A glimpse, maybe a clue, but last night I experienced another piece of the puzzle, for sure. It's a game. At least, I've decided to start calling it a game, which should make it more fun to play than a mission in life. A fucking mission exudes the word "pain" in its ultimate reward. Believe me, I get that already; I don’t need a reminder every single time I hear it.
Simply put, I saw her.
Now, I suppose that I could argue that I saw a vision of her, for I haven't yet answered the question about whether Promise is one singular person or many. I believe in the many over the one. However, finding the piece of hay that fits so comfortably out the side of my mouth in this stack of painful needles might aptly describe the search process, so far.
The soul medicine that I'd so desperately needed came in the form of the night, oddly enough. Which reminds me; never confuse The Black and the night. Never. Under the stars and the limp threat of storms, far from those polluted by their own urbane nature, where the man in the moon provides the only true light--a telling light, but not a truthful flood, for many things hide in its glow--I found my rest among things that sleep, and things that don't, under no cover but that which the earth or from simple construction of its assets does provide.
On most nights I only hear the beating of my own heart—that constantly beats too fast, even more so with the punishment that I've been putting upon it. Kick ‘em when they’re down. How quickly can I plug my arteries with poison to get the fucking lub-dub out of my head? On most nights, not quick enough, so I've prayed for the nectar squeezed from grapes, permitted in our most hallowed cathedrals, to lead me on hands and knees into oblivion. Together we crawl into the mysteries of the dream-hungry mind. Yes, on most nights, we do.
As I lie there last night, I could feel It coming. It walked in eternal shadow; no light from the moon revealed its face. It made no shortest-distance-between-two-souls-is-a-straight-line path toward me. It meandered, whether toying with little lives, suffocation by approximation, or simply testing my own constitution, it approached slowly... and, like I said, I felt it. I don't know if it walked, floated, or danced; I just know it was there. It was there in the real world.
I deliberately metered my breath to calm my heart. Deeper. Slower. Calmer. By not dwelling on its presence, I could force myself to transition into my dreams where I was more familiar with the tools that I had at my disposal to fight or parry. Yet, it still moved, determined and closer. The lone sheet became my shield; its warmth forced my body to sweat, but I pulled it up until it covered all but my nose. Any higher and I'd feel my own suffocation begin. The only thing I need to sleep is fresh air. No human body, no pillow, no blanket, no forceful hand can cover my means of breath and still expect me to sleep. This long hair on my head would serve as a dark helmet, perfectly camouflaging my only exposed body part.
It still came... until the sweet state of intoxication whisked me away.--
"You don't have any idea what she's doing to you, do you?" she asked.
I didn't recognize her and I had no idea who she was speaking about. But, I was lucid and active in this dream rather than a passive observer.
"Soup?" She waved her hand front of my face before repeating her question.
I focused my eyes on her trying to place the face.
"Been somewhere?" she asked.
"Something like that," I replied.
"I know your mind travels. I know it brings back all these wonderful stories," she said while pointing to the bookshelves and piles of paper that hadn't yet made been bound. "But, I need you here. Now. I need you to listen to me in this life."
This life? Which fucking life is this? "I'm here, Cat. I'm here." CAT! With a "C" and not a "K," which must mean that it's Catherine, not Kathy, not Katie, but could be Cathy. It wasn't lost on me how strange it felt to discover something that it seemed I already knew. I study the shape of her face to give me a small chance of remembering it in what would surely be some split-second, chance meeting at some point later in life.
"Well then, if you're here, do you mind talking with me instead of over-heating that brain of yours with the possibilities?" she asked as she turned her seated body slightly toward me.
"Okay," I replied.
We sat in a dimly lit room—a bedroom—that felt like my bedroom, but not one that I was currently familiar with. The light came from over my shoulder to light up her face. Don't forget her face. After all of these experiences with Promise, none where I've ever been able to see her face, it surprised me to have hers facing me. Pudgy cheeks and soft lines gave her that naturally cute look. Her hair, which looked like it was between where it used to be and where she wanted it to go, tickled her shoulders where several pieces had escaped the knot that held its relatives captive. It was too dark to see the color of her eyes, but her hair grew a reddish-brown and I wasn't able to determine whether it was red by nature or by choice. Nor did I care.
Can she see my face? With the light behind me, can she see my face? This strange thought surprised me.
"HEY! DID I LOSE YOU AGAIN?" This time she snapped her fingers when she said it.
I mumbled, "I can't place myself."
"Nothing." And suddenly found the place in short-term memory that replayed that question she'd asked a few moments prior. "I know what she's doing, I just don't want to believe it."
"Why do you try so hard?"
"I want to believe. I want to believe in the good-natured heart, the wise soul and the comfort of trusted commitment."
"You sometimes want to believe it so much that you create a fantasy amidst reality."
"At least I know it."
"Knowing it and doing something about it are two totally different things," she said flatly. "Well, all of that's going to change tonight."
Somehow, I just knew that things were about to me exposed in such a way that I could no longer deny their existence or believe the lies that gave me the opportunity to suspend disbelief. I knew all of this and it didn't bother me. In fact, it felt a welcome coming. I didn't know what Cat expected of me, perhaps not such a state of calm, but that's what studying her face gave to me. How long had I known her? Forever. Duh. She didn't back down from my gaze, simply held her strength in the light, making her even more beautiful.
When I brought my lips to hers, she didn't move, didn't act as if it was something that she'd always wished for, but had too much respect for what's right to pursue. She didn't wrap her arms or legs around me, and didn't turn her body into mine, not even a slight opening of the shoulders to my kiss. She did, however, purse her lips milliseconds after mine touched them, and that was all the reaction I needed to linger, lips brushing across each others' like fingers tracing the names etched into monuments--as if you could reach out and touch history; feel the sense of struggle, but ultimate accomplishment of the men and women in our past.
She pulled away from me and quickly jumped out of bed. Before she spoke, I realized what she'd already heard; quick, bare footsteps on the floor above.
"What do we do?" she whispered. I looked at her blankly and she returned a shrug of her shoulders that reiterated her question.
I shrugged my shoulders in return before saying, “You just told me that everything will change tonight, is this"--I gestured around the room drawing a circle that encompassed us--"not what you meant?" I knew it wasn't what she meant, but didn't miss the opportunity to employ my wit.
"NOOOO!" she whispered with as much authority as she could and still have it labeled a whisper, then checked her clothes as if she’d just put them back on.
I reached for her, hoping that my touch on her elbow would bring calm, but as I reached...--
I woke to a night where even those awake at night had fallen silent. I often forget that there comes a time in the night when the night itself is completely still. I felt calm, resting with everyone and everything, which was very different for me--in the majority, a group that I'd not felt a member of in a very long time.
The pillow, as is often the case during a deep sleep, was wet with saliva in a circle that I knew from memory would be about the size of a silver dollar, though I couldn't confirm it in the darkness. I made my one hundred and eighty degree flip, from left side to right, adjusted the covers and thought hard to capture the face that I'd been so intent to study in my dream.
Cat. Catherine. Not Kathryn, or Kat. Cats and I have an unspoken deal since I'm allergic to them: if they don’t mind me not petting them, I don't mind them spending time around me or on me. With most cats, it works out. Wouldn't it make sense to find a Cat that I wasn’t allergic to? I mean, really, wouldn't that just bring my life into the balance I always claim to seek.
I fell back to sleep with something that I hadn't had in ages, a smile.