I’m at the beach with my best friend, Billy. We’re diving. There’s a cave and tunnels with an opening in the concrete and limestone on one of the banks. Another opening behind large rocks at the far end of the spring.
Our friends Rook, Beedle, Snap and Fuzz are there. I’m swimming under the water looking for an object thrown in - it’s a game we like to play, a common children’s game, but we still haven’t grown up despite our adult bodies.
The sun is out and there’s grass on the banks that is soft to sit on about ten feet above the water line. The wall of the bank is ecru with pebbles and rocks embedded in it in various shades of brown all the way down to the waterline. The water is cool and clear and you can swim to one of the underground caves from the tunnel - a good place to take an extra breath. The tunnel is about three feet by two feet and rectangular for about 5 feet down and then about 15 feet horizontally until it gradually opens into a natural tunnel and, finally, a cave opening.
Rook, Beedle, Snap and Fuzz are all sitting on the grassy cliff above the water and the opening to the tunnel is on the other bank talking and laughing and watching the water. I am now out of the water on the opposite bank. Billy squats above the tunnel opening as I stand next to him on the grass watching him cheer on whoever is in the tunnel on their way to find the object.
The cave and tunnels lead to an underground spring. I dive in again. I stop to tread water and look around. My head is above water and I’m in the cave, light is mysteriously reflected in. I love the ripples in the cool, clear water. I look next to me under the water and I see Rook swimming there. She swims with her t-shirt on and cut off black shorts. She is round with thick black hair gliding through the spring water gracefully. She exits the cave through one of the natural tunnels and heads toward the river bed opening.
I see the tin that has made it’s way onto the spring floor. I retrieve it and make my way through the tunnels also back between the banks. The tunnel leads to a smaller, darker cave where a handful of large rocks sit hiding the exit. The spring current flows outward from the tunnel and into the riverbed. Billy has come down from the top of the bank to see me out and get the tin. Rook is now in the middle of the clear spring fed river and floating on her back toward the beach smiling her cheeks up toward the warm sun.
When we get up to our beach towels, our lunch baskets are waiting. They are woven wooden baskets. We dry off our hands and hair so we can reach in without dripping on everything. We are chatting away. Everyone else is still sitting by the river bank. From our blankets we can clearly see the beach and there is a mix of grass and sand where we sit. Billy pulls a cardboard kaleidoscope out from his picnic basket. It’s another game. It is in pieces like a puzzle and needs to be expanded and fit back together. He hands it to me while he unpacks more items and runs over to the water fountain to fill his jug. It’s like he just can’t sit still. I sit. I look at the puzzle. I pull and expand the head of the kaleidoscope and look into the glass. I don’t see how the two parts fit together yet. Billy returns chatting away fiddling with all the things.
Kate is about 5’8”. She’s blonde, thin and about 30. She has her swimsuit and a fairly large sun hat on. She stops to say hi and chats with us and I put the kaleidoscope down turning my attention to her.
Billy picks it up and says, “Hey, Can you put this together for me? Give it a go!”
Kate takes the kaleidoscope and walks off with it twisting and pulling it. I run after her.
“I’ll do that,” I say.
Frustrated with Billy, I open my hands as she pours the puzzle pieces into them. She turns to walk away. She doesn’t notice I’m upset and doesn’t really care.
Billy runs over.
“Hey hey whats going on here?!” I take the pieces and expand the bottom half and fit the pieces together and hand it to him.
“There!” I say.
I’m mad, but I don’t know why. I gather up my basket which is now a Kirkland cardboard box bottom for fruit or something. All my things are in it. I walk towards the fence line and Billy chases after. As I get to the gate I see the garden plots with ripe tomatoes hanging heavy on the plant but held securely by the tomato cage. Next to me about ten feet away is a double decker cattle corral. The kind that connects to a semi, but it is open - it looks like school yard tube fencing. I see twenty or thirty brown and white cows. They look like Holsteins with fluffy thick fur and little cute puffs on the tops of their heads. They are so adorable and my heart reaches out to them. One extends her neck long as she looks up to the top deck, moos and extends her tongue out.
I turn to face Billy. I’m still mad. Now the cardboard boxes in my hands have multiplied. Some are flat.
“Where are you going?”
We bicker like old hens.
