By J.L. Pendall
We sat on the pier, floating atop the waves.
The water was lapping playfully at the wood as barges tugged along the river. The sunlight was reflected in a thousand different ways as cotton clouds grazed here and there against the blue.
We had lunch, smoked and talked. Then, in the silence, she leaned against me and I put my arm around her. We sat together, breathing, watching and feeling, letting the moments play out without us. “This is all I ever wanted in life,” I murmured and felt her press firmly against me.
I swam from the daydream back into the world. The last remnants of soap swirled down the drain as I stood in the shower. After drying off and getting dressed, I pet the cats and wondered about another cup of coffee. I’d already had two—if I kept at it I’d wind up with a headache.
I drank some water and sat in the kitchen, smoking and vaping. Then I checked Facebook, took out the trash, and sat outside reading an introduction to quantum mechanics. I could never be a physicist—too much math—but I can work with it as logic. Whenever I study a new subject, I always look for ways that it could mold with Buddhism.
The breeze rustles the pages, and I look out across the sun dappled lawn. I think about her eyes—so brown. Deep, watchful eyes. She sees more than she knows. She sees me and lets me love her in whatever way she can receive it from me. I’d like to say that it’s enough, that no matter what happens things will keep changing, but I know that I want her.
Sometimes I hate myself because she doesn’t want me. I wish I could be her type, that I could rearrange myself into the man she needs. I know, within myself, that I’d give it all for that moment on the pier with her.
I took a breath, closed the book and went inside. I just finished reading The Stranger by Albert Camus, so I’ve been thinking a lot about chance, destiny and freewill. Like the main character, I just kind of go along with things. Routine to routine, the days pass by, and I wonder if I should be doing more.
Then I wonder if we really have any say at all in the things we do. Maybe we’re just like leaves caught in the wind, each fluttering in different ways because of how we were made. Are we passive receptacles for whatever the cosmos-at-large tosses our way?
I sit in the kitchen and smoke a joint. A smile rises to my lips and I turn on some music and dance through the apartment with my cat. Plopping down at the laptop, words leap onto the page. I think of rivers and mountains, pristine beaches and icy caverns.
I remember the first time we met. We were at work, and I started picking up a pallet. I saw a hand grab the other side. I looked up and I was blown away by the dazzling shine of her warm smile. I was speechless, like a devout Christian seeing the face of God, their faith finally rewarded by a glimpse of heaven.
I come down and eat some tacos. Another day almost done. One more to go and then it’s back to work. I dread having to perform mindless tasks for eight hours a night, but I also like seeing my friends. I’ve been alone for a long time. When you’re alone you dream. Whether those dreams are pleasant or painful, they give life a meaning that it doesn’t have without them.
I don’t need to have the life I want; I’m happy with my dreams. Imagination has always been a blessing and curse. The curse isn’t that I sometimes imagine unpleasant things; it’s that the world can never measure up to the worlds in my mind.
Even when some of my dreams come true, they’re never as perfect as they were inside.
Some people might say, “Stop dreaming! Live life as it is!” but dreaming is part of life as it is, isn’t it? It’s part of being human. The only regret I have is that no one else can experience these wonderful inner moments with me.
But, for that, I still have hope. That, against all logic and probabilities, we can sit on that pier and both feel the inner lives of each other and know that we’re touching something great than ourselves.
Editor: Dana Gornall