Ghost tree mouth

The Gaelic Ghost

Tim’s Dream, July 7, 2020, San Juan Bautista, CA

     I awoke in the middle of the night and lifted my head a few inches to look beyond Frances, behind whom I was sleeping, as usual, with both of us on our right sides, “spoons position.” Someone was sitting in the chair at her desk, looking right at me. My attention riveted on him and something in me shifted into conflict/confrontation mode, almost fear. I mentally prepared to leap from the bed and … well, what weapon could I grab? We don’t keep the old revolver in the headboard anymore. Not even a broom close at hand.
     The face had a dim light on it from the high LED lamp across the street on the corner, filtered through the curtained window. He looked unkempt and haggard, stubbled, with longish salt-and-pepper hair and eyebrows in disarray. Furrowed forehead. I could not see below his weathered neck. And he sat completely still.
     How did he get into the house? We lock our outer doors at night but don’t keep our bedroom doors closed, because we want to hear any suspicious noises in the other parts of the house. I am a light sleeper and often wake briefly to creaks in the house from the temperature dropping or occasionally from a little California earthquake, living as we do on the San Andreas Fault. It is a relatively quiet neighborhood, but sometimes a car or motorcycle will rev up outside, or someone will raise his voice, especially during summer vacation from school. Not to mention during the long stay-at-home period of sheltering-in-place that we are enduring from the Covid-19 virus. Young men alone or in small groups with nothing really engaging and demanding to dooo (as my mother would say), nothing of lasting value. But this guy was no young man; he seemed about my age, in his seventies perhaps.
     He and I had been staring at each other so long by now that I began to wonder if he was real. Could he be some kind of projection? I tried to whisper to Frances who was breathing normally, unaware of my situation. But my mouth was partially paralyzed; I couldn’t coordinate my breath with my tongue to form articulate words; they came out in low grunts. My worry notched up. I would be in no condition to defend my wife and home if I couldn’t even talk. I tried harder and began to stir while still holding the stranger in an eye-to-eye gaze. Soon I was writhing, trying to fight off the stupor I seemed to be smothered in. The pitch of my voice rose as I applied more lung pressure in the effort to make words. It was getting bad fast.
     Then I heard Frances say my name … behind me! My orientation spun around like a shaken compass. “Tim, are you having a nightmare?” Weight on my left arm and shoulder told me I was facing away from her even before I opened my eyes and beheld the curtain dimly illuminated by the streetlamp. I quickly flipped onto my right side and there was no face looking at me. It immediately dawned on me that I could not have seen a face at Frances’s workstation: I don’t have eyes in the back of my head. Unless I am built like a Picasso in which the dimensions of spacetime go beyond our normal perception: painting what one knows from observation over the course of time, but depicted to be seen at a glance, not just what a still camera sees, and not what a movie projects that requires continuous watching. Eyes in impossible places, which we all have, in a sense.
     What a relief! I told her my dream. We cuddled and went back to sleep…

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