A Good Day for a Journey
By Drake Aiden
She whispered softly to me, and in the moment her eyes were indifferent. I noticed she was looking at something. Her eyes caught sight of a thing I wouldn’t see for a long time. Edmund? She whispered, pulling the white feather blanket over our heads.
‘There is something about you, that just makes me so, so tired.’
I kept silent, remaining unscathed. Anamaria meant no harm in her words. We were protected beneath the blanket. Anamaria would sometimes say that nothing harmful could happen here. We were safe from the world.
‘This must be a dream. Ever since I met you, it has felt as if I were stuck in a dream.’ The back of her fingers rubbed against my face. It took me a long time not to flinch at this gentle caress, but always something inside of me stirred.
‘I know. I know Ana.’
She turned over beneath the white fluffy feather blanket. The sun came through our old thrift store curtains, stolen from the antique store we lived above, but glowing freely in the light, and painting the room a soft saffron orange. The lace design of suns and moons shadowed across the wall by the door as the wind crept through the window, cooling the room in brief intervals.
‘The thing about dreams, Drake. Is they are very sweet. But if you are dreaming for too long, you begin to panic, and become aware of the dream. When you are stuck in a dream, and cannot wake up, it begins to turn to a nightmare.’
‘I know. I know Ana’
I think to myself how everyone wants to create something different, yet they’re living the same life as everyone else. Nobody notices the world as it is. My own world has become this little story, and the more I entertain the story the more it becomes a fairy tale, or in my case, reality.
I was walking from the library at four in the morning. I noticed the way the fog rolled past the streetlights, and how the streetlight furthest from me flickered. The puddles I stepped in absorbed the reflections of the city around it and opened up another realm where it is always nighttime and no one is ever awake. The smoke from my cigarette drifted away in front of me, at first in a distinguishable pattern, then into a blurry fog before it completely disappeared. I was thinking of another story, besides the one around me, and there was a sense of urgency. A sense of urgency you get before any climax. Like waking up before the alarm is about to go off on your phone, knowing, even while sleeping, what the time may be.
Something disturbed my sleep pattern and I seemed to have been avoiding my bed. When I got to my apartment I looked into that room and it haunted me. Night terrors, I presumed. Goddamn night terrors. I made a pot of coffee, and went to my desk to study. Eventually the words on the pages would spin and my thoughts would become lifted from me, in an incoherent manner, as if I were inebriated. The waking life would fade out of the picture, and I would never have a clue.
I woke up slightly disturbed. The sun was high in the sky, and my pen stuck to my face. It left an imprint of its kiss.
‘But this is a sweet dream. And waking up from it, or being awake… that is the true nightmare. The atmosphere around you, that dreamy energy that follows you, is like a drug. I am not sure if it is you, I yearn for, or for the dream. And sometimes… Sometimes Edmund, I just don’t want to wake up. But when you leave, I am forced too.’
‘I think this is a sweet dream.’
‘I think so as well.’
‘Perhaps we should stay in it for a while.’
‘I won’t. Get some rest though okay?’
