I often have strange dreams. Last night I journeyed into the underworld and searched for a lost jewel. Of course, there is nothing more boring than hearing about someone else’s dreams, their frayed logic and tremulous reaching. So let me instead tell you about something real, something that happened to me:
A few weeks ago I was at the beach. The sea boiled angrily, rushing at my toes like a truculent child. The sun was relentlessly hot but the beach was laced with Pohutakawa trees, their branches blinking like lazy eyes. I sat beneath one, peering through its lashes at the unbroken blue of the sky. The sound of waves was the lullaby of my childhood, the dragging in and out of the earth’s breath, the breath of God. The air was heavy with salt, I could taste it on my lips, collecting in all the fine lines on my face. The world smelled like it had been gently warmed for the table; salt and earth and grease.
I lay back on the sand and closed my eyes. I could feel the sun on my skin where it dappled through the branches. It was warm, then hot, and I had to roll closer to the trunk, deeper into the shade. Behind my closed lids, the waves danced. I listened to the spill and gather of them. My eyelids were the colour of dark flesh. There is no darkness in high summer, not even at night.
I must have lain there a long time. Time gathers in little folds and creases on days like that, minutes, hours compressed into a tiny ball, small enough to hold in your hand. I must have fallen asleep, but it was a light, dreamless state existing only in the quiet moment between waves.
When I finally opened my eyes again, my palm was closed on the lost jewel from my dream. My skin bore the grasping red imprint of it: a shatter of paua, purple as a bruise.