The boy sneaks out of the house, down the hill, past the shed and to the steps that lead to a village. He pauses there and wonders for a moment if any of this is even real. Is he dreaming? It is like he has been here many times before. The mist is below him and the shadows are above him. He descends a step and then another until he is at the very last step and then he is on the outskirts of the village. He might as well be in another world, or another time, before time itself...
He walks between and around the adults that shuffle about doing things that belong to the adult world. There are children there too, playing games and stopping to stare at him as he walks by them. The people who live in the village are dressed in torn and soiled clothing.
He watches them and enters one of the huts made from grass, mud and thatch. Inside a woman is feeding a child from her breast. Her skin is drawn and stretched. There is a small smoldering fire in the centre of the hut. He sits and watches the infant screw up its face. The boy stays there a while watching the embers glow and slowly die out. He knows that something bad is going to happen soon. But he can’t quite remember what it will be.
The dream is over. I woke up covered in sweat. I threw the quilt off my body and I looked around the room at the bundles of clothes tossed into corners. I lit up a cigarette and the smell of the smoke reminded me once again of the dream. It was the kind of dream that is not easy to forget. I snuck a glance at Jacky who was lying there asleep, undisturbed. I wanted to be alone. I tried to get off the bed as quietly as possible but the door creaked as I left the room. She sat up her eyes puffy. “Where are you going?”
“Just to the kitchen.”
“Can you make me a coffee…”
I take my time making the coffee and when I get back to the room she is sitting up. I hand her the coffee and slip back under the quilt.
“I had that dream again…”
I sip the coffee and there is a long drawn out silence.
“Maybe it means something?”
“Maybe it means nothing…”
“Why do you always contradict me?”
“It’s too late to argue…”
Neither of us were really in love with the other. We called it a relationship of convenience and perhaps it was. She frowned and I sighed. She put the coffee on the bedside table and turned over pretending to sleep.
“I don’t love you anymore.”
The next morning we pretend we are happy and have breakfast at a cafe. The cafe is almost empty and I wondered what I was doing with my life. I pretended to read the paper.
“There’s been a tsunami in Indonesia.”
“Eight hundred dead.”
“Imagine that one morning you wake up one morning and there’s a fucking tsunami at your door.”
She looked embarrassed and I noticed the waiter had approached with our food. He looked a little hung over. He placed scrambled eggs in front of me and boiled eggs in front of Jacky. He walked away humming along to a song by Radiohead that played softly in the background.
“Thank god it’s the weekend.”
“I Think we need a break Jacky.”
“I may not come back this time…”
“You say that every time.”
She stops eating and waves her fork that has mottled egg yolk on it at me.
“You know what your problem is?”
“No but I’m sure you will enlighten me…”
“Fuck you...you arrogant prick…”
Then she left..
I sat there and ate my scrambled eggs and then shifted my plate away and took Jacky’s plate and ate her meal as well. I chewed slowly and sighed at the end of the meal sipping my latte contentedly.
When I payed for the bill the waiter still looked hungover. I gave him a five dollar tip which cheered him up briefly before the glazed look came back into his eyes.
I went home and wandered around the house and started reading a book. It was about a traveller talking about Rome and its history. It bored me. I turned on the TV and Trump had just made a controversial comment about building walls around America. I smiled to myself and thought about history repeating. After washing the dishes and cleaning up a bit I went into my bedroom. I fell asleep and tried not to think of Jacky.
The next day I didn’t go to work. I didn’t ring up to tell them I was sick. I was tired of the routine I had created for myself. I was too comfortable. Everything was too neatly arranged. I needed change. I started to sort through my clothes and pick out what was useful. I soon had a pile of clothes that I would never really need to wear. Then I took them to the nearest opshop and dropped them off to the girl at the desk who had a quick look through them and was surprised I wanted to get rid of them. I drove back home and packed the remaining clothes into a suitcase. I hired a trailer and loaded up all of my furniture onto it. It took me about four hours. Then I took the furniture to the Salvation Army. I returned the trailer and sat on the floor in my empty apartment. All I could hear was the traffic outside and the wind picking up and rattling an open window. I stood up and looked outside and felt empty and something else I hadn’t felt in a long time: freedom.
I went and spoke to the real estate agent and paid a months rent in advance and told them I was leaving. The guy behind the desk just nodded indifferently. When I got back to my car I drove out of the city and kept driving through for four hours until I reached a small town by the beach. It was dark and I sat in my car and left the headlights on. I watched the car lights reflect across the flat and still ocean. I opened the window and could smell salt and seaweed. I got out of the car and took my shoes off. The sand and gravel made my feet itch as I wandered back and forth in front of the car on the dunes. I could hear the slow regular rhythm of the waves in the darkness. I sat there with the headlights behind me like a middle aged skinny buddha meditating. I heard footsteps and stood up quickly. A man with a scraggly beard was approaching from the beach. His clothes were dirty and I could smell a combination of urine and cheap wine wafting from his body. He waved at me and when he smiled I couldn’t help but notice his upper row of front teeth were missing. I waved back cautiously. He held a pair of sneakers in his hands that could hardly be called shoes anymore. The plastic was peeling and cracked on the sides of the shoes and the left shoe was bent out of shape.
“Want to join me for a drink?” He started to open his backpack that contained a cask of wine.
“Ah...OK...Why the hell not…”
“That’s what I like to hear…”
We sat there and polished off the cask of wine that tasted so sweet it made my teeth ache.
“That’s a nice car you got there…”
“Yeah...oh crap…” I ran back to the car and switched off the ignition as I realised the battery could be going flat.
“Sorry thought the battery would run out…”
“Should be right…”
We wandered back to the where we had been sitting.
“You live around here.”
“No I just got here actually.”
“I live over there…” He said pointing at the jetty.
I just nodded in silence imagining him trying to sleep on the cold cement of the jetty or in the nearby sand dunes.
“What’s your name?”
We shook hands. Then he left just as suddenly he had appeared. It was as if he had been consumed by the shadows. I went back to the car and drove around looking for a motel. Everything was closed. I ended up circling back around to the beachfront and slept in the back seat of the car with the sound of the surf echoing around me.
I woke early with the early morning sun piercing through my closed eyelids. I couldn’t remember what I had dreamt which was a relief. I sat up blinking ad rubbed my eyes to try and clear my vision and my aching head from drinking too much. I needed coffee. I drove the car to a café on the beachfront. There were some surfers walking past and I wondered how long it had been since I had surfed. It must have been at least ten years.
I paid for the coffee and followed a trail down to the beach. I watched the surfers gliding and cutting through the waves. I sipped the coffee and felt the early morning sun warming my body. I took off my shoes and held them while I walked along the beach.