Looking back on it, the fortune cookie was either prophetic or instructive. Either way, once I started down that path it was like rapids leading the whole way…
I got the cookie while eating dinner with Mr. Peter Delaware, the dimwitted man my mother insists that I marry. In her eyes, he is already my fiancé. Fool. I think I first realized we could never be when he said he didn’t dream. Lying there, limp and emotionless next to him, I asked him to tell me a story. He wouldn’t. “Tell me a dream then…?” He just looked at me coldly, so cold that I could feel his icy glare travel down my spine. “I don’t dream,” he said. That was it. No explanation. No remorse. No nothing. I could have accepted “I don’t dream… because it takes the magic out of reality” or even “I don’t dream… because I don’t need to.” But not only did he not dream, he didn’t care either. It seemed fishy to me. Inhuman—or maybe too human. Magic seems to be lost these days.
I got my fortune, and smiled to myself. “act as if you are in a dream; be daring and don’t apologise,” it read. “What are you so happy about?” Peter asked, eyes glancing over the check.
“It’s just my fortune, that’s all,” still smiling to myself. Somehow I already knew that my life was going to change.
“Oh.” He coughed up a little phlegm, a common gesture whenever he isn’t satisfied with a meal. He got out that flashy, leather wallet of his and threw a fifty on the table. “I’ll have to get change,” he grumbled. “Now she’ll expect a big tip… seeing that.”
“For fuck’s sake Peter, I can pay.”
He only glared at me. For two reasons, I suspect. One, he hates when I swear, and two, he never let’s me pay… for anything. He likes money. He likes the power of it all. He also likes the power of his glare too, but I forget when it stopped affecting me. Maybe it never did.
“Hah. Mine says that I like Chinese food,” Peter laughed sarcastically. Always sarcastic. “Nothing like stating the obvious.”
“Well, fortune cookies don’t lie,” I said with a smile.
“Well, let me read yours.”
“Because then it wouldn’t be mine. Like having a tarot reading or wishing upon a star… throwing pennies into a wishing well… it’s all very personal.”
“It’s bullshit,” he snickered while pulling the fortune out of my fingers. He read it and then just looked at me… and then he laughed. “I guess the Chinese do not use spell check… apoligize. They didn’t even spell it correctly.”
“It’s the English version, Peter,” I replied bluntly. He’s always pissed me off in the way he corrects others. Half of the time he doesn’t even know what he’s talking about.
And that was the end of that. He paid the check, left a ridiculously cheap tip, and we left. That fortune stayed on my mind constantly though. And it was easy to understand what dream. It’s the only dream I have these days…
“So, I had another dream.”
“A new dream?” my therapist asked on that cold day in October.
“Well, not new… but you know, it was different,” I said laying there, feet up on the cushion of the purple couch.
“You were digging again?”
“Do you think that the fact that it’s a reoccurring dream has anything to do with the fortune? You’ve been obsessing about it more and more.”
“But it was reoccurring before I got the fortune,” I said casually, but part of me wondered if she was right. Even there, on the couch, the now tattered slip of paper was weaving in and out of my fingers, and since receiving the fortune, I have the dream every night as opposed to ever once in a while.
“Well, that’s true… but remember when you came in here the day after you got that fortune?”
“Remember how you were so enthusiastic. You said that the fortune would change your life. I assumed that you were going to follow your fortune.”
“I’m trying to.”
“Do you really thing you’re living out your dreams? I’ve been telling you that digging implies a struggle… to find something missing in your life. Or sometimes a change that you need to make in your life. I thought you were going to use the fortune as a spring board to change.”
I couldn’t say anything.
“Has the fortune changed your life yet? Maybe it’s just a random saying from a fortune cookie. They don’t always have to be real.”
By then, I was crying. Looking back, picking a psychiatrist straight out of graduate school wasn’t the wisest choice. She was obviously good with books, but maybe not people.
She must have noticed I was crying and changed the subject… well not really. By that point, every word, ever thought, and EVERYTHING had some connection to my fortune. “How’s your relationship with Peter?”
“I don’t want to talk about him…” With him I had followed my fortune through and broke up with him. Unfortunately I only mustered up the courage to leave a message on his answering machine. It’s over, Peter. I’ve never loved you, and being around you… hearing your words makes me long to be deaf. Goodbye. Not daring enough, I know…cowardly even, but at least I didn’t apologise.
“Well, tell me about your dream then…” Thank God!
“Like usual, I rolled over in bed, and the alarm clock said 2:22 AM. And I went down the stairs and out the back door. The grass was greener than ever. Even in the dark, it was GREEN.”
“You’ve always had a strong connection with green.”
“Yeah,” why do they always do that… interrupt? “And there was this beautiful music…”<./p>
“That’s new!” her voice sprang out of her small head. She almost seemed excited. “There’s never been music before.”
“What kind of music?”
“It was an accordion. Actually, it was the guy that used to play every year at the county fair. But that was so long ago… I was only a child.”
“Uh huh.” She was probably taking notes, but I can’t be sure. “Accordions sometimes foresee a short-lived sadness in your future.”
“And then I went to the usual spot, right under the lava rock in the poppy garden. I began to dig…”
“With your hands or the shovel this time?”
“My hands. I only dug with a shovel the day after… you know, day after I got the fortune.”
“So I was clawing and digging. Clawing and digging. And then…”
“And then? You found something this time?” Interrupting again…
I remember sighing. “Yes, this time I found a little, tin box. It was green. I pulled it out, and I noticed that under the dirt, it was still quite shiny. I opened it slowly, even though it didn’t stick at all. It was brand new.”
“What was inside?”
