First published in Ampersand, 2010
At thirteen she had never remembered a dream in her life. She drifted into awareness with the numbness of cloves on her tongue and the tickle of cayenne through the hairs in her nostrils. Sometimes she had brilliant colours in her head; swimming purple or plastered ink red. She saw scrambled close-ups of silver fish scales lined up together like shingles on a roof; stacks of yellow blue orange green red fabrics leaning up into the empty sky; raindrops on big round jungle leaves trampolining up and down and into each other in perfect changing spheres. Then, as the mud of autumn puddles squished slower between her toes and the scorch of wasabi ebbed away in her brain she would scramble to catch them all, all of the pieces and slot them together like how sometimes by the beach she found broken shards of black shale and sat trying to remake them as rocks.
Like shale, her spices and silver fish scales and raindrops and reds purples greens never fitted back into something that felt like a whole. But dreams have a nature to be less than complete and rather puzzling anyways, so when the tastes of the night faded into the morning light she was content to accept memory in scraps and open her eyes to the coherent world, where things are seen from further away, and more easily.
Then when she could she would sit on the boulders at the beach. In the summer, yellow flip-flops yellow shorts and an orange tank-top to match the sun sinking or rising above the water that carried its reflections in swimming oscillations toward the shore. In the winter red gumboots old blue jeans and a puffy red jacket all under a wooly blue toque and scarf. Red nose in the icy salt wind. Tiny inch-square baby blue bathroom tiles decorated the pebble beach in every season and she picked them up in sweaty or mittened fingers, the same hands that in these mornings curl around her cup of black tea as if they're the only parts of her body that are still dreaming while the rest of her is talking to me and gazing at the dewdrops that roll down the windowpane behind me and thinking about the petunias out on the sill beyond. In these mornings her hands are heavy with dream and I would like to reach out and clasp them to preserve them in their somnolence so that she should have the sticky freshness of pine sap with her all day. But in those early days her fingers curled around inch-square tiles and flicked them spinning and skipping over the waves in the sea. She saw them skimming and sinking and then rolling along the seabed to the blue-sanded shores of her father's stories.