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It was an island. A temperate climate may be assumed. Caribbean? Perhaps. Maybe farther north? south? east? west? Perhaps. But there were no people there. It was warm, but that’s only unnatural in the extreme climes of the world. A sandy beach shrugged its disillusion with the world. If the beach were full of people, the sound of the waves would be drowned by the sighs of relief gasped by its patrons. As it was, I lay there alone. Like a stingray, I buried my body into sand enclaves waiting for movement to pass above me. Everything seemed safe.
Lonely, yes, but very safe. The sun hung in the sky, but I was not bothered by its presence. I felt neither burn nor squint affect my being. The generous mist from the water did not cling to your skin and burrow into your bones. It generated life and feeling, but it did not overwhelm you with the beingness of living. I lay my head back and allowed my head to mould into the sand bed around me. My arms extended and nonchalantly buried, as I opened my hands to the universe absorbing its micro-vibrations.
Pulsating through my body, I could feel life. I was alive, but it was the second thought. First I felt life, then I felt alive. They are two different feelings. Their order depends on your connection to your inward being. Life stirs in you, gently nudging you into existence. But feeling alive, those are the explosions that abrasively thrash you into being. The sweet pleasure of biting down on a sore tooth. A sour orange that causes you to shrink your face in delight. The feeling when a lover lingers over your face, slowly, tantalizingly, teasingly leaning in to kiss you. The passion. The delight. The love.
It was calm and slow-moving. An eternity had passed, yet it could not have been so long. Without clock, calendar, or sooth-sayer, time was immaterial—as it always is. Hah! I could not awaken. I lay there feeling that eternity within me.
A disturbance caused me to stir. A small beast, asleep nearby, hiccoughed in sleep: yelp! yelp! yelp! The frightened being twitched at the resonance of each yel- and fell into deathly stillness at the p. I rolled over, hair falling into my face, sand raining from my body, and I placed my hand gingerly upon the heart of the beast. Suddenly the fear was snuffed and a small smile could be felt throughout our bodies. Gentle, operatic snores replaced the fear within the beast. Smiling, I moved back to the imprint of my body. In a mock outer-body experience, I smiled at the negative space. Appearing much larger than my form, I confronted the duality of the space. Here I gazed; there, I no longer was.
As I nestled into the comatose reality of being and non-being, a sound recalled me to the world-as-it-is. A familiar voice called my name. Ah, the friend-of-a-friend, for whom I nurtured a soft-spot. His mouth curved over my name and butterflies soared. Actually, they soared. A canopy of them swam from the sea and entangled themselves in the affairs of our hearts. He ran deliciously across the beach towards my unrealities. Suddenly, questions of being and non-being were throttled back as the physical world of doing overwhelmed the tenses that confused before. A new verb, if you will.
He grabbed my hand. “Hello!”
“Hiya!” I softly cooed, happily.
“I didn’t think anyone else was here.” He said. I didn’t reply. Sometimes, when you have a lot to say, nothing can be said. He looked at me, expectantly. Still, I said nothing. “Hm,” he mumbled, “so, have you heard from Agatha lately?”
“Actually, yes. We spoke yesterday about this book I was reading. But, I’ve been changing books faster than a race car driver shifts gears. Only difference is that I never finish one. Weirdly.” It was a poorly statement. Indeed, inside, I had retracted my promise to live in the present. Before my eyes Huysmans’s Paris swam before my eyes, little cafés filled the air with the merging scents of frosty white wine, freshly ground coffee beans, and petite madeleines. How does one share those thoughts? How do they become communicable?
“Right,” He said. “So, do you want to come run an errand with me?”
Compelled, I responded in the affirmative. He guided me towards a vespa. We climbed upon it and began our journey at a comical pace. Yet, now that our bodies were so close, conversation flowed easily. Is there a relational proximity that dissolves self-awareness, inhibition, and fear? Does physical presence reduce the desire to slip into the cognitive abyss?
