301. One More Dream

Louise wiped her own face
With a cloth.
“Never wondered
How it is I got no kid?”
It was an accusation:
She frowned, saying,
“No–
You never wonder nothing….”
Her voice trailed.
“Well, that’s why.
Because they hurt me.
One little thing,
One moment,
Like you say–
And it’s all changed.”

Riah’s breathing,
Strained, now came
More steady. Through it
All, she had been silent
Watching. She reached
To place her hand
Inside Louise’s hand,
As trusting as a girl,
As heedless.
Riah spoke:
“What then?”

Louise laughed
Shortly: “You mean, why
I’m alive? Well–
Dreams again. I had
This dream.” Her fingers
Spread to show the scene.
“I dreamed that I was
Drowning. I’d gone
Under, and I couldn’t
Get back up.
I fought, I kicked my
Legs, I just kept sinking
Like a stone, the ocean
Swarming through my nose,
And down my throat.
It filled my lungs,
They tightened up–
My mind was winking out,
It’s all a clawing
Swirl….

“Just then swims by a fish,
A tiny one.
It idles,
Stops and stares,
A passer-by.
I says: ‘I’m drowning!
Drowning!'”
Louise paused,
Looking off.
“Do you know what that
Fish, it says to me?
It twitched its tail.
It makes this speech–
It says: ‘Little Daughter,
Just breathe water.'”

She shrugged.
“And so I forced myself.
I took a breath,
My first real one.
It felt like something
Broke, then
Opened up. Sea
Poured in. I was
Breathing. Drawing breath.
I thought, Christ:
That fish is right. I can
Breathe water.”

Louise glanced down at Riah.
“Round about that time, then
I met you.
You weren’t like the others
In the town, their voices
Garbled in my head, their
Lips made gibberish, like
Demons in a hell, I had to
Try to sort….but
You spoke, your words
Came, clear as a bell.
I heard
You. And bit by
Bit, I heard
The others, too.

“I met you.
Luck, that’s all.
A little luck,
As I was saying
To your husband–”

She glanced back.
Tom was nowhere to be seen.

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