Saturday, October 20, 2012

To Be That Dog

Betimes I hear the waves.

At Carcassonne Terra, the ocean.

The dust and rocks are caressed by light, washed by water under the stars grown pale as Saturn rises, suddenly, like the tropical moon. The water is ink capped with white foam, for there is no blue in the sky to reflect off the water to give it its customary, illusory hue.

I blink and the waves and surf is gone, leaving the dust and rocks drier than bone, approaching dampness from the other side. There are ices; exotic caves filled with frozen pools, stalactites caught mid-drip. But though they know the light of the distant sun, there is nothing here that will melt them, not even the touch of a human hand, because this ice cannot be touched bare.

A man.

Sometimes he is there with a cocker spaniel, who leaps into the surf and emerges, grinning, dripping, to shake the water and sand from its fur.

Sometimes he is there alone, walking the beach at the surf line.

I blink and he is gone.

I blink and he is there again.

He waves to me.

Incongruity: He is there in a suit. Dark blue to match the hue of the seas of Earth, dark blue to blend with the black seas of Iapetus.

He is there to be at ease, to enjoy the sun, to feel the wind’s caress, to walk on sandy soil that crushes and slides underfoot – which are in black wing-tips.

He waves to me.

His is a friendly face.

I have seen others on the beach, clad in trunks, or bikinis, sometimes nothing at all. But they do not notice me. They never notice me, nor wave, nor smile, nor glance at the funny man standing far up the shoreline, far from the water, far from the line where sand meets water. That man, that incongruity, they must think, does not exist. He cannot exist for he is not one with the environment he imagines.

But this man.

He waves to me.

Betimes, I hear him, in a croaky voice, declare “Hello, young man. Fine day to be out in the sun! Walk a bit in the surf. It will do you a great deal of good. Fellows like you and I need a bit of relaxation.”

So I walk with him. I walk with him and the spaniel dog. I walk with him, him in his blue suit and tie and white shirt and combed hair; I in my worn space suit, stained with the dust borne in the blinks when the smiling, jocular, quiet man isn’t there with his dog nor the surf nor the breeze nor the feel of the hot sun on the skin that I remember. I remember that feel. It is the universe entering your body. It is the universe saying hello, from millions of miles away.

“How long have you lived here?”

So many questions.

But he is in earnest, not caring that the water sloshes over the tops of his wing tips, wetting his black socks. His interest reminds me of the feel of sun on my skin. Quickly, I leave behind the grunts, the monosyllabic responses, and we converse.

His father owned a lemon ranch, he said. “Poorest lemon ranch in the state of California, I assure you,” he said. “He sold it before they found oil on it.”

I told him of my father’s dreams, his voyages across the globe, looking for his dreams to come true.
“I had to leave Earth to find my dreams,” I said.

He smiled. “Have you found them? Your dreams?”

“No,” I said.

He nodded. “Dreams are elusive things. I went from a small town in California to New York, then to Washington to find my dreams,” he said, his face darkening. “I saw many things on the way. Many places. Met many wonderful people."

"And some rotten bastards, too,” he added.

“When it gets too much, I come to walk on the beach,” he said.

Leadership must have hung heavily on his shoulders, I said.

“Oh,” he said with a sigh. “Sometimes it did. But do you know what hurt worse? Chasing those dreams. Always chasing them, rarely catching up. Because you catch one dream, you find it has spawned another, more quick, more alert, more active and elusive. And you want it. You want it so bad you forget you’ve just caught a dream and go after it. You leave that other dream on the side of the trail, its blood not yet run cold, and you go after the other. You run. You leap. You whoop and holler when you careen down the mountainside, slipping on rocks, tripping over stones, getting hit in the face with branches. But you still run. You still run after that dream. And when you catch it, there’s the tail of another, bigger dream just disappearing over the next ride. You run after that one, leaving the second dream cooling on the trail.”

“I’m a rotten bastard, to be a slave to my dreams,” he said. “Always running towards the sunset but never stopping to watch the sun rise. Thinking dreams are more important than, than those marigolds. Or spending time walking on the beach with my dog.”

“And you get tired after a while, chasing dreams,” he said.

“That’s why I like the beach,” he added, after a long silence.

“On the beach, there are no dreams. There is only now. There is only the water coming in, the water going out. And if you’ve brought your dog to chase, rather than your dreams, oh, it’s fine. It’s fine to run after that dog, because the dog looks back at you as you’re running, and it’s got that tomfool grin on its face, and if you get tired, that dog comes running back to you, noses your hand, keeps nosing it and nosing it and nosing it until you give it a pat, and that grin comes again. And as soon as you’ve caught your breath, it’s off and running again, jumping over waves as they crash, sniffing at the seaweed, and oh,” he said, his voice choking. “Oh, to be free like that dog, worried only about what’s happening now. Never worried about the future. Never feeling guilty over the past.”

He stood on the beach a long while after that speech, watching the dog run, not caring as he surf washed over his soaked feet.

“Oh,” he said. Clenching and unclenching his fists. The fists were not bellicose. It was if he was pumping his blood with his hands and the squeezing kept him upright, standing there in the surf, watching the dog run.

“Oh,” he said. “To be that dog.”

1 comment:

Mallory said...

oh my gosh I LOVE this! the description is so lovely.

and i especially love this line: "His interest reminds me of the feel of sun on my skin."

so beautiful!!