It was one of those days I just can’t quite remember. I remember I was tired. It was summer time and the sun laid heavy on my shoulders and on my eyelids; both which began to hang low, as if being dragged. I remember the interview going well. I kept her afterword’s to get to know her; she had this… energy, toward life. Something I used to have before I became lost. My philosophy of life, my little own beautiful ontology was cut off as I explored the darker side of life. The thing is, if you want to be bad, the world won’t hesitate to give you opportunities to do so. The same with being good. But I was sick. Something about this girl reminded me of what I enjoyed about remembering things and about being awake in the daytime. I was reminded also of who I was and use to be, and how I was young and free. I saw those memories as an observer looking through a dirty mirror. They weren’t clear to me, and for some reason they didn’t feel like they were my own. I thought I was free when I danced with darkness, but I was realizing how it restricted me in so many different ways. I never moved freely with it, but was forced to follow its lead. This epiphany has been lingering, and I would find messages throughout the day that tried to lead me away from the dark. The problem was that I had molded my life out of the darkness. Everything fed into this evil, and as I mastered the stages and progressed, I drifted away from any chance of redemption. The signs sent by God were another language. I would never see them. But today I was given a chance. Ana was a wormhole in the universe that allowed me to look back into my old life, into the light and energy around it. Although I had journeyed beyond redemption, God knew something that I hadn’t, and although he stopped answering my calls… the universe still tried to pull me back. It kept my eyes alert. I followed her gaze and she smiled and examined me throughout the interview. I tried to hide myself behind little axioms, smiles, and laughs. Some people though, are stronger than me. I usually avoid them because nobody likes to feel vulnerable, but I felt safe in her presence. I lived a dangerous life filled with wicked people and daily doses of poisons. Being safe wasn’t something I was familiar with anymore. I don’t remember how I found the job. It was just one of those flyers somebody slips under your door. The apartment I live at gets hundreds of those. This girl Anamaria, Ana, spoke like a poet. When was the last time I have read a book?…
The trees were covered in wet moss, and the air was cool yet thick from the humidity. A relaxing breeze cooled my coffee as I held it in both hands. I sat outside of a dingy yellow building, upon a fire escape. On the blanket I laid out lavender that I picked from across the street, and a book from her favorite author.
I looked at her, relishing the moment, and I spoke softly and slowly, ‘It’s a good day to start a new journey, isn’t it?’
The phone rang and I woke up from a heavy dream. The room moved as if everything were alive while I slept, and they are going back to their places. The grandfather clock was the last thing to go back, and the wall behind it moved like a piece of elastic, snapping back into what it was, or seemed to be in the waking life, a concrete wall. I shook my head to wake myself, to root myself into the waking life. It was as if I moved one step ahead of a time. My mattress was sprawled out on the floor, with the old corners lifting up, and springs creeping out the side, rusting and twisted in unnatural ways.
There was no number attached to the caller. It was just a shadow, ‘Unknown’. A stranger. Or a friend trying to get back in touch. I didn’t want it to be either, and I could have ignored the call, but I answered anyway. The voice crackled, and sounded out of breath but still overzealous, “Hello! God, I thought you weren’t going to pick up, I was worried.”
I brushed of my clothes, the ones I wore yesterday and fell asleep in, and I allowed my face to turn questioningly, as if the words ‘unknown’ stood before me, creeping out of the dark shadow it lived in, or memory it spawned from. “Who is this” I asked.
“It’s Ana. Anamaria?” There was a pause, and the phone crackled, I felt the uncertainty growing in her voice in the few moments of her hesitation. “Edmund. Right?” She said, disconcertingly.
Something about her lingered in my memory, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Yes sorry, I just woke up.” I said, moving into the kitchen. The time read 2:34. PM. I don’t remember falling asleep? It’s already late into the day. I turned the coffee pot on regardless and then moved into the living room, passing shelves of plants, with their leaves reaching out to me. The hallway turned into a hole, and the living room turned into a hole, and I opened the window and stuck my head out. I had to catch my breath.
I imagined her looking at the time as well, “Well did you still want me to come over?” She said reluctantly.
I looked at the clock as it changed. It felt like it was broken. Just clicking away. Keep it rolling, I thought to myself, forgetting the phone in my hand for, a minute. “Yeah. I’ll meet you outside. 20 minutes? Doesn’t matter. What? Nothing. Sounds good, see you soon.” *Click*. I looked around at the mess of clothes that lined the hallway to the bedroom, and I began picking up.
I was washing my face when I noticed the time, 2:50 pm. I dried my hands and face and lit a cigarette and stepped out of the apartment into the chipping grey hallway carpeted with an old tan nylon rug, stained and frayed, permanently destroyed by black spots from mysterious drippings, kids, mud, and the smell of cigarette smoke. At one point, I thought to myself, someone must have grown tired trying to keep up with its maintenance. An old Spanish lady, perhaps, who would come in and sigh at the mess.
