At times, when I’m traveling, I wake up in the midst of the night in some foreign place, yet I am completely sure to lie in my own bed. Then it gradually becomes apparent that something is different: the size and shape of the room has changed, the bedside tables are somewhere else or nowhere to be found, the door is on a different wall. After realizing that, usually a few seconds are enough for me to start recalling events that brought me there; still, before that moment, there’s a pause, a corner in time where ideas about myself and my own character with perspectives, thoughts and emotions haven’t completely conquered back my mind. For some instants before remembering the story behind the bed change, I can perceive the world with my senses wide-open, my sight is not veiled by biases and I can breathe my spirit still fresh.
If the light is very dim or darkness reigns, it is just not possible to rely on sight but other senses will still suggest that the place is not what it ought to be: the surroundings’ smell, the texture of the bed, noises all around, differences in my own movement or even my own breathe. And when too much time passes before remembering, it is quite easy to panic, for me at least.
As for him, once he had woken up under instruments while being still prey of a strong anesthetic: he could see and hear but there was no smell in his nose, no taste in his mouth and touch was completely silent: no feelings whatsoever, not even pain. He couldn’t even figure out if he was breathing, so he had started worrying about choking; nevertheless he could see doctors and the room, so he could at least figure out easily why he was there. Someone there had urged him to inhale from the oxygen mask and the only other thing he could distinctly remember about that weird experience, before falling asleep abruptly again, was that pure act of will, completely deprived of any feelings. – You’re good, keep on! – he’d been told, so that meant he’d started breathing, even though he couldn’t figure out how. In that occasion he realized that, without accompanying feelings, even the simplest actions can be voided of any reality.
No memory, no sense, not even sight nor hearing, not even fear. No “now”, no “here” and no “I”: there was nothing at all.
Yet, from that void something intangible had started to assemble, like the winds concentrate and start curling to become a vortex. It had started warming and finally sensing its own weight; the pressure was increasing and decreasing, bringing back other feelings in the waving process: the fresh, tickling air entering, filling a space and then emptying it; a firm and stable whisper of blowing far from there; a fire crackling.
Then a sudden light stroke his mind, falling down on a single, definite area of his skin and clearing any earlier, subtler and less distinct feelings in the impact: one of his strings had been played without the other ones and had kicked off the rich melody of touch.
He was moving and enjoying the warmth and texture of a soft and elastic surface, climaxing in a firmer and harder peak that was completely filling and delighting him. Yet most of that warmth was not generated by that contact: a calm and relaxed energy was arising within himself and was radiating outward up to the skin. It was a known fire, possibly always existing and just woken up by that circumstance, just like a perfume can dig up a very distant memory.
It was the memory of intimacy with a feminine body; that single compact memory developed quickly many more that collectively outlined, through the wealth of their portrait, a very specific person: he had a very intense and lively picture in his mind, yet he couldn’t tell who she was.
He realized he was brushing and sucking her nipples; that awareness moved fast the warm feeling beyond the doorstep of thought and then into emotion, turning it into a physical happiness, stainless and free of shadows of any kind.
He came to, exhausted and his lungs empty. He was still on her laps and felt distressed about it but couldn’t speak a single word and just managed to lay one hand on her shoulder. Still she got what he meant and set him down to land.
A big rock was crushing his ribs to ground: he felt he should breathe or he would have suffocated very fast. He tried to inflate the chest but just gave off a throttled wheeze: he felt like his bust squeaked and was about to collapse. Yet he managed to fully inhale and then, in spite of the effort to get some air, he shortly would have needed to dispose of it or the ending would had been similar. At the same time he was sure that rock weight would have flattened his body if he let the blow out uncontrolled; his ribs were aching but he tried to exhale slowly, resisting pressure, then he repeated the process with less and less fatigue.
The sight was dull. He hardly sprung up on his tipsy arms and sit down, blowed and looked at her while she was redressing. She was familiar and he knew her already, he was sure: feelings connected to her were abundant, lively and just too many to say the contrary. In spite of that, he couldn’t remember where, how nor when they had first met.
– Hi… – he told with a shred of breathe; his head was completely empty.
– Hi! –
That sound shattered a barrage as easily as an acute tears down a glass wall, and he was flooded by countless doubts and questions: what that place was and how they got there, who she was and why he was so sure about having met her many times already? He made an effort to tidy up his mind.
– How do you feel? – he asked.
– Good I suppose… It was just a bit painful, not much – She got thumb and index close while raising her left hand. – How about you? –
Difficult to say. He was still thinking about that recent circumstance and realized that a most instinctual part of himself was considering it long past already. And the reason was that it had happened so naturally, as if they had been knowing each other for longtime and it was all but the first time. On the other hand, another half of his mind was bothering him with incessant questions and repeating something was not quite right.
