We’re over the hill and heading towards Santorel, a town where time bides the only answers that I seek. Pordova is with me. Her eyes are falling with the sun. It is a slow fading drop that panders to the lives that need to rise for their nine-to-fives and wake them from their lullabies. We’re treading on the contents of every hourglass. Do hourglasses come here to live or die? I can never tell. I surely can’t tell this time.
I move closer to Pordova and hold her hand.
“Not now. Not here,” she says. Her hand tremors and I lose my grip. All I’ve ever wanted was companionship and this was the closest that I have come. It only makes sense that it is not achievable. It’s never the right moment. Years ago I would have begged and pleaded and asked why, but now I just shrug my shoulders and accept it.
“I’m tired,” she says.
I was lying. I could go an endless amount of miles on this heartbeat and dedication. As long as she’s with me there’s an urgency to reach Santorel and rest before we wake. I tire her.
Pordova’s knees hit the sand, spilling her water bottle, her eyes turning towards mine. I grab her right arm at two places: hand and elbow. She thanks me instead of pulling away this time. Her kneecaps carry sand stuck to her sweaty legs and I help her brush it off. I knock the sand from my palms and onto my pants as we continue to walk to a tree that fans out like a bonsai. Pordova and I sit against it.
“Where did you say you wake up to, Zemi?”
“Home. Good ol’ New York City.”
It takes a certain amount of courage to break through the dry rheum mucus that tears away from itself. Our eyelids make-out each night and I’d like to think that every blink I give is a soft and delicate kiss against Pordova’s lips; a millisecond glimpse back into the dream world that we share. I bat my eyes incessantly with the hopes that I’ll turn into some creature, maybe Nosferatu. The coffin that I rise out of sends me to my death. Every time I feel the pillow fold around my face, where my cheeks contort just enough to make these smile lines seem permanent, I hope that I don’t wake up with an endless longing.
I picture my comforter shoved deep inside the duvet, and my girlfriend, Patrice, running the shower, brushing her teeth, and attempting to speak to me while my oscillating fan breathes air back into my lungs. And I lay there, with my brown hair on ends, jerking out of my slumber, spooked by an unknown source. I can’t crack the code. I check the time with one bloodshot eye and know that it’s the weekend. Those days never pass by without a distinct earthly underpinning.
My cat, Milo, scrapes his body against the doorway and begs for me to wake up and attend to his continental breakfast of canned goods. Our overgrown tree in the front yard runs its nails up and down our glass window. The pollen crosses in and out of the sun rays, hoping for a higher ground that will save it from extinction. Every piece of pollen rises like a balloon that’s just waiting to pop. I can’t even begin to rise. I’m tired.
I’m fine to share Patrice and Milo’s company, although I miss what Pordova and I have. But what Pordova and I have takes time. It can’t be finished in a night’s sleep. I regress back into Pordova’s conversation about where I live.
“Some crappy apartment,” I say, while tucking my right leg under my left. Pordova lets the water bottle drown her hair before it forms a single stream under her chin that waterfalls onto her lap. I watch these three steps forward and don’t take any back.
Pordova enjoys reading books in her bed with her hair curling and bending along the jaw lines that frame her face. Her boyfriend enjoys the sounds of television frequencies to send him into his nightly coma. But Pordova and I don’t sleep. We move.
“What’s the weather like there now?”
Summer is sweat and fall is sweatshirts. Winter is overcoats and spring is overcast. I used to imagine the seasons as dripping memories that siphoned into the next month. But now it’s changed. I’ve moved from temperament to temperature. I’m falling out of repetition and I can’t seem to get it back. I want to belong instead of be longing for something else. I’d like to spring into summer with sexually-charged relationships that fall victim to the winter blues, whites, and red dye dresses. Patrice likes to have her dresses bleed around the holidays. Pordova cradles the holidays with a childish delicacy, enjoying every rock of coal in her Christmas stocking. I’m preying for seasonal salvation.
I wither every object in my presence. I can’t keep anything pristine or unbent. My shirts fade and wear at the collars as if moths fed on them during my hibernation. My dinner plates chip and spider after I delicately place them back into our cabinets. My girlfriend’s elastic skin bristles into crow’s feet and every conversation that I indulge her in shows signs of aging. All of this effort that I put forth in keeping things perfect has only returned damaged goods and voided purchases. I always get a warranty.
“Weather’s the same in Oregon,” she says.