A young woman came up to me smiling. “Edmund?” She was smiling. Her smile seemed to want to jump out into the world from joy. Then tears slowly ran from her eyes.
“Yes, it’s me.” I said, raising my hands. Confused. But I wasn’t shocked. Who was this girl? “Ana”. I’m sorry, but I’m very confus–”
She grabbed my hands and embraced them and then moved to hold my face. It felt so familiar, but I can’t remember what from. “How have your dreams been, sweetie? Weird lately?”
I began to grow irritated and pushed her from me. “Listen, um, Ana is it? I don’t know who you are or what you want from me but–”
“Edmund, we are here. You were right. We just lost so much. Please remember. I can’t do this if you can’t remember.” She began crying hysterically.
“You have to go, Ana. I am sorry. I don’t know what is going on but you need to get yourself together and take a moment to calm down, this is all too much for me right now, I have a lot going on.” I looked around nervously. I grew ashamed as she continued to cry and then began to say she could come in if she’d like, until she cut me off.
“Wait, let me show you something.” She started walking away and I stood there stupidly. She turned around a few feet away and shouted, “Well, did I scare you off or are you coming?”
I followed with my head in the sky. I guess I didn’t mind it all too much, being dragged off by some crazy woman I went on a few dates with. Besides, it was a good day to start a new journey.
We walked several blocks into the city. She stopped crying and the conversations were back to normal, somewhat. S he pointed out little details in the streets, in the reflections. After everything she observed, and admired, she would look underneath my hanging head, and into my eyes, with a coy smile that trembled waiting for my affirmation; but what was she looking from me really? I had nothing to offer. I understood the light she spoke about and the lively world and its mysteries, but I did not see them. She is with the wrong person, I thought. I gave a sigh, and replied, yes. “Yes, that thing is a very wondrous thing” I said looking away from the direction she was pointing in.
She grabbed my hand and pulled me into a field that grew alongside of a 14ft wall, that held up a street that went into the center city. The street turned into a slight bridge, with a little walkway that ran beneath it at the end of the wall. She positioned me in the field, giggling. Then ordered me to sit. So, I sat, and she crouched beside me. No words were exchanged; just the sounds of the street, of the wind and of everything in between. The sound of the midday city. I relaxed after a while. I realized I was sitting very tight, holding all my muscles in an awkward position. Her hands brushed the soft grass. I watched at the way they moved and how they were able to caress each strand in one stroke. I began to mirror her, and I watched the blades of grass as they went in between my fingers. Then I sunk my hands into a spot in front of me. The ground was soft, as if it was drying from an earlier rain, and cool. I leaned over onto my knees and plucked a four-leaf clover. Automatically, without thinking, I leaned over to Anamaria and for the first time I saw it. Something about my dreams washed over me, but I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I felt ashamed. As if I had missed something and it was too late. I placed the four-leaf clover in her lap, and while she looked down, in the middle of her surprised expression, I turned her face toward me and held it as I kissed her.
In this moment the wind became fierce, and her hair covered our faces, and retreated, going in all the different directions as the wind. I felt the glow I saw in her skin, in her lips, and eyes. The shadows that cast over us made me think of the sun, and of the moon.
She looked at me and said, “Look. Look at where we are sitting”.
I grabbed her hands and stood up with her. A circle of mushrooms enclosed us. “Is this what you wanted me to see?”
“No. But it is so lovely. Life is so beautiful, so powerful.”
Her face turned to me accusingly, “Do you though? Then why, Edmund. Why did we do this?”
I looked at her surprised. “I… I don’t know what you me–”
She shook her head and forced a smile. “Never mind. Here, follow me.”
