♦ Scroll 28
Long before he returned to the table, I had decided that I had to disappear. I finished the last sip of wine and sneaked out the room while he was arguing with a woman next to him. I wondered what they were so mad about but, frankly, I was more interested in the fact that a thick fog had rolled in from the sea, and I wasn't sure I could find my way back to the boat. I turned right on a cobblestone street, then left, and soon a white-plastered wall blocked my way, so I turned right. There I unexpectedly bumped into the very man whom I had never wanted to see again.
He asked me, "Where are you going?" Shocked, I immediately lied, "I've had an emergency call and I've got to get to a friend's house," and pushed past him. I broke into a run and immediately bumped into the woman who had been sitting next to the man. She said, panting, "You've left this behind," and handed me an envelope. I dropped it into my bag and hurried away, towards the sea. The fog was getting thicker and I tried to remember how I had made it to the conference room in the morning after a long night in the bars along this same waterfront—today nothing at all seemed familiar.
I past the docks where the big boats were moored, but my small boat was nowhere to be found. Utterly upset, I went all pieces and sat down on the edge of the dock, with my feet dangling over the water. I don't know how long I had sat, but when I looked up the fog had completely surrounded me, and I felt benumbed, and suddenly someone or something bumped onto my back, and when I came to I was underwater. I struggled to surface for air and, as I came crashing back into the world again, everything was completely changed.
The fog had disappeared, there was an almost dawnlike glow in the air, and birds were singing just as I remembered them singing long, long ago. However, I couldn't recall anything that had happened the moment I'd felt that push against my back. I climbed up out of the water and onto the dock and sat down to inhale salty air into my lungs. I had never felt my mind so blank, which I took as a sign of departure, and began to plan my next move. There are moments in every person's life when you'd never want to see anyone, any alligator or to eat any kind of chocolate.
And also there are moments when you feel obliged to open a sealed candy box and call it breakfast. I took the envelope from my bag and stared at it in a puzzle because I had no idea who had given it to me or what it contained. Time seemed to lengthen and curve, the same way it did when I was underwater, and strangely nostalgic for home. When was it that I set out, determined never to come back to the known? I could no longer remember my birthplace, so I opened the envelope and found a note reading "Your boat has been washed on a beach and I'm waiting there for you."
Photo by James C. Hopkins: Wrightsville, North Carolina.