– Better, thanks… – He put a slightly forced smile on his own face and offered her the palm of his left hand, not even sure why. – You got me out of a strange limbo – He was trying to behave kindly but he was grateful too and felt very close to her, without being able to see why. He couldn’t stop staring at her eyes and feeling overcome by astonishment but forced himself not to think anymore about it. – Any idea where we stand? –
– No – she looked ahead of both – But we could try asking… –
That sky was terse, dark and filled with stars like no other he had seen before that. The air was tickling and it was still a bit difficult for him to breathe, as if they were in high mountains. Still there seemed to be nothing around, just a very flat rocky desert and a thick vegetation much further he couldn’t discern, closing in a circle around their place.
They were sitting on a dark wood platform; the wood was crossed by countless brighter woven veins; he couldn’t tell what kind of wood it was and he couldn’t remember seeing one like that. Oddly enough, there were no walls nor a roof; except for the floor on the ground, there was nothing else. A strong and constant noise could be heard clearly, similar to the blow of the wind, yet there was no other sign of it: the air around them was completely still.
At a few steps distance he could see a low irregular wooden bench, similar to a low table, with a central distinguished round part from which the fire’s cracklings seemed to come. But yet again, no fire was visible.
In half-light he started telling apart a close, dark, very tall and very slim figure sitting cross-legged. The blanket-like clothing laid down on the right shoulder was leaving the full left arm uncovered. The latter was painted with thick white lines running in the middle and tracing the shoulder, elbow and wrist joints with a circle.
A lightning passed through his mind: – Just like the elephant – he told loudly without paying attention; that surreal experience he had been trough before awakening there had just come back to mind.
– A kangaroo, actually –
– I’m sorry? –
– The animal that brought me here was a kangaroo, not an elephant – He was left gobsmacked for a few seconds.
– After all, we’d better not be very cocky in believing we have seen one thing or the other – He couldn’t resist laughing, so she got infected too and it was not much later that they found themselves doing it at each other, hysterically, not being able to stop until their aching belly and their tears were suddenly hit by a third voice.
That strange man was keeping a tranquil and open gaze on them, expressing a clear benevolence and a subtle, alert composure. They didn’t understand a single word but both decided to beck with their head and he nodded back.
He was carefully holding in his hands a very simple wooden bowl when he put it on the table and then, without detaching his gaze, pulled his hands back on the knees.
– Sorry, we can’t understand. Can you understand? – he had chosen to dare in the end. The astonishment in noticing a sign of consent cleared the last remainders of the fear he had felt when first hearing that voice. – Can you tell us where we stand? –
He brought his hand to the bowl again, grabbing the side with the palm and the edge with the thumb, then he rotated it slowly until a portion of the motif formed by wood veins was oriented towards them. Then he pronounced a sound that felt like a single word.
– “Center” – she told.
– Pardon? –
– I think he’s just told “center” –
– How do yo know that? –
– Not sure, I have never heard such a language before. I’m just quite sure he told “center”, don’t ask me why it has come to my mind. –
– Center of what? –
– You heard that too: he just told “center” – He was convinced indeed, yet he couldn’t find any reasonable element to support that certainty.
His eyes suoi were very big and his iris of a very bright bronze-gold, so bright they seemed to shine their own light. His skin was dark and his face’s features at the same time delicate and unusual; he couldn’t guess the age. Something was moving over his naked arm, like darker signs changing their shape and position slower and slower, flowing around white lines and never trespassing them. He told something again, then the other two pairs of eyes met.
– I got “forgiveness” – She was not very confident this time.
– He told “travel” too I believe – He repeated while bowing the head and showing them the big palms, then he added something else. – Is he asking forgiveness for our travel? – Quite upset, she told she believed that.
– He said “weak gate”. I think he’s speaking about himself. – The host nodded and added something more.
– “Gift and opportunity” – he nodded again, pulling back his hand from the bowl and then observed silence while looking at them. His attitude was neutral and good natured; it was expressing very clearly just one thing: the pleasure of sharing that moment without any need to to anything else.
His words as much as his silence, his movements as much as his standing, everything he did or did not was pouring on that moment, the only receiver of his full alertness, the same kind of care one would spend for a newborn.
Not even sure why, he put a hand on the closer side of the bowl and the host did the same with the other hand, which allowed something to pass through like a purifying wind, and depleted him of any ideas: preconceptions about himself and their interlocutor, about the familiar travel mate he didn’t even know by name and many other wandering doubts, arbitrary hypotheses and unfounded fears. That way he could finally be totally present in that strange situation and as he felt suddenly lightened of an immense weight, a vertigo destabilized him. She quickly offered an arm in support, her face gloomy and worried something could have happened, but she got a smile and a gentle shoulder touch instead. – I think we’re all not going to say much more for today. –