The first time I found myself somewhere else, I was sure I was dreaming. Everything looked familiar but different, and although I was interacting with people like one does, it also seemed that as soon as they walked away from me it was if I no longer existed to them. I would later decide that it was because although I was somewhere else, I had no effect on wherever I went. My actions had limited consequences, which could, at times, be a very delicious way of living, although it often was bittersweet. Fall in love while you are away, and they would never know you again, even though you would always know what you were missing.
But, back again to the first time, the dream that wasn't a dream. I was sitting with a group of friends alongside a body of water. It wasn't clearly a river or pond or lake, but it was clearly not manufactured. While I was obviously very comfortable with these people, I couldn't tell you now what they looked like or who they were, but I knew them, and they knew me. We had a spread out before us on a tablecloth. Bread that was hot from some baker's oven, cheese that was slightly softened by warmth of the sun, but in a soothing, happy sort of way. A bowl of olives was nearby, and a bowl of nuts, probably almonds, although my tongue didn't register them completely. I had been handed a glass as I sat down, which I filled with dark red wine from a bottle that was sitting in a basket, and the wine was sweet and smoky at the same time, a wine that I found myself always looking for when I wasn't away. A wine that I have never been able to find, no matter how much I have traveled in my world, no matter how much I have tasted.
At first the voices were like a background, perhaps best described like the sound of a busy train station or airport. Words that you could hear, but not make out exactly what was being said. And then a sentence is directed a you, and you are interacting with someone and everything comes sharply into focus. This is what happened when I was first spoken to, the first time I was away, and it took me a few seconds to realize what was said to me. A simple sentence, and one you don't realize you are missing until it isn't spoken to you anymore.
"How was your day," she was familiar to me and her smile showed a depth of friendship that meant she really wanted to know. How was my day? What day was it? My brain took a second and my mouth started to move.
"I started writing again today," I told her, returning the smile. "I had thought that it had gone away, but I sat down and the words started to come back to me and I wrote them down and when I was finished I read them and they made sense."
She smiled again. "I'm so very glad. I know you have been trying for so long and we have missed you at our lunches." She took my hand in hers and I suffered from a few seconds of disorientation. I wasn't myself anymore, but another person and my mind was merely observing, but then it slipped back into place and she was looking into my eyes instead of a strangers.
"I'm not sure it will come back tomorrow," I replied. "It was a tenuous connection, but I have an idea about how I'm going to make it work." I showed her a small book of photographs I had brought with me. "Each one of these has a story within it. If I tell the story within the picture, I should be able to keep writing." What I didn't tell her was that the distraction was more often that I was lonely than anything else. When the pictures reminded me that instead of siting near my companion while I worked I was sitting along in a room with a dog and a candle wondering who was going to ever read my writing.
"What did you write about first," she asked, taking the book from my hand and opening it to the first page. A picture of two ginger paws curled up in repose greeted her.
"A cat named George," I replied. "He lived with an old man down by the river, and the man would do the same thing each day. Every morning about a half hour before dawn....