dream sequence – part 79

My father had died in April, but there were still some loose ends to tie up. My youngest brother had already done the lion’s share of the work, settling the estate, selling the house and arranging for my mother’s care. There was yet one surprise awaiting at the bottom of a box of paperwork.

My parents owned a vacation home in Lake Luzerne, NY from 1973 to 1996. It became our summer getaway for many years, and once my brothers and I grew up, it became their mountain retreat. My father retired from the police department in 1992, selling my childhood home in Farmingdale, NY and then splitting their time between Lake Luzerne and a condo in Naples, FL. At some point, the time and effort it took to maintain both houses became too much, so they sold the house in Lake Luzerne and upgraded from the condo to a proper house in Naples.

Every word of the preceding two paragraphs is 100% true. What follows is entirely an invention of my subconscious, but given the context of my father’s recent passing, as well as the location in Lake Luzerne, it felt real.

The surprise my brother found in a box of paperwork back in California was a lease for a two-room apartment in Lake Luzerne. The lease was current through the end of 2020, and there was a key in a sealed envelope, with “#7” written in my father’s unmistakable print. The lease had a provision for early termination, forfeiting the security deposit. We decided that terminating the lease was the right thing to do. Unfortunately it included the formality of a landlord walk-through in the presence of the tenant. Given that I lived on the East Coast, I was nominated to make the trip.

I arrived in town on a Thursday night with the intention of meeting with the landlord the following afternoon. I spent Friday morning wandering around the town, amazed by how little had changed since my last visit in the mid-90s. The apartment building was an  old 2-story house that had been hastily divided into 10 modestly equipped apartments to accommodate workers at a nearby paper mill that closed decades ago. There were 5 identical 2-room apartments on each floor, each with a bedroom, half bath and small kitchenette. The 5 rooms shared a shower at the end of the hallway.

Envelope in hand, I located apartment #7 quickly enough. Not too surprisingly, the key required a little bit of persuasion to work, but after a few seconds I opened the door and stepped into the kitchen.

To say the room was spartan would be generous. The only cooking surface was a hotplate, supplemented by a microwave and toaster oven. The mini-fridge belonged in a college dorm and not an apartment, and the kitchen sink predated “mid-century modern”. The cabinets were made of plywood hastily painted white. In them were a few cups and plates. Likewise the drawers had a few utensils, but very little in the way of pots or pans.

When I opened the refrigerator, I noted a clear glass bowl with a black bean and vegetable salad that seemed fresh, neatly covered in plastic wrap. There was also a carton of milk and a few containers of yogurt.

I was startled by a greeting at the door, which I hadn’t closed behind me.

“Hey there! Are you moving in?”

It was a neat looking man in his 30s or 40s.

“Are you the landlord?” I asked.

“No,” he said with slight embarrassment, “I’m Curt. I live down the hallway.”

I guess I had expected any occupant of these dated apartments to be disheveled and down on his or her luck, an uncharitable misjudgment on my part.

“I’m sorry for the confusion. I have an appointment with the landlord this afternoon. Apparently this apartment was being leased by my father, and, well… he’s recently deceased…”

“Oh, my,” Curt said, “I’m very sorry to hear that.”

After about a minute of awkward silence, another man appeared at the door wearing only a towel. He had just stepped out of the shower and seemed as surprised to see us as we were to see him.

It was becoming clear that some sort of informal use of the apartment was going on, and while I had every right to an explanation, there had been no damage done, and the space had been kept clean and neat. If anything, the unsanctioned occupant or occupants had been doing my father, and therefore me, a huge favor.

“You know,” I said, “I think I might go back into town and come back at 1 to meet with the landlord.”

The men offered no objection, nor any sort of explanation. They politely followed me into the hallway as I locked the door behind us and walked out of the building.

Seconds later, I woke up, leaving me to speculate about the strange circumstances of an event that never happened.

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57 words

on_the_air

At first I thought I was merely being flattered; after all, I’ve been told that I have a “radio voice” before. Then, the request became serious, almost dire.

“We need you to read this on the air, with a tone that is dispassionate, and yet sincere.”

“Can I see the text first?”

The phone line went dead.

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52 words

The weed dealer was losing patience with me, as were the customers waiting in line behind me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “This is my first time making… this kind of purchase.”
He smiled.
“In that case, here’s something I guarantee will make you happy.”
I smiled, as if that’s what I wanted.

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dream sequence – part 78

border_crossing_20200719

For reasons never made clear within the context of the dream, we were trying to cross into Canada from New York by car. After the obligatory “Bonjour”, the border agent looked briefly at my passport and handed it back to me. By contrast, he looked at yours for several minutes, typing furiously at his computer while we frowned at one another. When he picked up his phone and called someone, we were well beyond worried. He coolly handed me back our passports.

