Uncle Elliot learned to speak with food. He brought pies, casseroles, quiches, elaborate desserts and layered salads, even old forgotten dishes he read about in old books. The quiet man once brought a full meal that would have been the menu on the Titanic, another that King Tut would have had on a birthday, another the menu eaten by the riders of the first luxury train, yet another the last meal of the man famous for eating at the end of the 19th century who is now forgotten like so much past in present.
He looked at the very old cat as it came close to him and could almost see cityscapes in its skeletal maze under its dark fur, see the shadows of late winter days in the fur, something of rivers in its slow steady walk with bad paws. He pet the cat behind its ears and saw it had little fangs like an adorable bat. The cat rested her tired head on his outstretched fingers, teeth in but he did not care and she fell asleep. The late day light and her curling into his armpit made her for a time look like she had become a kitten once again. He slowly pet her neck and back, a kind of soft covered architecture like dirigibles or bridges as the tired cat slept heartily on his slightly faded green sweater. A meteor could very well strike the earth outside and Thomas would not move from here, not one single inch.
He had that dream again, that odd, willowy, portentous dream. The one that had been slowly unfurling in real time for almost ten years.
1955. UCLA. Those same 3 roomies in that house now more familiar than mine. So odd. We got the milk delivery in glass bottles like a few dreams ago. It was delicious. The explanation in the dream for a few month gap was I was away on break and the whole thing welcomed me back whole. 8 years and the thing in real time has not even been more than a few days “there”. We had sandwiches and read the paper with that ice cold damn milk. Can almost taste it.
She has the chair kicked out from under her, the wood cracking a bit into splinters as the ferocious kick hits the weak point in the center of the leg sending Mary hurtling from her handiwork, spiraling backwards, her arms flailing, her hair spidering out in all directions, her mouth wide open, her eyes gleaming with fear and dismay and then in a second she hits the factory floor. She only wanted to do what was right. She just wanted to be Rosy the Riveter like so many other mothers, sisters, aunt etc of the time. She instead is spit on daily, slapped twice and now for the third time kicked out of her chair in Los Angeles with the arm band she was made to wear identifying her as Italian, enemy, other. A single long tear already is coalescing slow and slimy as she falls.
He had that dream again. The one with that road, that hill, that intersection never born of the dust and pollen of the real world. The dream with that sense, that gut rumbling dread and that hum of unease , that dream with the car that never has the same driver, never the same interior, never the same engine sound, but 20 years of it navigating those damn hills, stopping at that intersection of pure impasse.
The dream was one of those odd places in sleep, some odd neural drain pipe mold collection, he had a few such places imagined that his dreams sutured to. One was an impossible university campus that had the greenest hills, most gorgeous Spanish style roofed buildings, a cafeteria always open partially inside a giant redwood tree and a dorm he shared with the ghosts of past. Another was a humble 50’s home with a perpetually flooded front yard he for 20 years had toured with a dull, droning real estate agent and his best friend. Another was a thousand odd variations of his parents house sold long ago; it at times had hidden rooms in walls and tenants in rooms inside the aging, dull stairs, at times it had a glimmering impossible view of ocean from the San Fernando valley. Other times it sank into that ocean, eaten as though waves were foamed with teeth and tide was a bored potent mouth.
Jim got into his car and was going to finally read that letter. It was the odd one that snuck in somehow.
He had a collection of old letters and oddball books. The letters were ones he found in trash cans, in abandoned houses, hidden in books at yard sales. Some were yellowed and worn, some so torn up and water damaged as to be almost unreadable as though individual words for some forgotten years floated in mold and blur and filth. Others were antiseptically pristine as though just finished and floated through some benign, dull wound and tear in space and time.
In the last year I lost a dog, crashed a car, gained a number on the heap that is my age, went on some dates,lost a fiance, got 7 hair cuts and lost a bit more faith in the world.
They found a city under a basement. I read about it in a book for some class with some name and some teacher droning on and on somewhere in my almost eaten away memories of that year in college. Imagine that. I am thrilled if I find an extra can of Spaghettios behind a box of stale cereal, a few odd orphan coins in the couch under the cushions. There were tunnels and staircases and different types of homes and stores and it was all under his crappy carpet. The guy only found this whole lost world because he had wood rot. I am 53 years old and my luck the wood rot would find mold which would find termites which would find wasps which would find angry disturbed ants which would irritate moths which would fly in panic irritating rats which would really piss of bats in the trees outside really annoying rabid wombats severely setting off the before unseen packs of deeply neurotic feral cats that would make such a racket it would drive to drink the once alcoholic vampires in the forests thereby really rubbing the wrong way the trying to be vegan werewolves ultimately sending a shivery wave across the land of general annoyance. Yep, that would suck.
It is so cozy watching things from behind a window. I noticed as a teenager sitting in the back as friends drove out to nowhere to de-stress during finals that window down it was hot, dusty, things almost seemed to want to move, cross the roads as we headed out of L.A, run in front of the wheels of my friend’s dad’s car. It was almost like cacti might jaywalk at random or grab my hand as it fluttered in the artifical breeze of speed of the aging station wagon and try to jump on in. The thought (classic vintage of my worry addled and ever spinning turbine brain…) was for a few miles fascinating as we all listened to music and static battle on the weak radio then not so relaxing, troubling even.
I rolled up the window that afternoon and something happened. The cactus, road signs, dust and other things seemed suddenly academic, distant, like pictures in an old encyclopedia and so passive and safe. Something about this was very soothing. We drove another hour or so before turning around and it was like things were more at ease in the world even with finals beginning the next day. It was something I learned later to come to quite often really.
I almost died last summer. The flu hit in the middle of the hottest day of the year and like the cliché of an unbalanced spurned lover it just would not let go. I wish I could find better words, that is such a corny metaphor but maybe the darkness and familiarity of it being recent just takes any cleverness off to a far distance. It was as though my body grew to hate me, to want to give up, just peel off the bones and go. The drive to the hospital felt like my kind neighbor who happened by to ask about an old comedy show on you tube was going 5 miles an hour on tires made of glue and feathers. It was an ugly slow kind of forever.