“In restless dreams I walked alone. Narrow streets of cobblestone. ‘Neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp. When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light, that split the night, and touched the sound of silence.”
-Simon and Garfunkel-
Her voice droned into a muffled whisper and I felt my eyes fluttering closed. My finger tips tingled, the tension in my neck ebbed away, and the feverish heat disappeared. I felt a shiver at the base of my skull that sent a vibration into my toes and in that moment, I was finally relaxed.
Despite the elderly specter sitting behind me staring at the back of my head, I was at peace.
My first real taste of meditation.
If you’ve never tried it… I highly recommend it. It feels pretty good.
At that time in my life, I’d never practiced meditation before. Too many variations, routines, and practices to keep track of. I had read about it and watched a handful of videos, but never once indulged. Sometimes when I stare at the back of my eyelids, lying in my bed, slowly falling asleep, I see small images floating and moving around within the darkness and if I focus on those little animated pictures my mind produces, I feel more comfortable and falling asleep is easier.
It helps when all thoughts are purged from the mind. Having only one thing to focus on.
Sometimes what I see are small, pulsing, colored balls of light. I pull my attention to the moving orbs, and if I stare and keep my concentration on one spot, it becomes all I see and all I think on. My thoughts drift away elsewhere.
In the car, while Nancy drove us towards ice cream, I allowed my thoughts and memories to vanish from my mind. Like smoke drifting away on a breeze.
I was aware of my surroundings. I knew we were driving somewhere, but didn’t care about the destination. My head was heavy and felt as though it was sinking into my shoulders. My chin lowered to my chest and for a moment in time, I was removed from the vehicle and transported elsewhere.
I never actually fell asleep. I was wide awake and dreaming.
After a flash of brilliant white light behind my eyelids, the ocean returned. The Rillian Sea, as it had come to be named, materialized below me. Surrounded by the shimmering blue, my small island with a singular palm tree growing from it’s center reappeared, and I felt my bare feet once again touch the warm sand. Joseph was nearby dressed in his three piece suit and he was unraveling a rope from a hitching post sticking out of the beach. Riding the waves behind him bobbing among the foam was a small rowboat. Attached to rusty metal clamps, built into the frame, were the paddles, and the weathered oars floated on the surface of the water. Sitting on a bench inside the craft was a canteen and a silver compass.
He waved me over to the coastline. I felt my body moving toward him and he tossed the rope into the small one person boat.
This is where you start.
We all need a starting point. This is yours.
Where am I going?
You’ll know it when you get there. Follow the compass north. Stay on track. You’ll be out there for awhile, so I provided you some water. It’s delicious and ice cold.
Joe… none of this makes any sense. Can I ask you a question?
No. No more questions. Just leave. The answers are coming.
I lowered one foot into the unsteady, rocking boat, and whipped my head around. Joe had vanished from the beach and I was all alone.
“What the hell? Great. This is just great.” I muttered, crawling into the craft. I adjusted my backside on the center of the crumbling wooden seat and sighed.
I sat like a statue and felt the waves undulating beneath me and I dared not move a muscle. The ocean was endless, the sun was blazing hot, and I had no point of reference. My arms hung to my side and when I decided I had no other choice, I snatched up the compass.
“Might as well get this over with.” I shoved off from the shore, oriented my ship north, and began paddling.
Joe was right. I was out there for what seemed like forever. Hours had passed and when I felt as if my arms couldn’t propel the boat any further, I allowed it to ride the current for a minute or two and I took the opportunity to swig from the canteen. Once the cool water touched my insides, my strength returned, and I was able to continue pushing the paddles through the waves.
The endeavor was exhausting. I was frustrated and angry. “How could I allow him to talk me into this madness? Just wait until I see him again. Give him a piece of my mind. Rotten prick.”
Then, as if on cue, the sky opened up. Rain poured with a force that stung my skin.
I panicked. The boat was filling with water. I cupped my hands and scooped the rain from the floor as fast as I could move. Between paddling into the unknown and bailing out my boat, I was losing all concentration and focus. Everything was happening so fast and I couldn’t keep up.
Lightening shot down from the sky along the horizon and the sky darkened into a thick oppressive blanket which slowly engulfed me. I couldn’t see the compass anymore and my canteen was gone. The remainder of the sun had been swallowed by the gathering darkness, and my hands slid across the wet wood while scrambling for the paddles.
I was sinking.
Lost and alone in an endless void. The only illumination of the night was the streaks of blue and orange bolts firing down from the black clouds.
Knowing I was either going to sink or swim, and all my options had been exhausted, I gritted my teeth and dove headfirst from the bow into the Rillian Sea.
The rain continued to fall and the waves rose above my partially submerged head. I rode the towering waves, fighting to stay above water. Thunder crashed and boomed in the sky and I knew I wasn’t going to survive the journey across the expansive sea.
At the tip of a tall swell, I squinted my eyes and a blinking light appeared in the distance. Seeing a possible beacon of safety, at least a point of reference, I swam as fast as my arms and legs could move me over the ocean’s surface. The light brightened and continued it’s rhythmic pulsing and as I closed the distance, I could see five figures standing on the shore of a long beach to either side of a blazing fire.
One of the shadows sprinted across the sand and dove into the Rillian Sea. I could see the figure swimming at it’s top speed towards me and just when I felt the last of my strength leave my body, a squeeze clamped around my wrist and I was pulled above water.
A muscular arm wrapped around my torso and I was dragged out of the ocean and lowered to the beach sand.
A woman approached me. She was covered in a tattered brown dress. Her hair was the color of mud, and covered one half of her face.
The others remained out of sight, hovering in the outskirts of the shadows.
“You’re here.” She said.
“Yes. The sea is a dangerous place. Especially at night.” She looked to the waves and my boat was deposited onto the shore in splintered pieces.
“What am I doing here? What is this place?”
“That doesn’t matter right now. What matters, is that we’re here. We’re here.”
Then I heard the music. A familiar song. A song I knew by heart. I looked around the beach for the source of the sound and felt my body spinning. I glanced to the four shadows beyond the firelight and the music grew louder.
Then the words of the song were more audible and drowned out the woman’s voice. She kept trying to tell me something, her hands cupped around her mouth yelling incoherently, but the melody escalated and soon was all I could hear.
The beach and the daydream was yanked away from me. I was pulled from it. My eyes snapped open to the sound of Led Zeppelin on the radio and Nancy saying, “Jere, we’re here. Honey, we’re here. You want a chocolate milkshake, right? This time it’s my treat.”
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