Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Goes Before KC Trip Day One

now that I have figured out what this rambling thing is about, I will be creating pieces that fit inside the original 30 page document. So hold on, we are going to jump around quite a bit for the remaining 19 days...

She stood at the closet, doors flung wide, trying intermittently to shake loose the nightmare and to plan her wardrobe for the day. She hadn’t had that particular terror visit her at night for years—knew that it must be linked to the fact that she was headed on this journey into the past, yes, that was why it was now resurfacing.
But wait, she remembers, of course she has set out her clothes for today, all ready to go as soon as she woke. She closes the door on the closet carefully, its contents fairly emaciated anyway as she is all packed for the week. She had carefully considered what she wanted to wear on the long car journey, which warranted comfort, balanced with the desire to look her best as she met her friend for the first time in 27 years.

One pant leg after another, noting as an aside her increased balance—all those workouts and runs were paying off even at this late stage in her life—and her mind thus satisfied moved back to the disturbing dream.

She had had this dream on a routine basis for as long as she could remember. Of course, that was not as long as most people who were her age. She had heard her friends speak of memories from their second and third year—considering it a fault, she did not often tell them that her first memories started ten years later than theirs.

Creamy turtleneck sweater pulled over her wild hair, she plugged in the straightening iron he daughter had taught her to use. She glanced in the mirror to determine how much work was ahead of her—was gratified to see that the color her daughter had applied in the salon last week had tamed her tresses a bit, and she’d probably only have to yank the branding hot iron through her hair for a half hour or so to get things under control.

Control—now there was a word that probably spoke a bit about the dream. She’d been tested and analyzed and advised like so many of her mates in the 90’s, and so she knew the jargon. Chances were, they said, that the lost memories were a protective device called into service by her mind. They slyly implied that something quite shocking had happened to her—but no, she was not going to turn that trip trap over in her mind again, no time, not if she wanted to stay on schedule. Still, while brushing her teeth the dream came back to her. She had noticed that running water always stimulated her mind, she got great ideas in the bath and while doing dishes, and even, if she was not fighting her gag reflex, while brushing her teeth. Another mystery that, why was she so sensitive to anything being in her mouth? Of course, anything other than food and drink that is, she seemed to have no problem keeping that down she observed as she patted her ample belly. Ah, that belly, they had grown to be close friends by this time, as they had been in each other’s company for over 22 years, it arriving and settling in to stay right about the time of her second child’s birth. They went through rough stages, at times she hated it, especially when the answer to, “Oh, when are you due to deliver?” had to be met with the honest, “Eight years ago.” She was practical though and realized she was fortunate to have extra long legs. Fortunate that she carried her weight primarily in one spot. She daydreamed again about finding out she was carrying a benign 15 pound tumor in there. Being told it could be taken out simply in an overnight at the hospital, followed by eight glorious weeks spent recovering in the company of a swarm of books and a carafe of coffee. Ah dreams, what a crazy one that was, she didn’t need a psychologist to tell her that. As if the accumulated troubles we pick up along the years could be cut out in a moment, and all put back to right and leave no damage behind.

She sighed. The nightmare from last night catching her attention again. The setting was an odd one, the sewing room in her grandparents home in rural North Dakota. Everything was beige, which is probably accurate, her grandmother not being the cheerful sort, nor one to be concerned about decorating. She knew from asking her mother, that she often slept in that room when they went back to Grandpa and Grandpa’s house, back to North Dakota where she had been born and her brother, and where she had lived, right next to the grandparents, and then on a farm a few miles away until she was seven. Seven years, and yet she has only one small memory that she thinks might be her own.

Like the dream, it is another setting near bedtime. She thinks it is a summer evening, for the light is fading but has not yet left the sky. It is looking in the window, warming the wooden built in drawers that march down one wall of her room, and she hears her mother making comforting noises of cleaning up dishes in the kitchen, occasionally entering into conversation with her father. The feeling she has when drawing up this memory is a complex one of comfort and discontent. Perhaps she petulant about having to be in bed before dark, but also enjoying the familiar sounds of her parents taking care of the business of their home. It is a mere wisp of a memory for sure, and may still be proved to be not her own, for she can almost hear her mother telling the story and showing her a picture. But no, she will claim this as her own. They moved from that yellow house next to Grandpa and Grandma’s when she was not quite six, so that would be a nice early memory to be able to claim. Still, she is unsure.

That time feels so lost to her. The location of the houses, the things they did during the day, the schools they attended, all these facts are supplied by her mother on the occasions she seeks to reach back to that time. So is this nightmare about the sewing room a fragment of something from her past? She doesn’t know, is never sure. It certainly doesn’t make sense; she is sleeping on a little cot there, it is late afternoon or early morning. The light coming in through the high awning windows enters the room weakly and at a deep slant, that is how she knows the time. Of course in northern North Dakota, in winter, this could be very early in the afternoon indeed. She does find it entertaining and a bit perplexing that the quality of the light is so integral to both the dream and the memory. Was this an early indication that she would have interests in the finer things, painting and photography, literature and music of the enduring sort?

She hears her little boy stirring in his bed, and hurries to pack up her toothbrush and the few other toiletries she left out for the morning. Her last bag is now by the door, the rest already in the car, again to assure a quick exit. Was she allowing enough time? She hadn’t made this trip in a decade, and hadn’t factored in any road construction.

Road construction – that phrase again pulled her back to the dream, for a type of construction is taking place there. First, the young girl on the cot, herself she had always believed, hears the sound of a washing machine chugging and sloshing a load through its paces. This sound is regular and insistent, and she realizes it has the gallop of a heartbeat as well, a heartbeat that is getting louder and faster as the little girl wakes. Right from the start there is a feeling of fear, getting stronger as the various elements unwind. She peeks open an eye and sees her grandmother’s sewing machine first. This helps her know where she is, but doesn’t explain the noise she is hearing.

And then, on the edge of her vision she sees that it is neither a washing machine or a heartbeat she is hearing, for the sound is syncopated perfectly to the bricks. Yes, the room is filling up on the inside with red bricks, mysteriously appearing like a video game just in time to stack one level at a time around and around the room, faster and faster. Although the windows are high in the wall, they will be covered over soon, and the door is already half inaccessible. This scares her, terror engulfs her to the point of making a scream impossible, breathing difficult. Still, the mounting bricks march on.

This is usually the point where she wakes, and it is also now the point where her hair is straightened and the iron, is tucked into an outer pocket of her final bag to finish cooling. A flash of orange and her little boy has flown into her bed, burrowing beneath the pile of pillows and making his usual morning squeaking noises. She grabs him and gives him a morning tickle and then a quick kiss, and turns around to find her husband stretching awake and hoping for his own greeting. The joy of snuggling them both chases the dregs of the dream away, and it doesn’t reenter her mind again.

Ten minutes later she and her husband enter the elevator, he carrying her final bag, always the gentleman. She must look worried, probably the residue of the dream, because for once she doesn’t feel her normal panic setting in upon heading out to try something new. Still something is in the air and he asks, “Are you worried?” She kisses his cheek and returns, “Worried about what?” wondering what he has sensed. “That we are going to kill each other when you are gone?” he quips, bringing to the forefront the volatile place the relationship between her husband and her youngest son has reached at this stage in their lives. “No, I think you will get along famously.” She makes the words a prayer and sends it to her God. Positive thinking does in fact make a difference, and God certainly can work that minor miracle. He chuckles, holds open her door, tucks her case in the backseat and wishes her a safe journey. And then she is off.

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