by: Jason Wyman
It wasn’t my turn to write or read, and yet I found myself being called by the poem and the theme “In the Mist.” I could actually feel the particles of water wash my face. Really, it isn’t hard to feel the mist in San Francisco, especially in summer, since it tends to be incredibly foggy here from June to about August. Still, the mist rolled in both outside the coffee shop at which I wrote the post and in the story itself.
There really is something magical about mist and fog. It changes perspective, landscapes, and hearts. It can both cloud and reveal.
And it is with that magic that I wrote this piece.
It blew through the conifers as if a cigarette had been discarded and its glowing embers set the dry pine needles ablaze. Only it was wet and not dry like the smoke of preciousness burning. It clouded all. It covered the ground on which I stood and seeped through the eyelets of my boots. I saw only the white of obstruction, felt only the dampness of obscurity, heard only the silence of submission. The conifers disappeared. I was nowhere. Alone. I loved it.
Hours of the white, damp silence caused vertigo, and I expelled the contents of my stomach – a McDonald’s cheeseburger, some fries, and their not-really-milk chocolate milkshake – on an uneven ground I could not see. Rising from the steaming pile of bile were the distant dreams forgotten by the age of time.
There I was: collar black with a single vertical strip of white, a wooden cross around my neck, communion in hand. There I was: belting Broadway’s tunes on stage and screen. There I was: two small children tugging each hand. There I was: cameras rolling, lights flashing on all fours. There I was: shaking hands and making political promises not meant to be kept. There I was: again and again and again.
Each dream dissolved in the particles of fog, and I was again alone in the white, damp silence with only the lingering memory of their existence. I did not wish them back. I wanted them to disappear, to float away as they had over the decades since they first were dreamt. These dreams were no longer me, and yet still I mourned their passing. Who am I if not my childhood dreams? What replaces them upon their disappearance?
There on what was possibly a horizon beyond the white, damp silence a response rose as if it were the sun burning through the fog, as if the white, damp silence were actively listening. It looked exactly like me, and it walked slowly towards me over the uneven ground. I watched its awkward gait, and I remembered one summer day spent on Superior’s shore when I lost my balance on uneven rocks and broke my nose upon its jagged edges. Blood spilled both in my memory and in that space of white, damp silence. It was warm and comforting that spilled blood, and a pool formed at my feet.
Its surface was as smooth as a mirror, and I saw reflected a fantastical dream where I slew the dragon of the year of my birth and drank its fire blood. Warmed by the consumption of destinies not lived, I exhaled and burnt the conifers that once surrounded me. The white, damp silence was no more. It was now a gray, dry smoke. Still, my reflected self waked towards me. The gray, dry smoke parted with each of its steps.
Finally, we were face to face our noses almost touching. He expelled the contents of his stomach; some splashed upon my lips and tasted of raspberries, the kind that grew in the backyard of my childhood not the kind in the plastic containers of my maturity. The vomitous pile did not steam. Dreams did not rise, yet swimming in the discards of my reflection I saw what may be.
There I was: face wrinkled, eyebrows long, clutching a hemlock frame whose picture I could not see. There I was: slicing ham, serving all my family, whispering grace so no one would hear. There I was: sleeping next to my beautiful my head lying on his right shoulder. There I was: sitting up in bed only a single lamp shining reading the Tao Te Ching for the one-thousandth time. There I was: alone among the conifers as the fog rolled in. There I was: again and again and again until I could no longer watch what may be.
When I looked up, my reflected self was gone. Only his discards remained.
My belly grumbled, and again I tasted the raspberries of youth. I longed for them so much that I fell to the ground and ate that pile of bile.
As the last drop met my tongue, I returned to the conifers, to the present day, to the reality of this physical world. I saw beyond the redwoods and caught a glint of the Pacific. I walked to land’s end.
I am here watching the waves crash, looking out at the ocean of possibility. I see the marine layer approaching. It is moving ever so slowly.
I will wait here until it finally rolls in. Then, and only then, will I set off to discover not what could have been or what may be but what will be.
Jason Wyman is a life-long educator, writer, learner and performer. He finds spaces between things and then creates supports between them. He has helped professionalize youth development, created original theater, developed learning models based on peer exchange and shared expertise, written fables inspired by the darkness of fairy tales and fostered community rooted in social justice, creativity, and laughter. He lives in San Francisco with his beautiful husband and precocious cat. You can read more at www.14blackpoppies.com. (Photo by Andreea Cănăvoiu)