My house was built in 1912. It is surrounded by trees a hundred years old lining sidewalks of cracked concrete that sparkle in the sun. Weeds grow in the cracks alongside the occasional yellow poppy, as if beauty and ugliness were carving out tiny spaces in our souls.
During warm weather, the smell of night blooming jasmine is heavy, like bass notes of music floating in the air. It’s as if searing heat from the sun burns messages into all the blooming things, while the cool air at night gives them permission to come alive.
I have always existed in the between things, in the smell of jasmine seeping through porous wood and old window glass. I like to breathe in the things that I can see, and with eyes closed the things that I can’t.
It is on a hot day, walking through the latitude of my life that I feel furthest away from the memories of my youth. But when the sun sets ghosts come out of hiding. They scratch at my door. They fester in my bones. They drift into my mouth and down my throat while I sleep.
They wait for night. They wait for me.
My Dad visits then, in dreams where my imagination soars. I cry in dreams. I scream and shout. I read letters and decipher complex equations. I fly above planets and kiss beautiful men with their hands in my hair. I am a universe unto myself when I dream.
Dad visits only when I sleep. He never speaks a word. He stares at me with a hundred questions in his eyes. The kind I won’t answer. A few I simply can’t. Sometimes it’s just the silhouette of him across a crowded street, standing faraway on a hill, or retreating down a long hallway. The longing to feel safe with him again is a thing so intense there are simply, no words.
When I dream of Dad – the childhood Dad with his cowboy stance, lopsided grin and ocean eyes, or dying Dad with his cocktail glass, loaded handgun and soft-soled shoes, I wake up in immense pain. A physical pain in my lower back as if I’d spent the previous day carrying a large object up a steep hill. I am left flush with the melancholy heaviness of the burden I’ve placed on myself. As if throughout the day I’m still in the dream, unable to shake it off, clinging to his wordless silhouette. This feeling provides me for small time with the ability to see and smell and taste things normal people can’t, like a bloodhound searching for decay. It lasts for hours, sometimes the entire day.
On a day like today, when it is hot and humid and a steady wind blows in from the North, my mind becomes drenched in the history of all my hollow places. I step out onto the porch and the coolness of shade. I’ll sip hot coffee, sit in my wicker chair and seek forgiveness in the rising sun.
The sun will scorch whatever message into the flower it sees fit. When it finally sets, just as my last bit of dream slips away, I’ll once again smell the night blooming jasmine in the air. I will close my eyes, as I’ve done a hundred times before, and sit inside the silence.
I don’t know why this profusion of fragrance portends a midnight visit from my dead father. I only know that in the absence of sound or words or hope, I’ll gladly live inside the smell of burning flowers.
© 2009 mstrace
Yes the jasmine is blooming and sometimes you just need to write the damn dream down.