The Glow of Dust

I woke up, in a bed high above the floor.  A ladder led down from the bed, into deeper darkness.  The sound of a passing car came to me from across the room.  A grid of golden line segments moved at a diagonal path across the narrow band of wall before me.  I looked across the room.  I could smell dust.  There was a large window, shuttered.  The shutter’s ventilation holes let through hundreds of tiny ovals of golden light.

Where was I?

Was it morning?  Afternoon?

Rooms I had slept in flashed through my mind.  A foam mattress on a damp wood floor in a tenement in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  A cheap hotel in the red light district of Frankfurt.  A motel room rented as an apartment in Sacramento, California.

No.  No.  No.

None of them.

Then I heard a woman’s voice.  Calm.  Sensual.

“…you okay?”

It was Sailor.

And this part is important:  It was sound which oriented me.  Not sight.  Not anything that I saw.  But a human voice.  I heard two words from her and I was home.  In an instant.  In the current year.

How long had I slept, I wondered.

“It’s the morning,” she said.  “I went down to start some water but I got worried and came back up.  You were starting to sit up, but it was weird.  You looked like something was wrong.”

I laid my head down again.  I looked at her.  She saw something in my eyes.

“I feel crazy.”

“Go back to sleep,” she said.

I closed my eyes, listened to her voice…

She told me about how it can happen, sometimes, during a time of change…

…A person’s short and long term memory will come to stand at equal distance. A single thought of here and now will have even odds with thoughts of all other places, all other moments.  In this state, a person will dream his way through his own biography, sorting everything.  Whatever his dream, it will correspond to a moment in his life, to the smell of a room, the warmth of a sunbeam, the glow of dust in the air.  His imagination will prepare him to waken in that room.  The feeling of that room will occupy his mind at dawn, at the instant he opens his eyes.  But the preparation will be false.  He will feel one thing, and see another.  And he will not know where he is.

This was how she explained it to me.

I wanted to right myself.  “Can I just go back to sleep?” I asked, “Are you gonna be here?”

“Yes,” she said, “You need rest.”

“I know…  I had a dream,” I said, my eyes still closed, “that I asked you something…You didn’t answer, and I asked again.”

She nodded.

“…and there was this bird, a crow, I think…”

I didn’t finish.

Sailor brushed the backs of her fingers across the side of my cheek.  Then she disappeared down the ladder, into deeper darkness.  I heard the roil of water on the stove.  I was not confused by this.  It is a sound I love.

By the time she was gone, I was asleep.

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