I’d never make it in paradise. I ask too many questions of management, stuffed animals don’t make me feel warm or cozy, and I stir up trouble when I get bored.
I swallow hard against a lump in my throat and then shiver with a sudden chill. For a moment I hope that the dream I am emerging from will shatter into unrecoverable fragments. It never does.
I don’t think we can judge the portent of our dreams until we can tell them to someone else. A dream is loaded with energy which can only be discharged at the time of telling. But some pain is so precious that we dare not risk losing it through revelation. If I were to tell about my last moments with Holly, I would lose them forever. I would feel guilt rather than pain.
How could I tell my friend, Noel, that his daughter’s last word was “Mom?” How could I talk about my last sight of Holly’s green eyes was the moment when the monster we called Snake slid his knife into her beautiful body. I think she must have looked at me later, but by then it was dark. All we could do was press against each other in the dark.
“Mom.” Holly’s breath was in my face when she whispered that to me. I wonder what she was dreaming?
My tongue feels gritty, and I’m having trouble finding my right hand. I delay moving because I’m pretty sure there’s going to be pain involved.
Stage one, I remain comfortably sprawled on my back with the lower half of me entangled in twisted sheets and my right arm crimped under my pillow. I push my numb arm towards the pillow at the other side of the bed hoping to restore circulation in all kinds of ways. “Mark?”
Silence. I pry one eye open. In the half light, I detect the shadow of an indentation. I pull the pillow over my face and savor the faint trace of musk and sweaty hair. Before I can slip back into my fantasies, the alarm by the bed spoils my feelings of God-like powers. Reaching for the snooze bar triggers the headache. I must replace that cheap Mexican brandy with decent Tequila.
My slacks, shirt, socks, and panties mark a trail like unconsumed bread crumbs leading from the door to the bed—Mark and I were in a hurry. I collect the evidence of my precipitous sexual engagement while I stumble to the bathroom. Still only one toothbrush in a glass beside the basin. Where did I lose my bra?
Stage two. I select the new outfit I’d bought recently during the summer sale at Macy’s. The sun peeps through breaks in the trees and creates strings of sparkling points of dew like Christmas lights in my rose hedge. Through the open window in my dining nook, New Orleans smells fresh from overnight showers and the beautiful flowers that my neighbor raises in profligate profusion. A house wren serenades me from my magnolia tree, and a lake breeze promises perfect weather. Disgusting; I shall crawl back in bed and pull the covers over my head.
I rinse the remains of yesterday’s soup from the cereal bowl and slice my last ripe peach. The coffee mill has delivered an aromatic mix of Ghirardelli White Chocolate and finely ground dark roasted beans. While steaming fresh coffee sputters from my little Espresso Machine I retrieve my newspaper from the weedy expanse of my side yard. I carry the pot over to the table and pour the rich black Brazilian blend into my favorite mug while I settle down to catch up on the local news.
At least I have all the sections, this morning. For a change, Pooch, my neighbor’s Cocker Spaniel, has left the Times-Picayune intact. Perhaps the dog is ill from ingesting too much newsprint. I’ve got to scan this fast because my taskmaster Nightwing Laboratory is waiting. I jump start each Monday morning at the office.
The editorial page is spread in front of me, and I am scanning the latest quotes from a group of outraged environmentalists camped downstream from one of our largest oil refineries and an adjacent plastics plant. The environmental group is pushing a controversy that promises to generate more business for my testing laboratory: allegations of contaminated soil; a pregnant women sick from drinking well water; lost business from a sport fishing outfit. Not to expound on my cynicism, but most of the time the “proofs” offered in these cases don’t stand up to scientific analysis.
Some of my best friends are smart and ethical lawyers who pursue their cases accordingly, but there are legal firms specializing in and chasing after environmental cases that are just plain dumb—or realize that their paycheck depends more on dramatic cliché than on hard facts. I guess that’s not so dumb after all if you want to make money off the misfortune of sick people. I remember that Mark had gotten a bit prickly last night when I brought up something about the environmental issues around New Orleans. Something about jobs and people needed gasoline for their cars. Where did he say he worked? I can’t remember if we’d talked about his job. In retrospect, Mark really is not very interesting, but his body is great.