Recently, he had been on an trip over the hills and under the mountains. He detailed how his travels had shaped him, changed him, altered his senses of reality. Now, he was different. Before, he claimed, he had just been a shell of a being. Of course, these claims always sound so mystifying and intoxicating as the speaker says them. Magical. A spell is cast over my soul because I covet growth. Growth shows passion and love for the world, an intrinsic curiosity that sparks my soul.
I gasp at all the right places, laugh and giggle, and flatter. I share my own stories of my travels, unsure that I’ve grown at all. I feel slightly un-dertraveled, un-knowledgable, un-worthy. Occasionally, I discuss things I’ve read. Is it still my life if I’ve read these things from another’s mind? No, stop it. Pay attention.
The scenery unwinds into luscious valleys of trees. Gentle and rolling hills push and pull our bodies clumsily into one another as we drive on. This all feels safe. We arrive at a set of storage lockers. The island felt uninhabited, how can there be storage lockers. As we dismount the vespa and check our teeth for bugs, we walk towards the lockers. A key glimmers in his hand.
He looks down at me from his tall, graceful stature. I lift my hand towards his with the key, but he pulls this one away from me. He opens his palm and shows me the key.
“We have to deliver a package. We’ll have to go into the waters and swim to our destination,” he says. I do not question this. We walk into the centre of the maze of lockers. Fearing a minotaur, I keep track of the twists and turns. It would be ludicrous to start unravelling a ball of yarn now! We arrive at the locker. He attempts to steady me with a meaningful look, but I am not prepared for what is inside.
A sea of white.
Package upon package of what seems to be a drug. “Cocaine,” he whispers. I am not sure I can back out now. I swallow and, eyes wide, I nod. He does not tell me that he has to do this to save someone. Nor does he tell me he is doing it for the money. He just does it. I do not question it. Remember? We changed verbs. He lifts the package and places it in my arms. He grabs another package. I sweat and suppress a soft chuckle—the yarn seems less ridiculous now.
The journey back to the beach seems less easy-going. Of course, everything has changed. That is glaringly obvious. A cloud of being trapped eclipses all earlier feelings of freedom. To be or not to be is irrelevant. He tells me that we’ll both swim with a package to the next island. The waters are free from any threat and not cold. In fact, he says steadily, they’re quite warm. I don’t ask how many times he’s done this. How many love-sick friends he’s tricked into this. But I wasn’t tricked, I didn’t ask. I never asked.
I dove into the water. The warmth of the water immediately warmed my soul. One cannot continue to feel overwhelmed by fear and anxiety when they reach their element. Submerged, I swam. The water parted and played with my hair. Gentler than wind, the water kissed my skin and urged me forward. Swimming was beautiful. Fear was an unrecognized concept.
We reached the next island. An island surrounded by choppy waters. Inhospitable. I wondered how cocaine could serve anyone on this island. But the thoughts were short-lived. The water powerfully jostled us as through we were in a bowl of jello on changing fault lines. We arrived, and he took the package I brought with me. He left me, and he disappeared inland. He returned. He brought coconut cookies and coffee. We sat in silence.
“So,” I choked out, breaking the silence, “are we going back?” He studied my face for some time. Perhaps it was too indefinite a question—leaning towards abstraction. How do we go back from that? He answered my question in the practical and literal sense:
“No. We go home.”
We arrived home. It felt broken. Everything. As I walked through the front door of my house, hair tangled and free flowing, I saw them. The police had camped outside my door.
Reality. A real location. Real consequences. Cops stood in lines…endless lines of donut-chewing cops. Coffee cups littered the street. A true crime, I thought. Surely, not what I did.
I walked into the kitchen—sobbing. Barely able to breathe, the pressure of the truth collapsing my lungs. I tried to explain as my parents stood around me. I could not speak. I saw it all spiralling into nothingness. Negative space triumphant.
Again, another outer-body experience. The scene played before me. The music of the scene was full-bodied, like the taste of a rich-flavoured chianti. The actual sounds of the scene muted, as the violins wailed their truth over all. Slowly angelic voices cried their sorrow. Their implicit judgement over badness telling the audience how to see the scene before them.
She deserves this.
Where was the beast who would awaken me from this nightmare?