The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “respite” as either “a period of temporary delay” or “an interval of rest or relief”.
“The impossible often has a kind of integrity which the merely improbable lacks.” – Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (1988)
The parking lot exists and then the car, and then inside it: Seth. As always, he sits in the near-empty lot, inside his junk-filled car, staring out the windshield and watching the pollen-infused water spill down the glass. The rain pelts his car, he can hear it like tiny acorns dive-bombing onto the roof of his aged sedan. The rain is now washing away the pollen that had accumulated over the short weeks.
Before the rain, the pollen decorated his car with a yellow dust, spread down his windshield and rested in an allergy-infused pile on his wipers. It seems now the rain and pollen mix together and trickle down his windshield, a gross shade of mustard as the particles dissolve into the water, creating a sickening, vomity-solution.
Instant recognition of the dreamscape is made, specifically of the building that seems to be surrounded by shadows. He sighs as the water continued to spill gross pollen away from the roof of his car and down his windshield. This was the dream again.
In the lonely parking lot his car rests, crooked somewhere in the third row of a stretch of empty spaces, column B.
Rain, he thinks, is a stupidly common metaphor for cleansing. He hated when it rained in his dreams.
He remembers leaning back in the chair and looking to his left at Dr. Sherman in his drab attire and ethnic office. There were tribal masks, busts, paintings, and tiny statues of various people around the world. Dr. Sherman certainly considered himself to be worldly.
“It would often times be associated with renewal, rebirth, or even baptism,” Dr. Sherman would repeat to Seth each week when hearing about the parking lot dream. He rolled his eyes as he thought of how cliché his dreams were then to even have rain in them. At least he didn’t have to pee. He remembered looking out the window of the office that day and seeing her sitting in the very car he should have been in now, eyes closed, waiting for him. He would tell her about the dream after, and the appointment, and she would say that they should get some chowder. Then she would give him a smile that worked like a little plastic cup of NyQuil, instantly putting him to rest.
Now he’s back in the car.
The transition leaves him nauseous and he scrunches his eyes shut as he catches his bearings.
The rain of course stops suddenly, because that’s what things do in dreams when you acknowledge them. They cease to exist. He gets out of his car and does not bother closing the door. The asphalt of the parking lot is wet and sparkling with an unmistakable smell, the one from when Seth and his brother Wyatt would run away from their mother and play in the puddles.
He was in the parking lot of the church house. His mother and Auntie Cam were inside for their weekly New Negro Literature club. He and Wyatt would escape the supervision of the children’s area, sneaking out the fire-escape door in the coffee room and together, hand in hand, would flee their imprisonment. They would squeeze their tiny bodies through the rusted iron bars of the cemetery and hold their breath as they ran past the graves, careful not to step on any. His brother’s curly hair was a deep brown and he let it grow out into an afro back then. These days his head was shaved. Seth remembers his brother as he is now, bald head and thick muscles, and broad shoulders. He was standing there next to him when he married Elaina and the two of them had shared embarrassing stories about him.
There is a memory he doesn’t recognize when he thinks of the church. He sees Elaina crying, holding a now adult Wyatt’s hand and the two of them seem heart broken as they sit in a front pew of the church in South Carolina. This could be the funeral of his mother… but Elaina is in a beautiful black dress, the one she had picked out to wear to a dinner party in June for his award from the children’s hospital. They never went. Seth is trying to remember why when he hears giggling.
Looking into the woods next to the lot. He can see past the hazy shadows of undefined dream and he sees the surreal image of the younger versions of he and his brother, fleeing the church. These two are playing tag around the cemetery in the drizzle while the rain collects puddles on the hot June pavement around him. The sticky smell of summer rain in South Carolina fills his nostrils, despite the fact that he currently resides in Boston. He looks back to his sedan and the church and his past disappear over his shoulder.
The sun is peeking out of the grey clouds and shining its light onto the hood of the automobiles that now filled the lot. The sun reflects off the hood of a silver Mitsubishi and stings light directly into his eyes. This forces him to squint and suck air in between his teeth. It is suddenly a dreary humid, and the smell of hot pavement, only recently poured on, gives the air an almost artificial fume. As he breathes deeply in and out, looking around him at the previously deserted parking lot, now slowly filling more and more before his very eyes as cars seemingly appear into place, rocking back and forth as they settle into their place between the lines.
With the exhale of air, he remembers his mother’s perfume. He could smell it from a yard away when the wind blew right, even over that scent of the heavy, wet, summer Carolina air that overpowered so many of his memories.
Elaina found the perfume when they and his brother were going through her things after her death.
Elaina asked what it smelt like and Seth couldn’t put it into words. Wyatt, always the poet, simply stated that it was the smell of a beautiful woman with confidence and class, and a good Christian heart. Elaina liked that description and the two boys, laying on their mama’s bed, regaled her of stories of the sturdy woman who was their mother.
