by Sean E. Markey
It is hard to be in two places at once. Here in my room it is dark. The blinds are raised and the sunlight streams in, but I feel the sunshine striking me twice, once as it scatters through the glass, and again as it is reflected off the water. My other life is lived close to the sea. I often dream about the sounds of sea gulls and breaking waves, the feel of walking on dry and wet sand, and the dead-smell of the ocean breeze.
I wake up and know things that I should not: how to tie a bowline (or even what that is,) how to open a coconut, how to spot a school of bait fish. I have never even seen the ocean, or even been on a boat, but I have intimate knowledge of those things.
Here there is traffic and smog, television and school work, frozen dinners and candy bars. I am writing this down, to see how bad it looks. So far I have not admitted anything to anyone else, but surely they know something is wrong. The increasingly long daydreams, the way everything confuses me. I cannot concentrate anymore. I cannot admit that I believe any of this, but how can I not?
In second period English I cried out when the cold water hit me. It is winter there, I’m sure, and the cold water stole my breath with a startled scream, and left me gasping on the floor, still dry.
They sent me first to assistant principal, but after talking to me for ten minutes, she sent me to the nurse. “No I don’t have a fever,” I said, “no I am not sick, no I am not taking any medication.” She didn’t believe me, of course. She took my temperature twice but could do no more. I spent the rest of the day sleeping on the brown leather bed, or whatever it is, that takes up the corner space of her office.
Nothing like that has ever happened before, feeling something so strongly. I wonder, does my other self feel things from this life? Does he know how to drive a car, though I know there are no roads on the simple island where he lives? Does he know how fried chicken tastes? Does he know the sickness-like thrill of riding in a fast elevator?
I ran along the shore last night, only it was early evening where I was running, and not midnight where I lay my head. That sounds crazy. I don’t even know what I am thinking anymore. I keep expecting to wake up with bottoms of my pajamas wet and salt-crusted, with pretty, broken shell fragments in my hand. I don’t know what I’ll do if that ever happens, but I don’t think I’ll be okay enough to write about it.
I keep wanting to talk about this all with someone, but no one would believe me. How could they? Even my parents who know me, who know that I never lie so casually would not be able to accept such a story. “Hi Mom, hi Dad, don’t want to alarm you, but I’m living two separate lives at the same time. It feels like dying, trying to figure out who I am sometimes. Could you please tell me why? Do they make medicine for this?”
That would not go over well. I would only sit in awkward silence while they decided whether to laugh at a joke they did not fully understand, or take me to be admitted to some psychiatric place. I’d agree to go, and admit that I need help, except I am not crazy. I cannot be making this up.
I fell asleep while driving today. The roads were slick, and the skies were grey and low, but I am a good driver, and everything was fine. Then the feel of warm sunlight made me sleepy, and the sound of small, triangular waves lapping against my wooden boat lulled me to such a comfortable place. I put my hat over my eyes and drifted off to dream about rushing down slippery roads in a grey city. I dreamed of crashing.
I woke up with a headache and blood on my shirt. Everyone was worried; all the cops and paramedics came, but I was all right — just a bloody nose and a black eye. My parents asked me what happened. I told them I had lost control of the car. They understood.
I hate lying. I hate lying, but it feels like being here and writing this is also a lie.
Something has changed. It’s much worse now. I know that I cannot continue to be in two places like this. He wants to leave, my other self. He doesn’t understand the things he sees in his dreams, and recently, when he is awake. He has reached a different conclusion about all of this. I know the island is not haunted, I know the absurdity of phantoms in a grey city, acting in strange ways, but he wants to get away.
There are a thousand other islands, and his little wooden boat, his smooth paddles could take us there, because our back is strong from years of rowing, because we know the tides, and the way the moon moves through the sky.
It will be so easy to do. Just close my eyes, and see the little boat stocked full of supplies for the long journey through the maze of waterways; imagine the white sand and coconut trees of our new home. When I leave this body, will it die right here at my desk? Or will it carry on, without motive and conviction, wandering through the motions of life? Will I still remember my parents? My favorite song?
The cool sea breeze makes it hard to concentrate on these things. I can hear the splashes as we run into the cold water, pushing our boat in front of us. It rocks when we jump in. The waves are tiny, and the current is sleeping. When I wake up under wide blue skies, I will be one body, one mind. Reconnected.
Copyright © 2007 by Sean E. Markey