The River (part 3)

(originally written 2004-2005)

Chapter 3

The rest of the day went as usual and the evening just as well. I left the dock when the sun went behind the buildings and I could no longer paint with any natural light. My back was sore from sitting on the stool for eight hours after lunch, and I found myself wanting Nandin with me to carry my bags. I was fine without him, though. The short walk was one I made every day that it wasn’t raining. Oh how I wished for some rain right now, some excuse to not go out tomorrow. If I ever ran into Nandin again I would say, “Oh, I wasn’t at the dock because it was raining that day.” It would be something he could verify and understand and not in the least bit suspect that I was avoiding him. Oh, for some rain tomorrow.

I dropped my bags inside and informed my cat that he wasn’t the only man who loved me anymore. He didn’t care in the least bit, all he wanted was some food. I dumped a can of some off-brand cat food into a bowl for him and proceeded to undress. I needed another shower after today. The sun was out in full force and I never take off my jacket while out. I’d rather sweat in the heat than let the merciless sun burn my fair skin. Smelling for a bit was a small price to pay to prevent damaged nerve endings and lobster-tinted arms.

In the shower my mind wandered again. I thought of what it would be like to have a man around. To have someone in the shower with me who would wash my hair, and I his. We clean each other and exit the shower to return to the bed and make love. We’d sleep and wake up together, and spend the day at the dock together, then go out at night to dance together. I deeply desired the companionship of someone who’d love me unconditionally and I would love in return. Both voices in my head agreed on this sentiment.

A question arose from this—was Nandin worth loving? He was one of the cultists, which, to others, would be unacceptable. He was taller than me by at least a foot. How would that work out in bed? With me doing all the work or staring at his chest all the time. I chuckled at the thought. I’d only known him two days and I was already considering what sex with him would be like.

His motives for loving me suddenly sprung into my mind. He desired me because of a prophecy—his father told him that the girl on the dock would be his wife. Did he ever question it? Or did he just go along with it and assume that his father’s word was law and he would make me his wife without ever once considering how I felt about the matter?

I exited the shower and turned on the television. The late edition of the daily news was going to be on soon, and I wanted to catch what was going on in the real world while I spent my life on the Dock. There was nothing unusual, however. The crime report stated that the western part of the city had another robbery, car jacking or murder. Another drug dealer was caught tonight, and a woman from the eastern section of the city was interviewed for her opinion. Her mouth spilled forth shit as if she had diarrhea of the face. First she exclaimed her concerns that the crime lords from the west would be invading the east, and then she blamed the increase of hostility between the citizens on the cultists. Finally she sobbed a story about her children and how all she wants is for them to grow up in a happy world where everyone gets along.

How on Earth can she think her children will live in a peaceful world when she adding to the gap between us and what she always referred to as ‘them.’ I suppose she wants us to kill off everything that isn’t the same as her. I hated her and anyone like her and wished upon them any form of death God, Karma, or the River chose fit. But no, I chided myself for these thoughts. It was women like her, with money and time to spare, who were my best business. They were the sort who’d drop fifty dollars in my hat for fifteen minutes of my time. All I had to do was draw her pudgy-faced children and make them look good rather than the fat-assed little bastards they were. It’s a good thing I never had to draw anything realistic about them—I doubt I could get them to keep the fudgesicle out of their mouths long enough to get a good view of their three chins.

My dislike for others made me dislike myself. If what my mother said was true, that the river only loves those who love others, then I was certainly doomed, as well as the rest of the city. But how could it be true? The state of relations between citizens and cultists and between upper and lower classes has been the same for all my life, and most likely for longer. We should have died off years ago from the rage of the River.

I sighed and turned off the television after the weather report said there was no chance for rain tomorrow. I twisted and cracked my back before laying down on the mattress on the floor. My cat snuggled between my ankles and purred himself to sleep. He never had to worry about anything other than when I was coming home to feed him. I envied him so much.

