♦ Scroll 24
There was only one thing left to do. I took a sheet of paper from the drawer of the desk and started drawing a sketch of an "impossible door" to the inside of anybody. If only I could shape it up exactly right, then there might still be a chance that I could save her. Mustering all of my concentration, I tried to visualize her smile, but found myself looking down on a vast river from a balcony. Last time I saw her was when we had boarded the small wooden motorboat at Siem Reap and headed upriver, into the jungle.
For two days the engine sputtered and clanked as we chugged upstream, never stopped even while we were asleep. At the end of the 2nd day she abruptly said, "I was here before," which was impossible, because it was her first trip to Asia and she hadn't been out of my sight since the incident six months before. "Perhaps" I said, feigning indifference, but decided from that moment on that I should not be involved in her dream. I was in danger of being drawn back into a world of shadow and slanted light from which I had just barely escaped.
The riverbanks had been drawing closer and closer all day, and now it looked as though sucking our boat into a huge whirlpool, then the boat collided against a rock and turned turtle, throwing us into the water. Desperately I struggled to get out of the vortex, for eternal several minutes, and when I surfaced she was nowhere to be seen. I swam for the shore and crawled up onto it and looked around, my head still swimming. Then I saw a dark figure receding into the dense fog along the edge of the river, heading into the jungle, and I called out.
There was no response, and only my voice came back. I started walking, my motto being "always step forward," not knowing east from west, through tangled plants, until I came across what seemed to be a kind of 2-rut road through the jungle. Not knowing whether to turn right or left, I decided to follow the 2-rut road, which seemed to have been abandoned for a long time. As I cut along the ragged road, my eyes became adjusted to the dim light of dawn and I heard an approaching vehicle of some kind. An old bus came bounding down the jungle road and I flagged it down.
The driver opened the door and asked, "Are you going to the Temple?" I had no idea what temple he meant, so let the bus go and resumed walking like a salmon swimming upstream to its birthplace. What is it about not passing through some doors that seems more powerful than the ones we pass through, even if lured by colorfully winged creatures? I thought about the "impossible door" I had tried to finish drawing before I left home, before it was too late to rescue her from sliding down the forgetting curve into dark space, before the sun setting behind pagodas beyond the vast, glittering river.
(Photo by James C. Hopkins: