Stumble out of bed, check my breathing, my pulse, nearly fall into the sink as the faucet opens and pours rusty water onto my head, into my mouth as I turn it up toward the flow. The flavor’s terrible, but the cold shocks me out of my stupor, gets my blood flowing and heart pumping.
A breath of fresh air. That’s all I need. The window protests, but eventually jerks open with a whine and a small crack, splintered wood and weeks of caked dust tumbling down in front of me. I don’t remember closing it, but there’s nothing worth stealing in there, anyway. Besides, three stories up with no fire escape… Good luck getting in.
It works, to a point. The wind in my face clears away the cobwebs, lets my consciousness process that I’m still alive, that I’m above ground, that I’m not powerless or trapped. Not physically, anyway. The rooftop comes up quickly, solid impact that leaves my calves with a pleasurable ache as my legs coil, push off again and take me further through the air, hurtling toward the shipping district. I want to look at the water.
Thoughts stumble blindly through my head, trip neurons in my brain that haven’t been active in months, years, even decades. Memories are called up: a visit to the desert, the lonely Saguaro with its drooping arm on the wrong side. It makes me self-conscious, as though looking in on myself from the outside, seeing everything I assume about how others perceive me thrown into disarray. Part of my life, the only part of my life until my mid-twenties of which I’m certain, wiped cleanly away, without so much as a scar to note its passage.
Smells don’t bug me. Fish, once drawn from the sea, might assault others’ senses, but it’s just a backdrop to the view. My eyes are the key, ‘cause what they see, I know. I know it’s true, I know it’s there, and there’s comfort in that, comfort in the way the water laps gently against the docks, curls around the long stilts that hold up the entire boardwalk. I can corroborate the sound, the multitude of minuscule splashes, the mostly silent roar of the water’s constant movement, with what I see before me. Sound alone, smell alone, neither says much.
Not that there were sounds or smells that day, either. I went back and I saw, I glimpsed with my own eyes the barren expanse, and the only thing is clashed with, the only sense that didn’t want to believe what the eyes were saying… That was time. Memory, which is suspect by its very nature.
No, there was nothing there, and somehow that had made me feel even lonelier than my years in solitude and seclusion. The one thing I was sure of–that I’d been born and raised, that I’d been young once and had experiences that worked to shape me–had become suspect. Maybe, one day, I’d just popped into existence, a quantum fluke on a grand scale, brain mapped in such a way that these delusions of memory were simply patterns engraved into my subconscious.
But, if that was the case… Why does the dream bother me so much?