“Please drive up to the building on the right”, he said, pointing to an institutional beige building that apparently served as an office. Two agents were already waiting for us and gestured for us to park in a specific location. One agent had a tablet, never taking his eyes from it.

Madame”, the officer said matter-of-factly, “there is an issue with your passport.”

“What kind of issue?” I asked. The officer was not amused that I had inserted myself into the conversation.

“We were not given any further details, only that Madame will not be able to cross into Canada at this time.”

Naturally we were outraged, exclaiming that there must be some mistake, that we were entitled to know what anomaly there might be, and that we should be permitted to address whatever concerns they might have so that we could be on our way. They were having none of it.

Monsieur may proceed, Madame may not. That is all.”

You looked at me. I turned to the officer. “Well, we either proceed together or not at all.”

“As you wish,” the officer said. He pointed to an exit ramp and said, “This is the way back to U.S. Have a nice day.”

I let out a deep sigh.

“You’re mad at me,” you said after several minutes on the road.

“I’m not mad at you,” I replied.

You didn’t believe me.

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Fifty More Words

We had all returned to the workplace after over three months away. Most of us had private offices, reducing the risk of infection.
“I’m guessing disinfection doesn’t include dusting,” I said, more as an icebreaker than a critique.
You grabbed my hand.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“No, I’m not.”

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Fifty More Words

Folding_chairs

My maternal grandfather died in 1946, 13 years before I was born. He and I were setting out folding chairs for my daughter’s wedding in 2007.

“Beautiful day for a wedding,” he said.

“I’m pleasantly surprised to see you,” I managed to reply.

“It’s still a beautiful day,” he said.

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Fifty Words

She walked in on me as I was shaving off my beard. Just staring at the mirror, emotionless. Once I was done, she asked why.
“No reason,” I replied. “I was just looking for a change.”
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?”
“That’s not what I said.”
Of course she was right.

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The Great Gig in the Sky

JetBlue_Dugout_20140315

Last week my Dad, Wilfred David Mena, was called up to the Big Leagues at the age of 87. Those who knew him knew of his love for gritty infield play and gutsy inside pitching as well as his disdain for free agency and the designated hitter.

Those who knew him also knew of his love for my mother Gladys, his wife of nearly 62 years. She remains his biggest fan, as do his sons, Joe, Mike and me.

This isn’t an obituary — that will come in time — but rather a loving snapshot of my Dad, whom I miss terribly.

curtain call —
the veteran pulled
for a pinch hitter

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the unstruck triangle

Triangle-de-10-cm

As is the case with most of my dreams, this one unfolded in fragments, shifting and mutating with no regard for a persistent narrative, nevertheless there was a sense of a beginning and an end, as well as some semblance of a back story, so I thought I’d try to capture it all before it disappeared from my consciousness.

The dream featured some familiar themes, running late and getting lost being among them. A much less common motif was that I was sharing a 3-bedroom off-campus apartment with two Boston University students, a young man named Ravi and a young woman named Jasmine, who preferred the nickname “Jazz”. Evidently I wasn’t a student and worked at night somewhere at the end of the Blue Line in Revere.

Ravi and Jasmine knew each other previously, but neither knew me, nor was there an explanation as to how I came to share an apartment with them. Ravi was polite and friendly to me, whereas Jasmine rarely spoke to me. Given our schedules, our paths would cross at different times of day. In the morning, I came home from work while Ravi and Jasmine prepared for classes. More often than not, they would be having coffee or tea at the kitchen table. Ravi usually stayed behind to chat with me while I prepared something to eat, whereas Jasmine either left for school or went to her room, closing the door behind her.

After eating a light meal, I usually went to bed for a few hours, waking up to an empty apartment in the early afternoon. I’d make coffee and then either read or write at the kitchen table for several hours.

Ravi always got home before Jasmine. We’d typically engage in some cordial small talk before settling into our routines. Since I was the only carnivore in the household, we never shared mealtime together. I’d make a light dinner and sip a glass of wine before returning to bed for a few hours, leaving for work around nine.

One afternoon I was surprised to see both Ravi and Jasmine return at the same time, chatting as they climbed up the stairs.

“What’s the good word?” Ravi asked cheerfully.

“Lugubrious,” I replied. He looked it up.

“That’s a terrible word!” he complained.

“I like the way it sounds much more than what it means” I offered as a weak explanation.

