Refraction.

 Photo by  Serge Jouqier  on  Unsplash

5 mins // 03PEN18

Sometimes, when I stand in the same place for a long time, I get so accustomed to it that when I move again I get lightheaded. I become aware of my clothes on my skin, in particular any loose threads brushing against the hair of my arms and legs, the feeling of my muscles flexing and relaxing, hard and soft at once.

I have this dream, where I’m standing in a shallow lake. I don’t think it’s a place I’ve ever seen let alone been; there’s no place like that around, and hasn’t for many years I would guess. Perhaps it’s an ocean: behind me, the horizon is all water, the point where the sky touches is just barely distinguishable in a thin line, the shades of blue so close they blur at the edges. The water is up to my calves, gently flowing in and out, up and down across my leg. It’s so shallow, it must be near the shore, but I don’t see one, it’s just the water stretching on and on.

It’s the light that has my attention. I see it passing through and off of the waves, so far away and also close, shimmering like jewels, glittering even against the bright day. In fact, the light is all I notice. I don’t move, I never have, I’m just standing in the water. I can’t feel the waves lap against my legs. I don’t feel the warmth of the sun, hear the flow of the tides. It’s just light, shimmering, and then darkness.

It’s a dream that makes me feel incredibly calm. When I inevitably wake up, I always wish to be right back where I was, sometimes refusing to open my eyes even though I know it’s over, hoping that my will alone will pull me back into it. It never works.

O

This is what I am thinking about when I come to on the wall. I am only painfully aware of how this world is unlike the one of my dream. I’m crawled up on a giant steel skeleton, fossilized but never buried, the rust so thickly applied to be indistinguishable from the rest of the frame. It could be made of rust. The whole world is. Everything across the sparse rail yard in front of me is several shades of the same color. This brown, like the bark of a tree, so permeates my vision. We breath dust, I cling to rust, and the sky reflects it all back at us. It never gets black at night, not any more.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been hanging on here. Long enough not to feel it any longer. I couldn’t tell you the texture of the bars and beams; my feeling as if through gloves. They insulate me, protect me from the structure — which must be cool, all heat leached into the hard metal and then the hard ground — but I never truly feel what it’s like. It’s all one even tone.

On the other side of the yard, just beyond a few rail lines buried into the ground, a tower waits. Somehow, it stands, unbroken, a skyline of its own, each pane of glass intact in an act of defiance. Against the deep brown, each window stands out, seafoam green, like the whole building is made of bottle glass. It’s there I must go; we must. Who we are, I couldn’t say; their faces are long gone to me, their names never known. Just like me. I remember skulking across the yard, the weight of my body just begging to be reunited with the ground.

You never start at the bottom. I’m snapped in somewhere in the middle of the journey, putting hands over feet on the ladder. I’m face to face with the windows. For there to be a window, there must be an interior, but I can’t see it. All I can do is climb. I didn’t know where it would go, or what would be there, but I knew it must be better than here. Otherwise, why would I keep climbing?

I don’t remember what came next. I don’t know if there was an ending to be reached or if I just kept on climbing that ladder. Maybe I ended on the ladder, or maybe it was where I began. But I remember the light. Looking out on the horizon, I see the darkness blending into one. The ground rising up to meet the near-black sky.

And yet… just past the horizon I see it. Warm light, the color of Summer, spilling into the night. The gentle pulse, the rise and fall of it, breathing, bleeding, coursing. It’s not my dream, but it is, it’s enough, a small promise whispered between lovers in the dark, the idea that there is something, something else, something beyond, a place to climb to, somewhere to lay your head down, to feel the heat from, to stand in the glow of as the light fills your bones.


M

Rush.

Breath.