Globe Without Goodbye – The Cave (3)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

Jeffrey approached the cave slowly. After he had looked at gray for so long, the peach rock of the cave, with its shallow tan cracks that turned mahogany as they ran deeper, blazed in his vision. Then he realized the world around the cave had changed. No more gray sky; now, not a single cloud marred its blue. Nor did a sun, moon, or stars. Beneath this impossible sky, the weathered surfaces of the dunes were the palest brown possible. Jeffrey turned to look at the ocean, and whistled involuntarily.

He had never seen anything so beautiful before. The water jumped with color! Its hues ran from the deepest depths of midnight blue up into teal, and then higher, brighter, striated with lines of electric blue. Jeffrey felt like he could stare at these vibrant ocean blues for the rest of his life, until he remembered the cave, and felt curious about what its darkness hid.   He should be able to fit through its entrance.

He looked again at the cave. Its shape reminded him of cartoon depictions of igloos. Was it a natural formation? He looked hard at it, but could not make up his mind on this point. Its isolation at the water’s edge prevented it from looking truly natural, but its craggy surface didn’t seem crafted either. Rocks around its base prevented him from discerning whether it welled up from beneath the sand, or if it had been constructed.  He did not find its appearance threatening, but at the same time he felt no more desire to laugh; the cave’s mystery constrained his sense of freedom. The regal ocean behind him still did not make the susurrate sounds that it should. The calm remained eerie. As he considered the cave, he felt somber.

The thought occurred to Jeffrey to look back the way that he had come. Would he see his tracks? He did, and he felt relief.   When he had ran more enthusiastically, he had torn up the sand. Observing the distance between his tracks and the beautiful water, he reasoned that the tide had yet to come in.  How low could the tide sink in this dream, he wondered. More importantly, what was inside the cave? It looked serene, almost friendly despite its mystery. It might be a good place to rest after his long run.

In case the cave’s appearance concealed a threat, Jeffrey picked a fist-sized rock out of the sand. The dark tan of the damp rock contrasted with his pale hand. He didn’t particularly want to enter the cave armed, but his circumstances required prudence. If he died in this dream, what would happen to him in real life? The blackness beyond the cave’s entrance hovered, waiting for him.

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week: Jeffrey enters the cave, where he discovers a doll – and a skeleton…

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore, continued (2)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

Could he be dreaming? Jeffrey did not usually remember his dreams upon waking. In fact, as he stood there stiff as a board on the most alien shore he had ever seen, he could not remember ever having a dream. But he had heard of them, had heard other people talking about them. Perhaps he was dreaming!

This possibility excited him. He had heard of lucid dreaming – awareness of dreaming as it happened – and had always felt jealous of people who could do it. Supposedly, knowing you dreamt enabled control of the dream. Lucid dreamers could do magical things, like fly!

Jeffrey decided to test his idea. He stood at his full height, stretched his arms to either side, and filled his mind with thoughts of flight. Birds. Airplanes. Superman. He tried to jump into the air. He landed back on the sand, thudding a bit deeper into its wetness, and felt ridiculous. He could not fly.

But he felt certain he was dreaming! The first dream of his life that he could recognize. He had heard wonderful stories about dreams. Prophets learned cosmic secrets through them. People talked about them with therapists to learn deep and intense truth. Could he learn something in this dream that he could not learn by pushing paper in circles at his office?

With that thought, he began to run forward up the beach, as fast as he could run. He didn’t look behind him again. He didn’t question the unchanging intensity of the light. The clouds in the sky never let blue through. In fact, when he paused to slow his heart, he realized that the texture of cloud cover hadn’t changed at all. The air hung still. Only two things moved in this quiet world: Jeffrey Hamen, and the unceasing waves, so muffled, so gray. He felt curious about what lay beyond the dunes, but he knew that if he left the shore, he might get lost. He did not need to get lost in this world. So he ran up the shore, as fast as he could sprint or as slow as he could pace himself.

Sometimes, when he could breathe deeply enough, he laughed. Just a bit.   After having decided that the stern but peaceful landscape was only a dream, he now felt perfect freedom. He wanted to stay for a very long time. When that sense of freedom crested up into happiness, he laughed; every time, his laughter sounded emptier than the nonexistent wind. The strangeness of it would kill his happiness, so he would stop laughing and pay attention to running. Forget about the anxiety. Feel free instead.

He was laughing when he first saw the entrance to the cave in the distance. It was the first thing he had seen that was different in – an hour? Two hours? He’d been running for a long time. He wondered what the cave concealed, and let his laughter die.

Thank you for reading! Coming up next week:  Jeffrey examines the mysterious cave.

If you are enjoying Globe Without Goodbye, please support my writing on Patreon.

Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1)

To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

When Jeffrey Hamen came to his senses, he knew he had never before seen this shore.  He stood on bare feet, on gray sand.  Dark water stretched out to his right.  Gray dunes sloped up to his left.  He recognized the clothes he wore as his favorite jeans and long-sleeved shirt, strangely leached of color.  Slate clouds completely hid the sun.  His shadow hovered beneath him, soft and purposeless.

