It was an impossibly delicate task to stare at her motionless body. I was fighting off embattled feelings of sadness shock, relief and guilt-tinged anger. I got lost in the thought of her last gasps for air as if those desperate gulps toward ambient oxygen with her heart stopped were fueled by my hate.
Then a feeling of hope like a rainbow cataract watched for a rise in her breast. I was looking for only a few resourceful alveoli that had circumvented death’s march and were still capable of even a reflexive capture of residual wind that could sweeten her dark lips.
Beyond the darkened, ruthenium ceiling and the windows holding out the dense night, the gray sky seemed kind and gentle with a low moon as memories stacked upon each other and merged into dreams. The room was lit only by a moonlit glow bathing all the surfaces and angles of her face.
There were no longer any lines or expression marks. The spreading crows-feet that framed her eyes like fiery cracks in the pavement were gone. The skin that surrounded her coffee bean brown intimidating eyes was newly cemented over. I thought of a freshly repaired square of sidewalk cordoned off with the patch still wet with that soon to harden shield of gray paste that is so tempting to carve one’s initials into.
I wanted to carve a rose, draw it with a stick, on that soft patch free of the lines that seemed to bloom from an inner mine of intolerance while she was alive.
A blanket was pulled up to her neck. I only saw the lifeless face that in death carried with it a peace and posture of loving kindness I had not seen since the early days of our meeting. I pulled back the blanket to expose her feet and her right hand.
Now her body was front and center. The attitude she carried in life, heavy footed, bold, directly in your face, like a swarm of bees surrounded her, was all gone now. I expected something to drip from her mouth, a new smell, a fugitive memory still within her creating an aura or novel expression. No, it was all serious layers of death keeping the remains silent. What was in her was no longer there. Her body was already buried.
It started to rain. Suddenly a hard rain caused incessant dripping from the gutters and drops attacked the windows like gunfire. The streets flooded suddenly and so rapidly that it seemed no rain was lost in the plant life and on the tops of trees.
She was bereft of that substance that permeates the body’s systems down to the molecular level; devoid of the fuse that animates the flower. She was turning into concrete; the rigors of death. The electric presence driven by the sun and the movements of waves had a short lamp-glow for her. The limp extremities no longer pondered movement. The once hyper-sensate digits of her hand were still aligned perfectly. Phalanges buttressed against each other, accustomed to over stimulation now longing for a simple touch, to make a comical gesture, or to raise a finger in anger.
Like an angel she was fugitive spirit wondering why her pent-up warring feelings had an outlet no longer. What was so contiguous with her will, so connected, yet out of touch, with the corporeal world had no further material manifestation. Was she hovering somewhere in the room helpless to have a voice? There was no longer the ability to experience the hard smoothness of freshly blown glass or the abrasive pain of a skinned elbow. Pain and its attendant suffering became an abstract thought. Bodily pleasures, now impossibilities, would soon be forgotten.
As her spirit moved toward eternity over the ensuing minutes and centuries, values and qualities applied to sensations would dwindle into dreams. At best the sensations would be palpable in the strange neural connections of vivid dreams. At worst, insensate nightmares would repeat where mammalian episodes became locked away in an unconscious vault of the soul inaccessible and beyond reach for eternity.
I watched her now. I thought of the last months of our marriage before the chaos struck. During life our eye contact had begun to elicit anxiety. Pieces of that anxiety were now part of a mist hanging in the air of the room. We rarely slept together. In nighttime sleep she hid on her side with pillows around her head walling off her body. I tried, on some nights, to watch her sleep yet I rarely caught a glimpse of her true exposure. She guarded tightly what she refused to reveal. All was covert decay of self-image and loathing. Sometimes in sleep the myriad caverns where she hid her true expression opened briefly then quickly darkened.
I was the riser before dawn and so I turned in early at night. She climbed into bed while I was deep in dreams. While she was just starting to fall into a deep sleep, I awakened and left. Pillows partitioned us in sleep and my dreams trudged as much distance as they could from hers while she found her hiding places where nocturnal anxieties were less corrosive than the hysteria of her days.
When I looked at her somber, elegant mouth, now closed, I thought of smog and menstrual blood. I stared at the soft skin. I thought of a flesh-colored stone. I stared at her Grace Kelly nose perfectly feminine with its upturned tip; the nose I fell in love with. Her eyes were relaxed and closed under lids lashed like trapdoors continuing to imprison the anger inside her.