“What are you reading?” asked Jasmine. I was relatively certain that it was the first time she had ever asked me anything. I almost didn’t know how to respond.

I handed her a collection of haiku poetry, one of many scattered around the apartment. She leafed through it briefly and handed it back to me.

“I don’t get it,” she said before going to her room and shutting the door behind her.

“I she’s warming up to me,” I said to Ravi.

“I wouldn’t take it personally,” he said. “I think she’s reluctant to form too many attachments given that classes will be ending soon.”

“That’s very perceptive,” I replied. “In a few weeks we’ll be packing up and going our separate ways.”

You won’t stay here?”

“I can’t stay here. It’s student housing, and I have to clear out in May like everyone else.”

We talked about it a little more, but it didn’t provide any further clarity as to why I had chosen this odd living situation.

The weeks continued to pass, with Ravi and I continuing our daily light banter, and Jasmine rarely engaging me in conversation. When she did, it was always a bit terse, but never quite crossing the line to the point of rudeness. One day she caught me by surprise.

“Why is it that you never call me ‘Jazz’, always ‘Jasmine’?” she asked. “It’s much too formal for flatmates.”

As was usually the case around her, I was tongue-tied.

“Oh, I don’t see it as formal or informal. I just think it’s a very pretty name.”

“Well I don’t think it suits me,” she stated bluntly.

I had a reply in mind, but held my tongue, not wishing to be seen as flattering or flirtatious. Instead I just said “as you wish.

She pivoted, not angrily, but no doubt decisively, and returned to her room. We didn’t speak again.

Ravi had witnessed the whole thing and seemed about to offer some sort of observation, but thought better of it. We spent the next few minutes in awkward silence.

Before we knew it, there were only a few days left before classes ended and we’d all be moving on. I asked Ravi for a special favor. I asked him to delay his return to the apartment for a few hours so that I could meet Jasmine alone. In order to ensure this timing, I would have to leave work early — before the T stopped running — but I considered it worth the effort.

Ravi agreed to do it, but not without adding, “I think it’s a bad idea. I don’t see this working out in the way you might be expecting.”

I told him that I honestly didn’t know what to expect, and that he was probably right.

On the appointed day, I hurried out of work to the Wonderland T station. I had forgotten how infrequently the trains ran late at night, and found myself pacing nervously. The same was true when I transferred to the Green Line at Government Center. Overall, a trip that would normally take between 30 and 40 minutes took over an hour.

When I arrived at the apartment, neither Ravi nor Jasmine were there. For the first time in months, the door to Jasmine’s bedroom was left open. Her room was empty, and anything she might have left in the kitchen or the small living room area had been taken as well. On the kitchen table was a sealed envelope with my name on it. It was a letter from Ravi.

Paul,

I want to assure you that I never told Jasmine about your plans for this evening. This morning she told me that her last final had been cancelled and she chose to leave as soon as she found out instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. When I suggested waiting around so that she could say goodbye to you, well… I think you know the rest.

I found myself so angry and disappointed that I cried. Then I laughed at myself for crying. And then I cried some more. Then I decided to write the rest of this letter as if I were addressing Jasmine and not you. It’s a letter I wish you would have been able to give to her.

Dear Jasmine,

Because you did not stay, you never had a chance to hear Paul read poetry to you.

Because you did not stay, you never had a chance to hear him tell you that he loved your name because it was poetry, and that it was beautiful, sacred and holy.

Because you did not stay, he’ll never have a chance to tell you that he loved you even more than he loved your name, and even more than I loved him.

Yours always,

Ravi

Assuming that Ravi stuck to our agreement, he wouldn’t be returning to the apartment for another hour. That would give me just enough time to retrieve my car, pack up my belongings, and clear out.

I tucked Ravi’s letter into the book I was reading and began gathering my other books into a box in my room.

I wrote the following on the back of the envelope that had been addressed to me:

classes over
the unstruck triangle
makes a sound

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Tuesday morning drive-by

IMG_20200310_060351_MP

The upside of waking up an hour before dawn is that the Worm Moon was still very visible in the Western sky. Here it is, taken through the screened window of our upstairs bathroom and filtered just enough to render it “cool”.

My drive into work was the usual blur of random observations and thoughts, some of which I attempted to capture on my voice recorder for transcription into haiku-like word fragments.

Dow futures —
a tree filled
with mockingbirds

between the lines
a row
of silent songbirds

Tuesday morning
a dog leaning out
the backseat window

bird droppings
the money I gave away
to lost causes

Dow futures —
ducks floating
in the salt marsh

into a windowless room
the men
who fix the boats

facing the tattered flag
a broken section
of fence

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