Pordova lives outside of Portland in a house with a wall that should have been a deck; long floorboards run its length and break, intersect, and align. Although she tells me that it looks great inside, I wonder if she finds it more fitting in its natural habitat where it withstands those rainy Oregon days and ages well instead of being cooped up in a place that doesn’t challenge its durability. I regress back into Pordova’s conversation.
“We need to talk.”
“We need to go,” I say.
I’m moving towards Santorel. I should have let Pordova know this so she wasn’t raising her voice behind me and falling behind. I reach my arm back as if to help her. I’d shine my armor every night for her.
“Time is of the essence, my lady.”
“I’m not your lady. I’m your friend.”
I cringe, but I don’t let this slow me down. I said it hoping that it would pass over her like a word mumbled under my breath until we arrived at Santorel together. And maybe next time, like the brush of those pebbles on her knees, it will be accepted and thanked, instead of swept under the rug with such concise rejection. How about a thank you next time?
I’m charging forward to reach Santorel, thinking that every new step that I take will bring us closer. I just don’t know who “us” is. Are we merely broken hourglasses out here, or are we piling grains that accumulate space, time, and a hope to be flipped and start anew?
“I want to arrive with you,” I say.
“Well, won’t we be?”
I want to show up at Santorel and have the town correctly assume my intentions. I need it to be true. I don’t want them to question the gap between our bodies, or our footsteps not being in synch. There must be no gap, but there’s time. I digress back into Patrice.
These days pass by and I scoot closer to the corner of our queen-sized bed. At least Milo enjoys the extra space. I used to cradle Patrice and let her body warm mine. Now I’m cool under these covers and I never break a sweat. What would she say if I whispered that I knocked sand from Pordova’s knees? How would Patrice respond to those thoughts that flooded my head and clogged my pours when I watched the water weave its way through Pordova’s hair? I need to divide and conquer these ruins.
There are things that I can’t tell Patrice. It’s these things that only Pordova understands. Maybe that’s what makes things so difficult for me to separate. Patrice’s eyes would crumble if I tell her everything, but there is this distance; a distance that I can’t build a bridge to drive over. It is a bridge that topples at the earthly shakes that tremble in my dreams.
Santorel is on the horizon, deep olive greens and flower smells; houses with decks in their rightful places and roofs with drains that leak down into the soil. These people share a comfort in the smaller things in life. They enjoy pumping the well for water. They turn and walk that water back into their homes to drink it, bathe in it, and reflect. I envision falling into the well like a boy who missed the bucket and lost his footing. I careen into a bottomless darkness, injured, and lay there, staring up at the circular spot of light, hoping to be rescued. Patrice knows that I’m clumsy. I wish Pordova did too.
“If you had one wish, what would it be?” I said to Pordova.
“To be back home.”
Home is a state of mind, or so I’ve been told. It’s made up of many things: We make friends. We make moves. We make progress. We make plans. We make-out. We make mistakes. We make distance. We make do. We make changes. We make love. We make babies. We make it cry. We make it stand. We make it drive. We make it work. We make it count. We make it up. We make pretend.
We arrive at the opening gates of Santorel and are met with smiles. I inch closer to Pordova, brushing my skin against hers. These barriers that I was so eager to cross don’t seem so familiar. The questions that I wanted to resolve have dissolved into trickling confusion. These are the breaks. I break stride with Pordova as I introduce myself to a woman, who bends at the knees to pick up a bucket.
“Who’s ya lady?” the woman says to me. I would have answered the same, but Pordova speaks up.
“I’m not his lady.” Pordova jostles. I knew it all along.
I retract within the words that flatten my own existence and scatter the hopes that I once had for my future. I ramble into oblique sentence structures with verbal soliloquies, sonnets and arias that can’t hold a tune. I fear my last days out in this empty repetitious stranglehold. Or is it a stronghold? I care for nothing that I have built, yet I want to stack those Lego bricks into a formation that resembles a home.
I am home-bound; restrained. I cut corners and ties that I swore to wear to church on Sunday for Patrice. The tie goes to the runner and I’m running as if my deity is Hermes, the Greek god of athletics. I digress.
I burrow low, stretching my arms under the covers, feeling spots where grains of sand once hit my skin, as my heartbeat slows down. It is this good fortune of missing that balances any misfortunes that might preclude.
Maybe we’re all just waiting for our dreams to run their course before we’re fine.