Jeffrey could last remember driving home from his office job, wearing work clothes, on a specific Thursday afternoon in May.  He had been frustrated as he drove, like usual after work; he always felt like a shark in a tank full of minnows at his job.  None of his co-workers seemed to understand his ambitions. Unsurprising, as he couldn’t articulate those ambitions very well, even in his own mind.  They ruled him despite his lack of understanding.  Jeffrey sometimes mused about how Christopher Columbus would have felt if born into a world where the West Indies had been charted for centuries – without the knack for hard science that made a good job at NASA possible.

Jeffrey never encountered a larger body of water on his drive home from work than a retention pond, designed to prevent suburban flooding during the seasonal thunderstorms that plague the Midwestern U.S. But instead of that tame pond, when he turned to his right and strained his disbelieving eyes, he saw…

The mother of all oceans.

Perhaps not an ocean.  He had visited Lake Michigan a few times in his life, and it too had stretched across the horizon.  So perhaps this was not actually the mother of all oceans – who talked like that, anyway; perhaps this was just Lake Michigan on a very cloudy day.  His memory tugged at him.  Dunes.  Lake Michigan had dunes.  In Indiana, right?  If this were Lake Michigan, and those were Indiana Dunes, if he walked forward far enough, wouldn’t he find Chicago?  Couldn’t he get home?

How far had he walked already?

He turned away from the water to look for his footprints.  He should have left  prints in the damp sand. Waves hadn’t touched his feet for as long as he had stood still; the tide must have been low. What he needed to regain a sense of normalcy was to see his own footprints.  He didn’t like the quiet –the lack of birdsong, or other animal noises. No  natural water sounds.  Really he didn’t like anything about this scenario, but as long as he saw his footprints, things would be normal enough to figure out what to do –

Nothing.  No tracks. Not his, or anyone’s, or anything’s.  The gray sand was blank as a fortune-teller’s crystal ball.

He considered yelling for help, but the fear washing up from his stomach told him to keep the element of surprise while looking for others who might be around. He felt unsafe confronted by so much neutrality.  How he had come to this place?

Jeffrey stood, stiff as an oaken floorboard that no one has stepped on for thirty years.  For the first time, he had no road map.  His parents and teachers had once served in that function.  By the time he had moved out of his parents’ home, Jeffrey had internalized how to move through a day.  He knew a routine of work, a routine of socializing, a routine of quiet private time.  Now all of that had been stripped away.

He had adapted well enough to deal with other circumstances that had jarred him out of his routines in the past – minor setbacks, great joys – but nothing had prepared him for transport to a featureless beach beside the mother of all oceans with no tracks and no sounds to guide him.

At least he was wearing his favorite shirt.

Lyn’s Essays: On Marriage (Year 3)

I can remember thinking, more than ten years ago, that I wanted a relationship like the one described in the Liz Phair song “Favorite”, in which she compares her lover to a well-worn pair of underwear.

Don’t look sexy, but it just feels right

not too dirty and it’s not too tight

why I never threw it out, I’ll never know exactly why

keep it in a drawer beside my bed

it’s faded pink now, but it used to be red

starting to fray at the seams, but I know that you still love me like you did, like before

like we will be doing it once more

In Year 3 of marriage, I think I got my wish.  Joel and I are comfortable with each other now in a way I’ve never experienced before and have trouble describing.  I wouldn’t say we finish each other’s sentences, but we do follow each other’s train of thought, and often I notice Joel pointing out something I was about to say.  We don’t argue the way we did when we were starting out.  We know each other’s signals and nine times out of ten, when one of us starts to push a button and the signals begin, the button-pusher says “Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you, let’s try this a different way?”  It’s been long enough since I raised my voice at Joel that neither of us can remember how long it’s been (I just asked him, no idea).

To use another clothing image, the relationship is like a good pair of jeans.  Great for everyday wear, and broken in.

In some ways, I feel like we still act like it’s new.  We talk about our love most days, often more than once in a day.  Joel still does ridiculous things like goofy dances and acting out stories to get me to smile.  I still tease him.  And from an economic perspective, we’re still behind the curve – neither one of us has made much career advancement.  We’re in a one-bedroom apartment with a cat while our friends are buying houses and starting families.  Spiderbee continues to buzz out of reach.  But every night we tell each other how we feel, what we are grateful for from each other, what we need from each other, and what we are sorry about.  And every day, we are in love.

Leave you lying on the bedroom floor

leave you hanging on the bathroom door

take you for granted, but I’ll always know exactly where you are

lost you once, you were hard to find

got you back, you didn’t look like mine

thought we were falling apart, but you make me feel so pretty like you did, like before

like we will be doing it once more

Oh baby, know what you’re like?  You’re like my favorite underwear

It just feels right (you know it)

Oh baby, know how you feel? You feel like my favorite underwear

and I’m slipping you on again tonight

rock me and roll me, hold me tight

tear me apart and make me new… like you always do.

Here’s to another year together.