This, mind you, is mostly a dream.
Lake E–, New York. I have not googled this to find out if this place is real, and I will not. If it does exist, then I am sure it is not the lake I have seen. The one I know of is a small lake, surrounded by a few trees.
( I picture it being autumn, a grey but mildly warm day. The trees are dying gracefully, in calm explosions of purple and muted red. )
The lake is by an old road, straight and proper between two semi-popular points, fairly well-used, but there’s never any traffic. There may be a set of lights down the way, but I’ve never gone that far. The lights are faulty, and there’s a lonesome faded orange cone set down on the pavement at the center of the intersection, with a small sign that reads a simple and crooked ‘stop’.
Today, there’s more traffic than usual, and a few cars are parked on the side of the road next to the lake. One of them has the back driver’s side door open, with an old frumpy-looking lady stooped over and hectically rummaging through. She’s crying. She’s angry and frustrated and crying, not finding what she needs.
I am still a ways back from the lake, walking towards it, chasing something I’ve released accidentally into the gentle but constant breeze. A small bit of beige fluff, like one might pull from the insides of a teddy bear through a small tear. It is travelling smooth in the wind, and yet I can’t quite catch it. I want to say it is dancing, but it is not. It is not.
I can clearly hear the woman crying now. She is sitting on the edge of the seat, still mostly out of her car, head in hands. Whatever she needs must not be there. It is gone, or perhaps never was.
I walk past her, focusing on the fluff that I have not yet caught. While I am not looking at her, I am sure she is not looking at me. Her sobs are muffled and quiet.
( It is fortunate that I am heading towards the lake. It is where I need to be, and the wind is with me. )
There are six people waist-deep in the lake. Five of them are holding something down under the surface with what appears to be minimal struggle. The sixth, in a rush of motion and splashing, pulls up a coughing soldier from the water.
( In my faltering memory, I am not sure how I know that she is a soldier. She is wearing jeans and a red tank top. But I look at her now and I know. She has it in her eyes, her bright and pained eyes. )
I walk into the water, it is cold. I am the seventh. Waist-deep in the water, I finally catch the bit of beige fluff. I put it in the water, and hold it down. It dissolves into dissipating pink foam, and now
I am holding your hands. It is you again,
it is you.
This is the end, I am awake now. The sheets and blankets of the bed are strewn about on the floor. I am naked and sweating, and my throat is dry.
Lake E– has been bought by the government, and has been built over. It is now hidden under a massive steel and concrete building behind reinforced fencing. The steel of the edifice is the blue of forgotten nightmares, and makes me feel nothing. The concrete is a rotting grey. The fence has one opening that I can see, with two armored guards standing there, still as statues.
I walk up to them, and recognize one as the solder in the red tank top from my dream. She looks at me. There are tears in her eyes. She turns to the other guard and spits a code at him. He looks away, and she motions for me to enter, quickly. Quickly now. I go into the building.
A great iron machine humming in the water. Echoing steel boots on black catwalks. It is another world, dark. A door in the ceiling slides open, and someone from above lets several small items fall onto a conveyor belt. A ring, a sock. A splinter of wood. A distal phalanx, a piece of torn paper. A marble, a bit of fluff. Many more. They travel the belt down, and down, and down, into the water, towards the great machine. The machine roars.
I turn and run out. I can’t watch any more.
It is autumn, a grey but mildly warm day. The trees are dying gracefully, in calm explosions of purple and muted red. I run, and run, and run.