The lot now has that thick humidity where the droplets could still be in the air, hanging loosely and floating about, and taking in a breath was akin to sticking your head into a full sink and just sucking in water. It made your lungs and the back of your throat feel heavy and damp. This sensation is recalled as is the memory of Elaina’s terrible story. The children’s hospital ball, set in place to honor their finest doctors and donators, was canceled when one of their most celebrated medical professionals was killed in the rain.
Seth looks over his right shoulder and as he does so, the supermarket he had visited three months prior, to get a bottle of champagne. He turns his head back to the car to see if he could find his cell phone. He did, and stretched his arms out to reach it the car door, which was uncomfortable in the suit he was presently in.
It was the grey suit, the one his mother had picked out with Elaina, but was too afraid of telling them it fit improperly. When awake, he avoided wearing it because the arms of the jacket didn’t quite fit him correctly, and everything felt tight in his armpits.
He takes the jacket off, and throws it into the car, just like he did that day, and yanks the phone off it’s charger and stuffs it into his pants pocket, and finally shuts the door so he can go into the supermarket and get the champagne.
His pants, his belt, his button-down, powder-blue shirt, all match which meant the day leading into the dream was probably not too chaotic. It wasn’t often that he got the belt to match. This was a nice brown leather belt and he now he can’t quite remember how he acquired it in real life, or if he even had. The shoes, a chocolaty brown similar to the belt, he had gotten as a birthday gift about two months into his job, that much he remembered. He realized one of Elaina’s sisters probably gave them to him. Maybe his nephews.
His white sedan would have to continue to loiter in the parking lot a while longer as he tries to get to the bottom of this dream. His dreams were often unorganized and although lucid dreaming was a trait in his family, his clairvoyance within the other-worldly scenarios allowed him deep and personal introspection.
He suddenly misses Elaina. He recognizes this dream immediately as a distinct variation of the ones he had before, the ones that were talked about in session with Dr. Sherman. In previous versions, however; there was far more confusion and he certainly was never in a suit. In fact, he often was in sweatpants and a crumby tee-shirt, the same clothes he went to sleep in.
Sometimes he was in a strange hoodie, watching himself in the pajamas get out of the car. He never recognized the hoodie during the dream, but knew it was his.
Why is this version of the dream so bland? he thinks. He turns away from the car completely now and stops short to see a young woman smiling at him as she runs towards him, from the store, champagne bottle in hand. It is Elaina, just like it always is.
“What are you smiling at?”
He startles himself at how fast he had asked the question, as if her presence predicates the question.
She squeaks a laugh and opens the car door to his sedan, passenger side. She is wearing a blue tank top with a nice brown vest over it, some kind of faux-tribal designs were threaded into the vest.
She wears a distinct brand of designer jeans that should normally cling to her shapely legs but are now sticking to her like a second layer of skin from the rain. Her entire slender body, from her jeans to her hair is drenched, sticking to her head and shoulders. A black dress is draped over the seat and she flings it into the back so as not to get it wet. He takes her purse while she gets in.
“I hate getting caught in the rain” she mutters with a half-grin and shuts the door.
She mouthed some words to him, and he gave her a puzzled look, hoping she’d re-explain. He never did get a chance to hear what she had to say.
That day she only smiled back at him as she reached into her glove box. She pulled out a paint-marker, something she kept on her at all times for what he assumed some girlish-purpose probably stemming from her high-school graduation, and begins to write something to the glass of the passenger window. Her smile has shifted itself into a clever smirk and as he bends to the window, for the millionth time reliving the horrible day exactly as it happened. He lifts his hand to tap on the glass.
Suddenly a severe pain enters his chest. He flings his head back in wild agony as he tries to protect his chest from whatever is happening to it. The same thing that has happened to him every time. To his horror, as he pulls his hand away, a puddle of blood has started to form on his shirt. She looks up from her writing, her smirk turning into a frigid expression of disgust and terror, her hand goes to her mouth to cover her horror. As he stumbles forward, his bloodied palm slaps against the window and as he struggles to stay on his legs, his hand and his body slip to the pavement from the grueling pain.
He tries to reach out to her, but suddenly he begins to sink down to his feet. The car seems to be washing away in the puddles, further away from him, as if caught in some kind of current, and soon her, the car, and the dream, are being pulled far, far away from him.
Elaina jolts upright, screaming his name and with a deep sweat soaking their sheets. She covers her mouth to stop from screaming and instead whines into her palm, choking back tears. She turns to sees the picture of him in a grey suit, arms around two children in wheel chairs smiling and giving the camera a thumbs up. Beneath this picture is an award given to doctors in pediatric cardiology.
“For incredible efforts of compassion and professionalism.”
Another picture beside them, Seth is holding her and smiling at the camera, and she realizes she is finally awake. She grunts as she looks to his clock. 2:07AM. She puts her hand over his place on the bed. It as it had been for just over three months now.
Empty and cold. He was gone and all she had left were the memories they shared and the dreams where she could see him again. Taking another plastic cup of NyQuil, she flopped back into her pillows and waited for exhaustion and medication to overwhelm her so she could return to the rainy parking lot once again.
© [This fictional story and characters are Registered under the WGA & copyrighted by Tyler Duggan as of 4.1.2014, All Rights Reserved]
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