My dreams were nothing out of the ordinary; vivid, colorful escapes from reality that plunged me deep into a fanciful world of espionage or some other adventurous role. Tonight I found myself as the second wife of a man much too old for me. I was in a large building; a mansion. I found it difficult to navigate; the architecture of dreams was far too outlandish to analyze and understand. To get to certain floors you had to first go up, then down, then up a flight again. None of the stairwells were straight up or down. The walls of the place were mostly an off-white with wooden doors. The only floors with any real significance were the fifth and third. My room was on the fifth and it contained everything I, whoever I was, owned.

I was a mother—no, a step mother. There were two boys, not mine, but my husband’s. I don’t think he was dead, no, he was certainly still alive, and I desired him for protection. I was constantly in fear when my husband wasn’t home. I felt the boys did not want me as their mother. I was less than ten years older than the elder son. The boys were eighteen and fifteen, or somewhere around there. They never called me mother, except when their father was around or they were saying it sarcastically. They knew that they frightened me, and they’d tease and torment me when my husband was gone.

I was constantly searching the mansion. It was such an interesting piece of architecture, and that’s why I loved it. The boys thought I loved it because it had a secret. If it did, I didn’t care for it. All I wanted to see was every room at least once (which, I supposed, contained a secret). There was something preventing me from this, though. On the fifth floor, which contained my room, there was a locked door the size of a cupboard’s. I’d drawn up plans of the entire house from what I’d seen, and, if I were correct, this door should lead to the third floor, which I’d yet to see completely.

Perhaps it’s a ballroom, I’d think, and he’ll take me dancing . . . I would stand in front of the small brown door and think of all the things that could be behind it. I closed my eyes and saw the stairs leading down, down to the third floor. How odd, the stairs didn’t reach the floor, and there was a five foot drop to the floor—if you can call it a floor. It wasn’t yet finished, but they were working on it. I could see that it’s supposed to be a wooden floor, large, open ceiling extending into the fourth floor—so it was a ballroom! Or a music hall! The windows in front had just been installed. Yes, there they were putting in the final touches to the beautiful stained glass. I saw my husband standing there, along with another woman. They’re admiring the new glass just as I am.

It all happened so fast. I didn’t know how to react. I shrieked as the pane fell from the workman’s hand and onto the woman. She tried to jump out of the way, but all that did was expose her neck. The glass shard fell straight to her left side and sliced her neck open.

Someone’s called my name. I turned to see the younger of the two boys, the one who knew his mother less and me more. He didn’t love me, but he didn’t not care for me.

I told him I was all right, just having a bit of a daydream. As I said this, the elder son came, carrying a key. A bit of paper attached to it was painted with the design of a setting sun. He handed it to me, and said, “This key is to the room that our father wished to give to our mother.” He said the final word with bitter hatred and shoved the key into my hand. He guided his younger sibling away, and left me there.

I turned over the key in my hand several times, and finally pressed it into the lock. The stairs were just as beautiful in the vision—the walls were painted in a panning view of a sunset. I looked at the signature on the paintings, and they were by my husband’s first wife. I continued down, and reached the unfinished bottom of the stairs. Everything was left as it was before—the floor unfinished, the glass covered. There was dim light coming in through one small hole in the window where a pane of colored glass was missing. It also made the room quite chill. I jumped to the unfinished floor and walked across support beams toward the window.

Her blood was still there.

“This room was her design,” the elder son said, still on the stairs. “In fact, the entire house was. She always had grand designs in her head, and she married my father to be able to afford them. Ten years ago, and I still remember it as if it were yesterday.”

“I–I know what happened,” I said. “I’m sorry you had to see it.”

I awoke to the sound of a car alarm in early morning. It was still dark. My first thought was how that troll of a woman would blame it on someone traveling east to rob the affluent. Not even my dreams could force out my bitterness tonight. I scratched the cat’s head and laid back down. Tomorrow I’ll have other things to worry about.

(I have considered heavily revising and possibly removing the dream chapter, or at least the dream portion of the chapter.)

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