“A note… it said, ‘Fly, fly… fly.’” I paused because I wasn’t quite sure as to what I should say. I paused because I was begging her to interrupt.
“What do you make of that? An odd note, wouldn’t you say?”
“I know what it means. At least I think I know what it means…” I shrugged, still playing with the fortune. “It was in his handwriting.”
“Christ no. Not Peter’s. It was in Billy’s handwriting.”
“Billy,” a pause, and then after recognition of the name, “the friend that committed suicide.”
“Yes, that’s the one. His suicide is what brought me to see you.” The dreams came soon after his funeral.
“Yes,” she said, as if to say I remember.
“He jumped off a building,” I said sadly, even though she has heard this all before. I didn’t bother to tell her that I firmly believe that he was trying to fly. I remember as a child, living in my parent’s old house… the home I live in now, he used to take me to the ocean cliff. It was there that he tried to coax me to flight. I remember he ran away once. He was gone for an entire week, and when I asked where he was all of that time, he said, “Circling over the Pacific, trying to find my way home.” Later, he tried to take me again. I was so willing, but my frightened mother caught us. Soon after, Billy was sent away… to Brookfield Manor, home of the mentally insane. That was the building he jumped off of. Even now, after his funeral and everything, I sometimes wonder if he really could fly. Maybe the wind just wasn’t right.
She cleared her throat, thinking. “Do you have a strong connection with the word ‘fly’?” she asked.
“Not really. I mean… I don’t. Billy used to say that he could fly though.” There I told her. Tricky therapist.
“Oh, you didn’t tell me that before."
“I didn’t find it important.”
“Do you find it important now?”
“Why did you dream of it… do you think?”
“I don’t know. Closure, maybe?”
“If it was closure, wouldn’t you think that the note in his handwriting would say ‘flew’… Wouldn’t you say?”
“I don’t know. I doubt it. Billy rarely thought in the past tense… Maybe the dream is just telling me that he’s flying right now.” It was bullshit really. I would have done anything to get her to shut up. Peter had told me therapy was a crock but I needed it anyway. My mother blamed my decision on Billy from day one. She thought I needed therapy ever since Billy took me to the cliff.
“Maybe. Maybe he is flying,” I heard her shift in that purple polyester skirt that matched her purple leather chair. I have a strong connection with green, well this woman has an absurd connection with purple. “Time’s up for today,” she said as she stood up, straightening herself.
“Of course,” and I left.
That night I had a terrible time sleeping, or at least trying to get there. I wondered if it was my fault; “act as if you are in a dream,” the fortune said. I don’t need to dream or sleep; I need to live, I thought. But still I tried to sleep with a belly full of warm milk. Codeine is what finally made me sleep, leftover from having some teeth pulled.
And now I wake up, barely, half delirious. The codeine did a number on me. I didn’t even dream. Yawn, stretch, yawn. I sit up and just think. It’s dark, too dark really. It’s not yet morning, or if so, just barely. I look casually at the clock; am I dreaming? Is it really 2:22 AM?
Like an instinct, I throw on my robe and run out of my bedroom, down the steps, and out the back door. Green, it’s still very green. It’s only then that I realize that I’m barefoot, but it doesn’t matter. It’s better this way. I walk towards the poppy garden, like in my dreams, but soon I become impatient and run faster and faster. I run into the red garden and to the white rock, the light cheap kind you can buy at a local hardware store. I just about skid my knees on the way, slipping in the dew, but I lift up the rock easily. Underneath, there is black, fresh soil. It’s beautiful and just as I had always pictured it.
I dig and claw and dig. My once perfectly manicured nails are dirty and breaking, but I dig and dig. I dig deeper than ever. I expected my goal to be easy to find and shallow. I widen the hole. Maybe I was slightly off. Maybe it’s slightly to the left… or to the right. I dig and dig until I can’t feel my fingers. It’s colder than in my dreams. I keep digging. The hole is deeper than my elbow, deeper and deeper. I find stones, roots, broken glass, but no green box… not little slips of paper. Then suddenly, just when I was about to give up, I find something. It was thin and light. It was something. I found something. It was covered with globs of dirt and half-formed mud, maybe clay. I feel the flimsy edges and firm center and I clean it off. It’s soft and familiar. It’s a feather and a fairly large feather at that, maybe a foot long. It’s gloriously intact, too intact to be left underground for long. Surely something would have eaten it away by now. Conclusion: it was left for me.
Now what to do? What to do? Wash it! And I do. With my green hose, lying in the grass like a snake, and the glow of the motion light outside the door, I clean off the feather. It has a bluish hue. A seabird, I would suspect. Some sort of heron maybe. I just standing there, admiring it. Such a wonderful gift! I stand and wonder what next as the ocean gently kisses the air. I can smell the salt. I can almost feel the water in my lungs.
I begin to walk, one step after the other. Something is pulling me… no pushing me. Whether it’s a trance, a dream or simply fate, I walk to the edge of the cliff. The rigid cliff is like a hand, reaching out and grasping the blue, wide ocean. Waves have swallowed the beach. The tide has come in, and it’s coming in farther than I have ever seen. It’s swallowing the shore, the cliff, and soon me as well. I can feel it in my bones. “Soon the land will be gone, and only those that can fly will survive,” Billy used to say. “Fly with me,” he would say.
With an assured motion of my hand, I stick the feather in my hair. Wouldn’t my mother love that? “Lice,” she’d say, “you’ll get lice.” No lice this time, not from this feather. I taste the cold, salty air. With one deep breath, I puff out my chest, extend my robed arms, and step off. I step into flight…
Now I would like to thank etouffee for beautiful nodes and this lovely challenge… hopefully it lives up to your expectations. One regret… I didn’t make it very rapidy. Sorry, I got a little lost.