I'm dreaming of islands again.
This time they are dense, choked rocks in the middle of a wide, slow, muddy river. The rocks are crammed with stringy, spidery trees like mangroves crossed with willows crossed with tangled braintree oaks. The leaves are rubbery, with sharp edges.
The wide river is shallow, and the muck from the bottom is gray, and it stains my toes and my feet and my legs, up to my thighs. I go from rock to rock, out of idle curiosity. The sun is far, far away, throwing off a cold, bright daylight. Nothing is reflected from the river water's surface. I think of disappointments and stale coffee and spiteful words. I look to the banks of the river and I see tall grass and lonely trees with drifting tops, and the sound of dry leaves in the wind.
For some reason, I walk low in the water, so that only my eyes and the top of my head break the slow river's surface. I'm not afraid of sharp rocks or a strong current or living things in the water. I'm walking in a slow crouch, my arms in front of me. I watch the clay-gray water running off the hair on my forearms. I think of lost chances and broken promises.
I'm wearing a raw cotton shirt, torn and stained with old blood in places. I can tell my nose has been bleeding, but it isn't now. Small lizards scamper onto my arms every time I touch one of the rocks. I can smell cooking rice.
The water tastes like thin oatmeal. I'm thinking of dead grandparents, when I notice how cold the river is. I turn and walk back towards one of the rocks, but I notice how far away they now are. And that I can only dimly see the banks of this river.
But the day is early, and I'm certain it will warm soon. And so I turn again, and walk with my eyes closed.
My toes are now only barely touching the bottom. My arms are spread out, and I'm leaning back into the river's soft current, letting it carry me gently. I feel the clay stains stiffening on the skin of my arms above the surface of the water, and I think of parched earth in empty yards, and children with scabbed knees. Water is lapping against my shoulders. My shirt is blooming in the muddy water. I think of swimming in the dark, and I wake up.