“Parchment.” I heard a voice say. In the translucent layers of sleep, the double syllable was clear. I was in my bed, warm beneath the covers…and I was alone in a black void, naked, looking for the source. I heard the word once, from a disembodied voice, it came from the darkness, beyond an enclosure of safety where there was no roof, no floor, no walls. I stood, in the center, in the middle of a darkened bubble that seemed to stretch past the furthest sun. Without forms to admire, without colored shapes or lines of meaning to decipher, the word was clear. Rich, beginning with pursed lips and then opening wide before the tongue closed against the roof and the teeth came together…this was only one half, in the other, the mouth opened once again in a circle that closed with the finality of a depressed tongue against a hard roof. I heard it ring like a thousand bells…my eyes fluttered in the search for reason. “What do you want?” I asked. There was no response. I stared into the darkness, waiting for an answer.
Upon waking, I held onto the word. I thought of my mother. When I was young, my mom would burn the edges of parchment paper and we would pretend that it was a pirate’s map. On its textured surface was the charted currents to a secret island. A land were mermaids laid beneath the sun, their milky breasts never tanning, their songs never ending. The map held the directions, the clues, the coordinates, but it was up to us to decipher the codes and take to the waves, to the open sea. Yes, it was charted, but it was one thing to stare at the journey on a piece of paper, half a world away, quite another to brave the winter swells, the scurvy, the delusions amongst the endless water and treacherous calls of the sirens. The path was given, we held it in our hands, but our will, it was our will and determination that could not be drawn or charted or predicted. This changed by the day, by the hour. The map was there, the secrets were everywhere, and the map promised a chest of diamonds, it was up to me to begin the quest.
I looked into the darkness, still, the sounds rang in my ear. “Ocean water” he said. His words echoed with bass. “Who are you?” I asked. There was no reply. I stood, naked, waiting.
On the water I must ride. With the map in my hand, I look past the wooden ledge into the endless buoyancy, the mini crests and valleys of liquid that jiggle like dancers holding onto each precious second, up and down. No concept, no thought, they move because they do, nothing more. There are no birds in sight, no land, no people…nothing but the water below and the water within. This vessel of flesh, made from the same mixture- the liquid carpet on which I ride. I float upon myself, the extension of me beyond the skin, I look into the endlessness, we are the same. An ecosystem cycles beneath the wooden ship floor. A world beyond my understanding. Complex, unforgiving, dark. The valleys, the currents. I am just a drifter with a map in hand, seeking the island, seeking the diamond I remember. My mind takes me as does the ocean’s path, the wide, unforgiving openness of consciousness. A thousand lives move beneath me, nearly hidden. Mammoth whales, sharks, plankton…the journey of currents and tides, unending in their cycles. I take the ride in this ship, again and again, following the current, grasping the map. Seaweed floats by like the green hair of an empress, alive and pungent, smelling of my gifts.
Upon waking, I held onto the words and drank a glass of sea water.