On the other side beneath the bridge was the river that cut through and defined this city. It was always so lovely to be by its side. It’s been raining often, so the water flowed a bit more roughly. It felt like a breath of fresh air for my mind and body, over all the confusion and uncertainty that life had brought to me up until this point. It was a moment to relax. Until Ana looked over to me, and I noticed she was crying, this time more lightly, and through a cheekier smile. I realized what it was she wanted me to see. Behind her was a poem:
In between the bridge
With chaos on both of our sides;
My heart raced,
But slowed down-
As I looked into your eyes.
I wrote that. Wait, I wrote that. Those are my words. I wasn’t sure if I was speaking or thinking it, but I grabbed Ana, passionately, albeit angrily. “Who are you?” I demanded. At the same time, I think I said, “I love you”. I don’t know where that came from or which came first.
“We were in a car accident, Edmund.” She spoke softly, pleadingly. “But we didn’t die. I mean, we did. Like we were—um are: just listen. We picked up right where we left off but we were aware what had happened. And we noticed that the same thing was happening to the people around us. We woke up in a different place, but we thought it was the same world. So, we experimented, both torn by the accident, but both madly in love. We were okay as long as we had each other. The second time, we realized we were not waking up in the same world. That each time we left, we woke up in a darker place, missing something of ourselves. The second time was so bad, Edmund. It was so bad that we tried a third time as a means to an end. It was like the second time, but this time we didn’t want to come back. Wherever we woke up was pure evil. Can’t you feel it here? Can’t you feel your life existing like a dusty shelf, sprinkled with hallow purposefulness? … When we tried the third time we lost the only thing that protected us from this dark place. We lost each other. There was no comfort in any corner of this place, and no light that wasn’t artificial. All we had was each other but then we lost even that. You forgot about me, and I was left to live without you. I was left with these memories. I tried so many times to bring you back but I couldn’t. It nearly drove me crazy. Looking into your eyes with no spark of familiarity within them, looking at me as a stranger. This is everything I have left, to make you remember. It’s okay if you don’t. You’ll just think I’m crazy, and maybe I am, or at least will be after all this, but it’s okay. It’s okay.”
I held her face and looked into her eyes. This time the earth stirred against the calmness between the both of us. “Nothing, will ever, ever bring us apart.” I whispered. Everything began making sense. “We have to figure this out. We have to do something about this. For some fucked up reason we were given the ability to recognize life and death fully. What you mean by the artificial light… I didn’t understand until I began thinking about you. Being close with you has been the only thing close to life I have felt in a long time. No one else here realizes where they came from or where they are going it seems. It’s like something is fucking with us. We need to learn this thing and figure it out, but not like we had in the past. I’m not ready to wake up somewhere worse than this. For the sake of being in control of our own lives, for the sake of us. I didn’t know you, but God I missed you so much Ana. I love you.” I started crying while the stir of the world began to shake me, and I was hyperventilating and losing myself in this frantic idea that my life isn’t what I knew it to be.
Anamaria was crying too but then she saw the terror in my eyes. I was the one who always held the steering wheel and the one who realized we were in control: I was the one who was in charge; who was calm; but in this moment everything I knew was lost and I was overcame by complete terror. She stopped crying and grabbed my face. In the softest voice, one that came deep from the earth, that rang and vibrated with the fine-tuned strings of reality, she said “Edmund, Edmund. Everything will be okay.” Her eyes became the structure of all I knew. Maybe life isn’t what I thought it was, but as long as we were together… He words rang sweetly like that of a lingering dream, everything will be okay.
“It’s a good day to start a new journey, wouldn’t you say?” She said.
“I think I did say.”
My mysterious life, my fascinations with the unworldly began to make sense; in all that didn’t. Individually, and together, we were fitting the pieces of the puzzle —preparing to walk the path we’ve deconstructed. Long live the two of us, for our journey has just begun in our third lifetime, spanning over 72 years young; and we felt it.