CHAPTER 26

CASTLES

That night I dreamt, though calling what I experienced a dream couldn’t begin to describe it. What happened to me was more like a vision of a version of me that exists somewhere many millions of light years away, a me at least as valid as the me you have come to know via this narrative, a me perhaps more real than any other me, for it manifests itself freely and of its own will, while I myself am powerless to stop it. I imagine now a universe of multiples of me, each battling for supremacy, and all I know is that the me that I think I am will fall at the others’ feet, slain by a presence, a naked desire that is at once foreign and familiar, a comfort and a threat. No matter my surrender, the promise is only pain, to which I must submit with corresponding pleasure, to maintain the balance of all things.


The surroundings began as accustomed, the driveway in front of my mother’s house. I felt as if hovering, an omniscience not uncommon in dreams, and instilling a faith in me, that I could settle into a multitude of scenarios, such was my contained delusion. Then, as if called by saints, James appeared, in full football regalia, steeled for battle most worthy, a soldier’s soldier, better than Death. He leaned on his car, or, I should say, his parents’ car, but what did that matter. In that instant I knew that he had appeared to see me and me only, whomsoever me was. So I touched the Earth and approached him, at once deserving nothing, and prone to hypnosis, bowing at my master’s feet. It took eternity to be near him yet there I would gladly wait. The wind tousled his hair and he spoke just as I was within his range.


“I always liked you,” he said.

“I don’t know who I am,” said I.

“I know,” he said, “you’re a tease.”

“Am not!” I said with all the schoolgirl in me.

“Are too!” he said. “You’re a tease and a flirt. I like it.”

 

“You do?”


“Sure! Will you cheer for me?”

 

“But I’m not a cheerleader.”


I shut my eyes. I didn’t dare reach out to touch him, for if I did, I would lose my grip on my soul, and go shooting off into oblivion, a place far more gracious than I, where I always longed to be.


I opened my eyes again, and we were on the football field at school, though there was nobody else there, only and forever us. James continued our conversation like we had never skipped a beat.


“So who are you then?” he asked me.

 

“Whatever you want me to be.”


“Be a flower,” he said.

 

“Okay.”


“Now be a prickly pear.”


“I’m a prickly pear.”

“Be… ‘a little dog that wags its tail…’” James spoke in words familiar. I completed the couplet.


“‘And knows no other joy… Of such a little dog I am...’”

 

Then James finished it. “Reminded by a Boy.”


I can’t remember if my eyes were open or shut, but it didn’t matter.

 

“You know Emily Dickinson!” I gushed awkwardly.


“Like I told you,” James said, “you’re a tease.”

The sun seemed to move in the full array of days as I lost track of time though I’m sure the moment elongated itself into infinity. Such was its power, and fragility, for in the moment shadowing it, all castles tumbled into the ground and were lost eternally.


I awakened to the slam of the front door, followed by two thumps equally as loud, and there was no doubt where I was: alone, startled from slumber, in my bed, in my room, in my mother’s house, and I knew in my blood that Chloe was in trouble.