Here’s a thing; it’s a story that relies heavily on memory, dream and the journey between them. Does memory only go backwards?
(Prose-poetry; a short story)
There is an empty space, by the table where your shoes should be and my keys reflect a sodium glow from street. I cannot remember what you were wearing and my pulse is last night’s song. Early light fills my dream-drained brain and dawn cold catches my shoulders. Wine has scoured my skull and I’m not sure there is petrol in the car.
Under my hands the steering wheel is familiar; plastic-porous, sticky with damp, soft with age. The draught through the windows carries the scent of marine algae; the perfume and paint of the green-blue water that this road cuts through. By me and beyond me the edges of the sea lick at the path where the tyres hold the tarmac and defy drowning logic. The fuel gauge heaves like the ocean whilst the speedo flickers with failed ambition.
The quiet-loud of the waves makes a wall around me as individual sea-stranded boulders begin to group, climbing together into low cliffs. The rear-view mirror shows accelerated time, the tide itself racing away. I stop by some landmark that is mine alone; I’ve been safe here before. Turning off the stereo gives a solid battery-saving click as I step out of the mechanical-known. My hands are empty and my feet ready for the walk. An indigo-heavy sky shakes free of the cloud and holds me to the sand. I know this colour is all that shelters my dreams.
A rough path leads up between sediment lined shale. I climb looking for the first sign, my fingers thick with mud. A naked and weather worn flag pole at the top of the dunes celebrates the absence of tourists, life or lifeguards. My toes complain of scots pine needles fallen in some other season. The trees moan with the straight wind that cuts through their planned lines.
Between April and October the car park must be paid for but the meter has been stripped of its coin box bounty. There are no vehicles today; I cannot even see the scooter-man who minds the dead campsite. Flaking paint from the wall that holds in the earth of the terraced gardens above makes patches for the grey pavement.
Papery pink never-blossoms of bougainvillea drop as I brush past them, walking underneath their chaotic arches and up the steps. A single poster remains from spring’s election; these are perfect teeth hiding vampire-hearts, the image made solid in some plastic studios miles distant. The simple instruction is ‘Vote!’ and the candidate’s name does not engage me. Someone has sprayed over it, in the colour of the flowers; ‘Or Die’. Water running from the retaining walls has given life to algae and lends the whole image a green filter.
The uncertain sun gives me no time to work on and I know these houses as outsiders, a careful distance from the centre of things, each of them only a few years from energetic ruin. None of them are empty or for sale. There is a sign on the unhinged gate that demands it be kept shut. There is the sour milk smell of drains and a light in the baker’s back room. The cars that line the street are wet with condensation. They block the gateways of the school and the quiet driveways that are; it says in stencilled type, in use 24/7.
The ginnel by the house smells of my childish-chalked cruelties and dog piss. Ivy keeps the back garden lintel steady. Pea gravel pinches at my toes as I leap-hop to steps I once fell down. The back door stands open to let in the day. There is nothing here that I want, nothing good. I look out, leaning against the window frame. A national name graces the corner shop; it is lit by a 50 hertz flicker that fills my eyes with the bruising silk of that song.
Empires fell and still they put the bins out here. This road joined every other road but the buses never brought news. My eyes pull at the road, not knowing how I’ll leave. I hear my car before I see it, the slap and return of the simple cylinders. Blue metal paintwork edges free of the horizon and a tint of heated engine oil catches in the air.
You’re back and we’re leaving. I find my shoes by the table and the front door doesn’t stick. The transmission free floor of the car lets a plastic carrier roll right across, a bottle of fizzy orange escaping, threatening your driving. As I reach to catch it you laugh and tell me that you were never gone. The way you look at me is my plan for the years ahead.
Tiny car speakers sing, the song only part done, its place in the running order certain. Your skin is soapy, soft as I kiss you for bringing it back to me.
I flick at the rewind, to the beginning of the track, needing the repeat.