Collaborations of Abstraction

Just below the surface

Posted on: May 17, 2011

It’s night time. I’m riding toward Scotts Valley, about to take Highway 17 over the hill, which in Santa Cruz-speak, means over the mountain to San Jose. I’m riding in the passenger side of an ’89 Ford F150.

Except it's not quite this one.

It’s the old truck I learned to drive a stick in. It’s my dad’s. The steering wheel is in front of the middle seat and my mom is plopped in front of it. Don’t ask me where the stick shift is. I think my dad is sitting next to her, where the driver’s side should be. It’s a little hazy over there though. I’m not quite sure I recognize him; he’s more of a phantom.

We’re headed over the hill because we’re trying to escape a dangerous rain storm. Things are flooding, I’m told. I’m in danger.

But when I look up at the sky, it’s clear. In fact, it’s awe-inspiring: the kind of night you only see when you’re camping up in the mountains, where human light hasn’t reared its ugly head.

The stars are so crystal-clear, I feel like I can almost touch them. The night is crisp. The sky would be black, but it’s more of an indigo because of the breath-taking full moon rising from the horizon. It’s about two-thirds of the way up the sky, and next to it is a beautiful planet, so close I can see its surface.

Another Earth, perhaps? It was so lovely, and I looked at it longingly. It was then I realized I had seen this before. I leapt with excitement as I said, “I saw this in a dream a week ago! Isn’t that so cool?!?

I was bouncing up and down like a child, when it became obvious I was one. My feet no longer touched the floorboards; they were swinging freely the way I loved to do when I was about eight. I looked up at my mom, expectantly. (I mean, how rad is that? Right?!?)

She didn’t look down. Her eyes were on the road and she sighed.

“OK,” she said in an exacerbated tone that meant shut the fuck up. Even eight year olds know that one. The phantom next to her said nothing, but looked at me and shook his head in a combination of disbelief and disgust. I sunk down into the seat, feeling defeated.

Suddenly the sky started to look really weird, like I was in a one of those fair games where you shoot the ducks on the water. Everything was wooden and painted. The clouds went past the moon, but on an electronic roller in front of it. My eyebrows furrowed. This couldn’t be right.

What alarmed me more was when I realized my mother had rolled to a stop. I could sense danger, what felt to me like mortal danger, right outside my window. I tried to communicate with my mother, GO! but she didn’t seem to hear me. She was still looking straight ahead, as though she was still driving.

The phantom to her left finally spoke, in a stern loud voice, although I’ll be damned if I could recognize a word of it. It seemed to have the desired effect on my mother though, because she snapped out of her world and said, “Oh silly me! I forgot to turn the road on!”

She pushed a button on the dashboard.

Like a carnival ride, everything came back to life, but not quite at the correct pace. From the music to the bumps in the road, everything was in slow motion.

I became aware now that the danger that I sensed before was out there again, and my mother just said  “Crouch down,” and in the same breath said “Look.”

My heart was beating wildly. The car door was locked but I knew that didn’t matter. I realized suddenly that I wasn’t wearing my shoes. When I crouched down, I found them on the floor of the truck. Shoeless and vulnerable, I had to make a choice: stand guard with my hands in my shoes or risk attack while I was putting the shoes on my feet. I froze.

I’m wrapped in a blanket and big awful human hands were grabbing at me. I tried to fight back with my hands, which still had the tennis shoes on them, but I was so small and even if my coordination was better, I doubt I could have won the fight. My arms were flailing.

“Leave me alone!” I screamed. “Don’t touch me!!!”

Those words were still dripping from the air when I realize I have a choice. I’m dreaming. I can open my eyes and look at who I’m fighting, or I can keep them closed so tight maybe this will all go away. 

I open my eyes. I’m alone. 31. In my own bed. Gasping for air.


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Collaborations of Abstraction

Two close (though, unfortunately, not in proximity) friends – a Welsh man living in Ireland and a Minnesotan woman living in Germany – come together to share musings, wit and random things of interest in this journey called life



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