So we’re ambling along a sunny vale in the countryside, punctuated with old stones strewn along the sloping green. Everyone’s vacationing here; most of us are off receiving the summer wind as it feathers the far off and surrounding trees, or are otherwise busying each other with fleeting exchanges. A gravel pathway cuts into the hillside and points down to that overgrown monument, an immense figurehead enveloped with wild air steaming from the grounds around the stone. And there, walking up the gravel path he emerges through a staccato of birds with this silly smile, no doubt directed at my open reverie.
He gets right to it and shakes my hand. It eases the news: he’s resigned as my colleague and has readied himself to leave this place. We say nothing more, and then he goes, waving at me one last time before turning back down the path. Crunch crunch crunch away, the breath of the hillside swallows him whole. Another in his wake approaches, shakes my hand, and says goodbye, obfuscated in celestial sunshine.
But it’s not until she approaches me, beaming, to tell me of her decision to leave that I confront it at all. Her smile simply continues, and together with the brightness of the vale it turns me. She laughs big and directly, tells me she’ll miss me, that ‘you’ll be great’ with regards to my commitment to the organization. She turns and slopes away, crunch crunch crunch, and with her exit into the trees the whole long bright scene grows dark from a sudden incoming and roiling storm.
The basement of the organization is small, reasonably lit and survives our assembled rows of commercial office supplies, dusty surfaces with dead-pan computer equipment, storage bins stuffed with products or neatly filed — depending on the week — and correctly labeled. It feels crowded and cold. Two footsteps slowly down the iron stairs reveal a young man and woman in morning.
The woman has tall, porcelain skin, her head surrounded by microscopic buzzing insects, deep sunken eyes glow iridescent, hair bleached and dried out from bleaching. She stares only into the concrete floor. I know her — we worked together years ago, before she had snapped and left the city for the road, leaving her well regulated future all bagged up and tossed out with the garbage onto the sidewalks of Brooklyn. She holds a defeated gesture now, resigned to a new fate, one wherein her night has ended. I see her child, less than a year old, and her lithe body having become bent by the child, by the world.
Having no business other than it’s own, the world came at her viciously once she supposed a scheme to shudder off her cultural imprint, and unveiled the tendrils slithering forth to apprehend her… and the child, feeling this spectre seize her protector, would learn to walk with a spike cast through her little heart like a harpoon, made of the same insidious material as this spectral binding. I see her pulling this whole scene behind her much to the same music as my mother did, a beaten drum with the skin pulled too taut, the distant thuds still reverberating. The world dropped her off here, child in tow, so as to cast its net over her and her new little future.
The man is thin and pale, his thick hair licked violently and hung over his face like a mossy overgrowth. He has the face of a young man who never smiles and yet is smiling brightly, alighting his insides through pimply, translucent skin. He died in the world years ago, which may be why he only sighed and didn’t speak. But the sigh was enough to wash over me all the emotion of a man as confused as I am, yet held the courage to delve into the dark infinity of his mind. The glow that confronted him there, in this nothingness, pulled him away from love. I think it killed him, but I lost him long enough ago that I can never be quite sure of that. He was mad, possibly brilliant, and always had the face of a man encaged by his own tyrannical brain. His face here however, in this office basement full of cold things, stands illuminated and peaceful. His eyes, half open, watching. I couldn’t stand it to see him broken, or her for that matter, down here together with me forever with the ugliness of the world.
And I am gone as suddenly as I arrived, speeding up a steep hill in a large black SUV on a dirt track alongside the vale. I’m with my love in the back seat, and someone I know is driving but I can only see a blurred mass. Outside, it all rolls on through a blur of trees: the hot green hillside, the monuments ablaze with memory, the sun above, and beyond a deciduous sea. We’re fast approaching a bridge over a narrow ravine, the old planks firm and dark and silent as we pass over. Only in the way of dreams could this moment be so brief and so infinite.
A decade of bridges in my dreams rushed forth. Bridges shrouded in heavy blackness, or broken, and with such immensity as to become the path of my world. And my attempts to traverse them failing. Massive concrete and steel melted and crumbling into a vast river. The bridge of the night city shone only by flashlight, and me there too scared to pass. They were all my colossus, and I stood forever in the shadow of it’s gaze waiting, trying, then waiting again. It loomed with the birds and the big planes and it wasted no dream on me. Me, too scared to fall the dream would flicker just as I failed each ascent, flicker and restart the way games do, or the music you love too deeply. We pass over the little bridge and continue towards the top of the hill.
The SUV rolls to a halt at a perpendicular dirt pathway as we reach the apex. The path is dark from travel. We exit the vehicle and begin to poke around the surrounding area to figure where we are and why we stopped. Through the woods a little way sits a small New England victorian-style home. It’s unremarkable in almost every sense, except for the presence of a large present wrapped in shimmering metallic paper placed outside the front door. The bowed ribbon polka-dotted red yellow red. Down the road some is another house, exactly as my grandparents house when I was a child. Placed neatly outside on the sill is a present, similar in size and color to the first one.
Suddenly I see it all around us, and I begin to lose it. The houses, stretching off into the distance both ways away from the car are all the homes of my dreams. Every one of them i’d visited previously except now they stood together beneath the sun dappled canopy proposing gifts. They are each welcoming me to them, welcoming me inside. For so many years I had cautiously walked their hallways, feared their dark basements and quiet bedrooms, slipped through their cracks and secret doors. I had been wormed my way through them, landed on their ancient rotten doorways and crawled through to the musty underbelly and to the other side I emerged reluctantly onto a new path, a train track or an open field spread open before me. The old loneliness and empty spaces collapsed together, and new sweet vines were growing, and were looking to tangle upwards.
My love held me close, held me like a lover should hold you, and I gave.