Saturday, August 29, 2009

This Dream Has Stayed With You For Some Reason

The thing about this beach house is that I’ve never been here. I am here now, but I have never been here before.

A small cottage home on the Bonita coastline on the Gulf of Mexico was my uncle Gary’s every summer and we lived there and solved crossword puzzles with the smell of suntan lotion and sand all over everything on the second story patio for a week. It was ours. We read library books and laid in cold bedroom sheets with the smell of aloe vera and the cool burn the sun left on our backs. In the other room beers were drank and conversations were loud between Nana and uncle Gary about whatever the ocean breeze brought to mind. When the lights were off in the bedroom the conversations kept on, and the light of the livingroom shined in from the alcoves atop the wall. Their voices crawled under the door and banged against the walls.

This beach house, this one here with the rear slider, with the fancy oak and glass things, with the sad and empty playground out back in the dark of midnight, the solitary swing, this isn’t our beach house. I’ve never been here. But my family is here; not uncle Gary. At least, if this is his beach house, like the one he shared with us and made our home on the Gulf, I do not see him. Dad, on the couch. Sean. Nana. Mom’s upstairs in the bedroom. Let’s go for a walk, Nana says. Sean says, Okay. The beach house with strange oak and glass is set back from the water; the old metal swing is in a back yard, with green grass, and a sidewalk to the right leads to the sand and black licorice water. On the coast, to the left and right, are buildings, high-rise condos and multi-story homes. This beach house is nuzzled behind those buildings that Nana and Sean are walking toward. They left the slider open, so I step out, watch the moon a moment reflecting soft white on the buildings and the sidewalk and the water and sand. The breeze sways the swing a bit. But there is no breeze. The swing is swinging alone. I go inside quickly, afraid, pit of my stomach knoting as I slide shut the door to this strange beach house where my dad sits on the couch.

As the door slides in front of me I see him; reflected in the glass but not a reflection, transparent but real, on the swing. A dog. Dark, black or a dirty dark brown, short hair, I don’t know if he has a collar, if he belongs to anyone, if he has a home.

Push me.

I’m frozen, looking in the glowing tiny embers in his eye sockets. They are the eyes that take me from my quivering body and an inch to the left. Dilate my pupils. Jackhammer my heart. They are sickening, orange tiny dots sunken into alcoves on his face that are grotesquely too large for them. Yet, they are sad, frustrated, alone.

Push me.

I can’t push the dog. I can’t walk to the swing. I can’t open the door. I can’t move. I’m sorry. I can’t. I break eye contact. Walk away. Breathe and feel sick.

Something’s wrong. A deep, guttural horn roars. This is not our beach house. Dad sits on the couch, staring at the television. Sean and Nana still aren’t back. The horn growls and shakes the air. Mom’s upstairs. Mom.

I run to the upstairs bedroom. Mom’s sleeping on the bed, atop the covers and comforter. Everything in the room is nautical; a life preserver hangs on the wall with red stripes. Mom wears a sailor’s suit. Mom, wake up. Wake up. Something’s happening. Mom rouses. Something's happening.

Out the window, there she is. Her horn groans wildly, and then it is quiet. She glides in silence, the monstrous ocean liner called possibly Titanic or perhaps Lusitania. Ghost lights dotting her sides like stars stare dim on into forever.

There is no sound, it is calm and windless.

Mom. I hold her in my arms, against my chest.

This is not my beach house. I didn’t push the dog with the ugly, tiny, lonely eyes burning orange. He wanted to be pushed. On the swing. He asked. I didn’t push him. This ghost ship is his frustration. These ghost lights are his loneliness. These cheeks with the tears are my regret. My shame of the fear that froze me. Kept me from grabbing the chains and pushing, back, forth.

She’s gracefully crashing up the beach, crushing palm trees, smashing condo high-rises as she clears her path. She is poetry and she does not blow her horn to interrupt my terror. The bow looks at me as I hold my mother in my arms and I look at the bow, the ghost ship’s supple breast, no longer crying, just waiting. The nipple offers her milk and she collides with the beach house I’ve never been to.