I have decided to publish my first and only unfinished, at this point, novel here in order to be rid of it. Much like Nabokov, not in quality unfortunately, I must finish it, but can’t at this point due to time and attention constraints. This will be one way of blogging, editing and exorcising it to an end. So with all its many flaws here is the first installment of many.
River Of Dreams
Sunset on the luna sea
Leaves between you and me
Nothing but the right to be
And ripples drifting silently
In the swirl of the fading dream, a memory of the turquoise water off Cabo San Lucas took its place as he fell into consciousness. The firmness of the mattress came under him, and Random felt her breath on the side of his face, her soft sighing in his ear.
She wasn’t there. It was before all this, all these years of struggle and searching for the right way to be together. Then there was only friends and fantasies and time to fill.
On the ferry from Mazatlan, he had been sick with strep throat and slowly coming out of a feverish fog and nausea of seasickness. He hardly remembered leaving the little white sand island with the one little cantina and the one-room, stucco, chicken wire cottage on the beach they rented for a few pesos a day from the woman who ran the open air fish stand next to the cantina. At night there was the oompa oompa from the mariachi music on the jukebox coming through the walls.
The old woman stood in the grease-covered kitchen under the thatch roof with no running water to clean the dishes. She sold fried fish and green coconuts, tops lopped off with a machete and a straw stuck in for the juice. After a long night of Mariachi oompas, she apologized. She had no fish to cook. The fisherman where too drunk to fish.
All this came back to him with the question.
His friends left him at an inn in Cabo, and headed north on the bus, while he lay weak and feverish dozing with just enough consciousness to drink the sodas that they had bought and take the antibiotics. Random woke up the next day feeling almost well, but alone in Mexico with just enough money to make it back to Tijuana and the border. His calmness surprised him. He had never been alone on the road before.
He went out to get something to eat and find out where to catch the bus.
Then he knew why Mexico. He was alone and relying on nobody else to get him through. And, it was O.K., a little scary but not at all overwhelming. He could handle anything after that. He had to believe everything would work out for the best.
Random thought of Essie, as she began to softly snore. Should he leave and let her sort it out, or wait and see? He saw the edge of the waterfall and the current was dragging him near to the point of where he could not avoid the roaring chaos.
He moved rolling toward Essie, putting one arm over her side. They were face to face. Her breath was a little stale. She wrinkled up her nose and eyes, squinching her face down and then relaxing. He closed his eyes.
He thought of the crowded bus that took him to Mulege. The seats and center aisle were full of people and animals. A squat, dark woman in a flowered dress stood in front of him as he clung to the edge of a seat. She held a chicken under her arm its head tucked away the tail feathers just inches from his nose. Every time the bus took a curve he got a face full of feathers.
When the bus reached Mulege, the bus driver told them that flash floods had washed out sections of the road up the coast, they would have to wait for another bus the following evening to take them up the Baja peninsula. Random found a room at a little inn and went to the store in the town plaza, a square with a simple fountain in the center. He asked the man at the store about the bus and found out it would come about 6 in the evening. He bought some cottage cheese, bread and a tomato and headed back across the dusty plaza. It amazed him that about a hundred miles north it had rained so hard that it washed roads out. Here dust rose around each step he took.
He got up at 8 am and made a sign that said TIJUANA and walked a little ways out of the town on the highway. He stood, sat, squatted, leaned, and paced holding his sign up to the few passing vehicles that seemed to be held together with prayer. AT 4 in the afternoon, he gave up, and trudged back to the plaza to wait for the bus.
In the plaza, a group of boys from a middle class school sat around on their parent’s hand-me-down luggage. They were all dressed in neat new clothes all nicely pressed. He felt squalid next to them in his dirty clothes and carrying his dusty backpack. He could not recall when he had last bathed as if the dust and sweat had become part of his body like a strange glue somehow holding him together.
A boy of about 15 came up to him smiling and nodded and said in carefully practiced English, “Are you reech? You are American, right?”
Random gave a silent closed mouth laugh and shook his head. “No just not as poor, maybe.”
He talked with the boy about America, a little in English and a little in Spanish until the bus came roaring and rattling into to the plaza and wheezed to a stop.
The bus bounced and bumped through the night up and across the Baja peninsula past the beer can and plaster shanties and empty dust choked wastelands now magically without water. Random dozed and dreamed the whole way and woke many times to the voices of the boys in the back laughing and singing and arguing in loud friendly voices.
Essie rolled away and groaned. Random moved to her putting his arm over her side again and pressing up against her back. He heard the soft sighing snore.
The baja night rolled into a blazing dawn with silhouetted dunes and the dark slate ocean stretched to the west. There was a stop in Ensenada and little bare foot boys came up to the bus shouting, “Chicle, Chicle,” holding up their slim packs of gum. Random stayed on the bus. His body felt like dirt and ache. He was ready to go home.
When the bands of sun through the blinds woke him, he was alone. Essie’s side of the bed was neatly folded to. Random lay there trying to figure out what part of the memory had been a dream. He still felt dirty and his body was tired to bone. He shuffled into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Washed quickly and just stood letting the hot water run down his shoulders and back. He stepped out of the shower and went back into the bedroom. As he looked through his drawers he began to notice that all of Essie’s things were gone, at least all the things that mattered. He went to the closet and saw his shirts and suits, slacks, ties and belt. None of her things remained. How had she packed so quietly? He was a light sleeper. Essie often woke him up just by entering the room late at night. They had had fights about it as he had to get up early, and she worked mostly from home.
He looked around for a note even though he knew he would not find one. She was gone, and he would hear from her when she was ready. That’s the way she was when he found her. Actually it was Jered that found her on his way down the Orinoco River. Jered was one of his traveling buddies in Mexico.
Jered brought her back by using his father’s influence in the state department. Random met her in Steve’s funky basement room in Berkeley at the five-year reunion of their sudden departure from the conservation corps where they had met and the Mexico trip that followed a few weeks later. As the night passed into to early morning, and the stories came from deeper places, Random caught glimpses of drama that she wore like a cloak around her.
Jered held her loosely. It was the only way to hold her—she did not fall into traps. Jered was the same way. He always went his way, and he let you know if you were part of his plans. Random was always surprised when Jered included him.
When Essie showed up the apartment on Buchanan the summer after the reunion, he felt overwhelmed with confusion and a feeling of unworthiness, as if a goddess had come to his door asking for help.
Random drank his coffee and sifted through memories that formed tangents and branched out into his life of the last 10 years. He had always known she would leave, because he would try to hold her, demand some commitment so he could breathe again. He had been holding his breath since the day she walked into his apartment fiery tears of rage flying. Jered was gone!
“He dint eben leafay a fuckeen note or nuthin’, Man that bastard! If I eber fine heem I keel him!”
She raged and paced, and as he watched, his heart melted down and molded into a shape that would hold her gently. But, he could never trust the shape and had to every now and then work on the extensions like bars of a cage he hoped to finish before she escaped.
He reached out and touched her shoulder, and asked her if she wanted to go out for some lunch, and they could talk more.
Random took another sip of coffee and decided he needed something to eat, but what. Toast maybe some honey. Yeh, that would work. He didn’t want more than that. He had to put all this into some kind of picture of the rest of his life, or at least the rest of today.