This Was Our Dream
By Jamie Lin
I sank my painted, crooked toes into the salty, green-tinted water. Clawing at my elbows and ankles, I watched white patches of skin float to the surface to swim around my calves. It was showering outside the cracker-thin walls of a yellow cottage located on the outskirts of North Dakota, built by a man who was 8 percent Native American. This was our honeymoon.
The rusty bathtub we piled into together was our sole entertainment. The dripping water made up for the lack of human noises and satellites. He asked me if the water was supposed to taste briny, like baking soda or pickle juice or something entirely different.
Leaning forward, I pried his eyes open so I could look deep into them. "Anything is possible while we are here," I said, meeting his startled expression.
I pushed the moldy curtain to the side, pulled the window up and told him a story about a little girl lost within the redwood trees. We both stared at the jeep that was our most valuable possession. The liquid mud was halfway up the tires though it was hard to be certain in the darkness. The only light came from inside, from a metal pole with a light bulb on the top like someone's experimental Christmas tree—someone who hated Santa. He asked, "How?"
I said, "She wanted a different life."
He asked, "She did it to herself? Why?"
I said, "Who knows."
"That's silly," he said. "She's lost now."
"Forever now. Is that a bad thing, you think?"
"Of course it is. Think about her heartbroken family."
"Obligations," I whispered.
The wind picked up speed. I straddled him and stopped thinking about the mud leaking under the floorboards, like water embracing bread. I shook the image of a stack of formal envelopes waiting for us at home. Home where the baby could reach them if she tried hard enough, if she wanted something to chew on. Paper was potentially dangerous for babies, able to choke them. But then, little in this world couldn't hurt a baby.
I stopped thinking about my mother who was on the brink of floating upward, cutting all ties she established while she lived. My mother who during the wedding looked like someone had sucked everything out of her, words, feelings, blood, fluids. A liposuction of sorts.
My mother used to tell me, "There are no guarantees in life. The only thing you can do is keep in mind your memories of the past, combine it with dreams for the future and make it come true in the present. You have to remember how things could be and should be and go after it. No regrets. Regrets are for the living dead.”
For many nights that we were together, he'd examine my hands for burns while my face was turned toward the blow of the wind. We liked to drink warm beer after dinner, me on the windowsill, him on the flat rooftop, his head cradled in my lap. Together, we watched the thin, gray clouds shift and morph into different shapes, drifting over the dimly lit buildings of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
My feet would be aching from eight hours of moving back and forth at Wendy's. Every inch of me reeked of grease from my work as if someone had rubbed it over my clothes. I could never eat till after I had taken a long shower and scrubbed myself raw. And after a cigarette; I'd stand by the cracked window, naked with the shower still running, and smoke it down to the filter as if it was happiness, hoping he wouldn‘t notice.
We both knew we were guilty of the same crime but some things were better left unsaid. Otherwise, we'd feel compelled to order each other to quit and when neither one of us listened, we’d both be hurt.
Every night, he'd finish his beer and chuck it over the edge of the roof with more force than necessary. His shoulders would be slouched and his eyes would be empty as if he was trying to forget the physical world and escape within his own mind.
The next day, we'd wake up to the same routine with only the memory of the previous night and the dream of the future nightfall in our minds.
Tonight, looking into his eyes, nothing bought me more solace than seeing our yearning reflections clink together to become one, clink to sing like the raindrops splashing on the surface of the salty water.
We moved against each other, pressed together, too young to wither, too old to drown.
Jamie Lin was a model adult in her pre-teens but is now quite a baby about everything. She looks forward to going south for college so she can breathe better, stop clenching her fists and aww over southern accents. She enjoys writing about relations and human tendencies. She has been published at Barfing Frog, Laura Hird, Chick Flicks, Cherry Bleeds and others. Her website is Jamielin.net.
Photo "Tub Series 1" courtesy of Ashley Peavler, Norman, Oklahoma.
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