I’ve been having the most incredible dreams lately. This one is from this morning.
The alarm this morning woke me, and I stopped the scream that was mounting in my throat. I was home in my own bed. I hugged the pillow, encased in its soft, worn cotton, and relished it’s familiarity. Only seconds before I’d been in India.
Becky was driving. The car was small, barely enough room for Becky and me and our luggage, although we had packed light. Very light. I don’t know how a change of clothes fit into those small bags, and soon they were lost anyway. The back seat barely existed, and our seats pressed us against the windshield. The standard transmission whined as we drove uphill. The car was brown and cream, the license plate rusty and impossible to read.
I was riding shotgun, armed only by a map. This may sound well and good, but I was handicapped by the difficulty of not being able to read it. To complicate matters, I couldn’t read the road signs either, making the level of help I was able to offer rather dubious. They were written in Hindi Devanagari script.
I circled our destination on the map to aid myself, but as we darted through the streets barely avoiding cars, pedestrians, dogs and cows, I could find no signs that matched the foreign squiggles I was looking for. Becky kept making turns onto other thoroughfares to get out of the thick of traffic, which only served to widen the maze.
The highway took us into mountains. Big, tall mountains. I was sure this little car would never make it over the pass. For some reason, I thought it was Mount Kilimanjaro. Wrong by about 3,000 miles. They must have been the Himalayas. Perhaps my mind confused Himalaya with Hemingway and inserted Kilimanjaro? The road was steep here, and we saw no other cars. Small, yellow flowers grew by the side of the road in the loose gravel and I wanted to stop and pick them in the crisp, cool air.
We passed small huts where women were hanging out their laundry. Beautiful, embroidered robes in bright colors. We stopped, and I bought a silk scarf from an old woman. She was missing several teeth, and she explained that she had lost a tooth for each of her children, and she had had several. Many children, all of them gone. The scarf was lavender, smooth and exquisite. I wrapped it around my head and the silk caressed my face. The old lady showed me the correct way to wear it, and she kept calling me ‘daughter.’ As I kissed her time-worn face, she cried. I held her as I told her goodbye. The scarf felt comforting and I told Becky I might never want to take it off.
Instead of getting back in the car, we mounted a long flight of stairs, arriving at a large Railway Station. A maze of tracks and platforms stretched for miles. Above us were wires that crisscrossed, supporting a series of signs that I couldn’t read. I had left the map in the car, and I couldn’t remember the name of the town where we were headed, I couldn’t remember the design of the script it had been written in. The sun was going down, and the meager light bulbs that hung naked from the wires only provided enough light to feel our way along the platform where I saw a sign I recognized. A phone booth!
Becky asked me to call for directions. It took awhile before I could get an operator that spoke English. The conversation went like this:
Me: “I’m lost and I need help.”
Operator: “Where are you?”
Me: “I don’t know. I’m lost.”
Op: “Where are you going?”
Me: “I don’t know. I can’t remember the name of the city.”
Op: “Can you spell it?”
Me: “I don’t know your letters.”
Op: “Where are you?”
Me: “I don’t know. I’m lost, but I’m at a train station.”
Op: “Which one?”
Me: “I don’t know. I can’t read the sign.”
And so on. For a long period of time. The phone began having serious problems. The operator faded away, and the phone dissolved in my hands.
Becky grabbed me by the shoulders, and pressed down. “You are not lost. You are here. Feel the ground under your feet? You are here. We just don’t know where ‘here’ is right now.”
We continued down the wooden platform until a stewardess pointed us into a train. Narrow beds were made up on each side of a narrow, dusty hallway. The dark oak paneling accented the starched white cotton sheets on the cots. I wanted so much to sleep. I could smell curry that was being prepared, and I hoped dinner would be served soon. The train began to pull out of the station as I stretched out on the cot and I felt myself drift off into sleep.
The alarm went off and I was home. Smooth, lime green soft cotton sheets that I had chosen. I hugged my pillow and celebrated its normalcy.