She lay there, dry tongue put back into her mouth, with its bristles shriveled, plasma stopped on the tracks, no adrenaline to the heart, receptors no longer triggered by the third rail. A dense slowness occupied the air over her face. I thought of clogged sludge coagulated in every artery, vein, arteriole,, venule, capillary , and lymph vessel backed up like curdled milk as the evacuated lungs supinated in mid-expansion, collapsed and emptied themselves of life-giving air.
Her lungs were accustomed to intentionally inhaling smoke. I imagined smog still restlessly coursing through the corridors of her chest cavity smudging black stains like graffiti over the inner terrain of the body’ cityscape. Smoke dimmed the lights through life and dried up the menstrual blood while tears and hormones fought their battles.
I sat and contemplated her face in death. Youth was departing while beauty mounted a mature evolution. The body had bolstered itself and hormones tried to redefine and upgrade her being for a vacant future. I wondered how she was snatched off the planet hours ago. What did her mind think as she walked and fell into the empty bathtub. There was no mystery left in her face. The stone-polished texture of the expressionless skin around the apertures where the nostrils started their embargo of oxygen now seemed to announce an acceptance of her fate.
Turned over and repeated another way, those openings into her balanced, sculpted nasal passages, mourned the lack of airflow while the hidden spider-hairs inside stopped clinging to microscopic matter. Their job was done. The soft wind of respiration rested its sad hand and those two lonely openings became vacant caverns like all the rest. There was no more hiding.
All the myriad jobs within her physiology, the flawless efficiencies, still far from being completely understood, were stunned into silence. How does such a precious and incomprehensibly complex system simply shut down? How is it possible that such a necessary entity, with such a fierce embrace of the power of consciousness, can disappear without mounting further rebellion? The mourning collective is out there in shock wondering. Is there not something left that is capable of some element of preservation? There must remain a small piece of what flees; something still to communicate with. It begs for supernatural reassurances.
How can there not be some neural circuit, an aspect of her soul, some tortured spiritual proboscis, a finger, a conjuring, an emanation that can rise up in demonstration countering back into the real world with the reserve and fight still left to connect with all those left behind staring off or holding their head in the grip of their disbelieving hands?
How can all the operators flee the scene at once? A soul with all its ideas and love and feelings and abstract contemplations tight-roped to a scientific clock comprised of biological efficiency cannot, with its paralyzed mainspring, shut off all that others can see connecting this spirit to the divine. Certainly there are cords and fibers and spiritual channels still working, unwilling to punch-out, unwilling to leave no trace, and allow the remaining forces of love to wring their hands in the dark.
I became paralyzed with these questions, unable to reconcile what has become a commonplace aspect of the cycle of life, yet death still stands in the distance unassailbly shrouded in the same confusion I felt as a child when I first contemplated it.
A lambent, ghoulish light continued to glow in the room. The moon was intentionally hiding. I was starting to experience bizarre overlapping sensations.
I heard the sounds of light, the smell of flowers became visible in the room’s glow. Smog painted the walls with her terminal darkness while blood dripped into the plaster cracks like a joker’s smile. My sensations exchanged data with emotions and an uncoiling happened releasing my insides into the stillness that was too much for the moment to hold behind its dam.
Swelling hopes for the past met their grief-stricken progeny now kneeling in pain. The tightrope connecting these two worlds slackened. There would always be an obscure connection but it was too painful for these dueling worlds to co-exist and see each other while time stopped.
Overtures of romance and kinship
Fought through the growling mob
Where tortured feelings
Strike at the balance-wall
While unfulfilled promises
Fight through the barricades
With blows of broken glass
And finding soft peace
In the acceptance of surrender
I made my amends to her ghost. The floor vibrated under my feet. My boots with thick socks inside felt caught in marshlands and mossy waters. The carpet sunk under me. I was losing my footing. I saw an hourglass. There were iridescent colors of coral and abalone in the sand collected on the bottom.
I took one last look at her mortal countenance. There was a constitutional hardness to her face that added to the emotionless silence left in the room. I felt the hallowed caverns she began to construct while she was alive. Those places that served as her dark refuge. I saw the jagged rocks and bear-crawled over the prayer-stones to find those private rooms where she started to die, a little at a time, while she was still alive. The spaces she might have found solace in where cell by cell she decomposed slowly while waking, slower while sleeping. A process no one else noticed. I tried to find those secret places, see them and say another prayer and maybe now, she had left all those entirely and had no reason to ever return.