“Kate? Really? I was putting that puzzle together. I said I’d do it. I can’t believe you didn’t think I could solve it,” I fumed.
“I was just trying to be nice,” he defended. “C’mon and stay.”
“No. Go have lunch with Kate. You can play with the kaleidoscope I put together for you.”
Now I have so many folded cardboard boxes under the original Kirkland box with my things in it and I need to rest them on a knee to open the fence as the cows moo and everything starts to get rather foggy. Why was I upset? I was jealous of Kate. I wanted all the attention and I was disappointed at almost missing an opportunity of solving this puzzle game and for someone interrupting my personal time with my friend.
Billy was like a warm brother to me. He was reliable and sweet. I wouldn’t be upset for long. I couldn’t be. I was just washing the dirt off my favorite blanket and soon after it comes out of the dryer it will be warm and I’ll shake it off and wrap it around me. But each time I do that, I notice I wear the threads in the fabric just a little bit. It’s a good thing this is a very, very well made blanket… and that is why it’s my favorite.
It’s another day.
I’m back from a work trip and Cas and I are standing on the sidewalk by Washington Jr High opposite the townhomes. It’s after school and the field behind us is occupied by two or three people playing fetch with their dogs. She is stoic and feeling safe on the sidewalk talking with me. It’s like we’re hovering above it. Usually she would be uncomfortable around dogs, but today it is as if they are not even here behind us running loose. She is like a pure sparkling diamond in her eyes and heart and smile. It was good to catch up with her and I feel happy. She is startlingly honest and straightforward in her conversation which has always been refreshing to me.
I’m not exactly sure why we are standing on this sidewalk. We must have parked and decided to go for a walk. I look around while she talks but the sounds are muted. It’s quiet. It’s springtime maybe … or summer. It’s cool out, with a warm breeze, but not hot and the trees all have full green leaves. They are luminescent in the sun’s light flickering in and out of their own shadows.
We look across the street. A cream colored convertible 1971 Cutlass pulls up. Cas interrupts her thoughts for a moment to say, “That’s … Monique.” Cas says her name with extra emphasis on the hard k sound at the end of her name.
I look again. Billy and Monique are out of the car and now standing on the sidewalk across the street and down a bit just far enough away to make them look small. They’re retrieving things out of the car, though I am not sure who was driving. Three children come out of the car. All of them are fairly young, one is pale and blonde like Monique and the other two have dark skin and dark curly short hair. I recognize her.
Now I am at Billy’s house. It may be a few days later, I’m not sure. Monique is sitting at the kitchen table. I come in and give her a hug where she sits.
“It’s good to see you again,” I say.
Monique had been a student of mine at the yoga studio. I knew she looked familiar. Billy is polite and now I am not certain if they are an item or not. She has sympathetic blue eyes and deep pores in her skin and high cheek bones. She a nice smile as she smiles humbly to me as we talk. Her hair is kind of a dirty blonde and had been curled and pushed back away from her face with some product - which is how I could see darker roots. Two of the children are also sitting at the table just being idle and quiet. Billy is talking as he walks from room to room settling things and being entertaining.
Monique and I chat briefly about the yoga studio and then Im back at the beach looking at the pebbles in the water - smooth, round river bed pebbles and rocks in brick reds and ocean blue-green shades.
My mother is folding clothes. She’s packing to go on a trip somewhere. She has her white sleeveless cotton button down on and blue plaid polyester shorts on. It must be one of her favorite outfits as she wears it fairly often. She looks a healthy weight - chunky, but not overweight. I don’t know where she’s going. She folds everything so neatly and everything seems to be moving so slowly. I see her hands as she presses the clothes in the suitcase, but every time I go to look at her I cannot see her face. The memory of her is so sweet and even the frustration at her I feel in this dream is nostalgic and sentimental as is her voice and broken english. I can’t quite make out her words - it’s like she’s talking, but I’m not comprehending. I smell my childhood, but I’m an adult. I hear another familiar voice in the distance. He’s saying farewell for now and walking out the door on to the front porch. We wave and reply slowly. It was my father-in-law. He is a hearty man. I see the light in the doorway shrink as the door is closing behind him. I hear him grasp the old brass doorknob - it’s always just a little bit loose and rattles.
I am back at the beach. I look at the green grass. I look at the clear water.
He pulls the door shut.
I am awake.