Posted by: Kathryn Hulick | May 23, 2008

In Dreams, You are Me

Bailey Island, Maine. May 20, 2004.

Photo by Alexis McCallister

Morning dew sparkles, caught frozen, melting. I inhale the scent of winter fading, ocean warming, rock waking, buds lifting their heads.

It was a long sleep. I wonder if their dreams mirrored mine. Dreams follow me wherever I go, and I have gone farther than the borders drawn on the newest maps. I have walked and flown and ridden and run, and always the dreams are there.

Now I come to the last hope, the clearing at the end of the path, the true end of everything where sea swallows the land and sky rolls on forever.

Companions have come and gone, and I am alone. I walked the last mile, eyes widening with every step, knowing I was close, so close.

My dreams chatter of departure, distress, determination. I see a face again and again, skin dark, eyes darker, hair so black it’s almost blue. She knows I’m watching, whispers in my ear, In day you remember me, at night you embrace me, in dreams you are me. I watch her return to her people; a leader both admired and feared. They are leaving, always leaving, piling into carts or trains or ships or gliders. I follow, but I am always too late. Years too late. Memories of the dark-skinned woman remain only in the mouths of the old men rocking on their porches, or the old women crouched down by the river watching the children play.

I learn the woman’s name, Jasana. My name, though I have been called Ana as long as I can remember. I learn that she carried with her a weapon, a magical device, a devious machine. The words are always different, but the awe is the same. Whatever its function, the object was small and shiny metal, twisted with lengths of wire and sparks of fire. And in every place Jasana stopped, one woman or man or child came to the call of this machine, and left his or her family behind. Like me, I wondered, only I came late. And I had never caught even the tiniest glimpse of a machine in my nightly dreams. I see only her face, hear only her words. You are me.

Here I am at the end of the world, and my latest dream reaches for my fingertips. Dew-speckled grass, Jasana’s feet pressing imprints into the frost. There is a footprint right here, I see it with my waking eyes.

Then she is here, stepping from behind a rock, her cloak cinched tight around her waist though the morning is warm.

I don’t know what to say.

“Hello,” she says. Her voice rasps, and I notice the wrinkles around her mouth and eyes. She is always young in my dreams. I must be awake. She never speaks to me, never says anything except those same cryptic words.

“Jasana?” I ask.

“It is I, or perhaps I should say, it is you.”

“Why?”

“Come.” She walks behind the rock again, and I follow her down, into a crevice cutting through walls of vertical stone. The sea pours in, lapping angrily at the mouth of this sheltered area. Resting on a ledge far from the danger of tides is a small metal object.

I keep my hands safely behind my back. I will not touch it.

“I am old, Jasana,” she says to me, using my full name, our name. “You have come more quickly than expected, but I have very little time.”

She is alone, and I wonder where her people have gone. From the age shrinking her skin, I know she must have waited here for decades. For me?

“You are the daughter of my heart, not of my body. The Unwind chose you, and I saw you every night as I slept. I saw your birth, your first steps, your first kiss. I spoke to you, screamed to you, sang to you, but all you ever heard was one phrase, a poem I learned from my own mother-of-my-heart.”

“I left my family,” I tell her, knowing I would never have chosen this small, harsh woman. Knowing I never would have left my real mother, my real home, if the dreams hadn’t started aching, tearing, wrenching my insides. It was all Jasana’s fault.

“I know. So did I. I left more families than I can count.”

“You tear families apart. With that… thing.” I try to speak carefully, but the old woman flinches, hurt by the hatred in my voice.

“I do not do the tearing. They come willingly. Look.” She lifts the object, and a breeze whirrs through its twisted wires. It sings. Rage and anger and frustration melt away. I awake, was the whole journey a dream? Have I always lived here, by this ocean, with this woman?

“Mother?” I say to her.

“Daughter,” she replies, and steps forward to embrace me. I step back. Wait.

This is the dream, this song, this lifting, arching, beautiful feeling. It can’t be real.

I back up until the ocean lifts around my ankles. The chill washes the hoax from my eyes.

“Where are you going?” The old woman cries, cradling the singing thing in her arms.

“That is your child, not me,” I reply. “I want no part of it.”

The rocks are steep, but my hands are rough and my arms strong. I climb up and away, and Jasana does not try to follow. I can hear her weeping, talking to the thing like a baby.

I run until I cannot hear her voice, until the roar of the ocean fades and I can no longer smell salt on the breeze.

I sleep by the side of the path, and the night is dark and calm.

No dreams.

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