I remember a recurring drive: we were looking for a place to spend some summer (swimming) time– weekends, maybe. There was an area, a small town or somewhere near water. I think it was Kelley and I– second party vague (in frame but not in focus–). There were a number of places. It felt like a repeating of time; like memory in which all non-weekend or non-swim-seeking days had been erased.
I don’t know how we found the places, but the first one was abysmal– small, dark. No windows, or just the one in the door, maybe. A row comprising three of these one-room affairs; small garages, perhaps, converted for living, but poorly and ramshackle. We had two neighbors. One was an African American woman in her thirties or older– it was hard to tell as she was so unhappy. She worked somewhere every day and kept a trim brown horse in a sort of pantry or closet which might otherwise have served as her bedroom. She took the horse out every day upon returning from work, she rigged in proper English attire, and went out riding. God knows where. She’d found trails where there must have been jumping. She’d return when it was nearly dark and remove the tack, rub down the horse, and lead him back inside and feed him grain. You could tell she knew it was an awful way to keep a horse, but riding was her only love and she had no other way. It was the reason she looked so unhappy. She dreamed of showing and eventing, a different life. The horse was docile.
Beyond hers was the abode of an older, heavy woman who had cats. Secretive, furtive and untrusting. On top of all this, there was no place for swimming at hand and we felt stranded too far from water (a drive, not a walk). So we didn’t stay, couldn’t stay. I worried for the horse and its sad woman, shuddered driving away.
[image: map of the third house]
Second try was a house with a family in whose company we would be staying. They had a room to let, needed the money. Harried mother, taking care of home and children in addition to work. Useless husband languishing in bitterness on a couch. I helped the woman and her kids clean the bathtub. She told me it wasn’t my mess and I needn’t but I said we’d be using the bathroom as well, so why not. I wanted them to feel okay about having us there, which she clearly didn’t, although I didn’t get the impression it was personal. The kids were free and easy. But we were weekending fun-seekers, so it must have been strange for her. A reminder of the lack of fun in her life at the time, working and worried for money. We didn’t wind up there for long. I don’t know where the water was in relation, but it was just too dismal. I guess we paid for a night. She looked relieved when we told her we were leaving early, probably decided against letting the room again.
Third place had a strange sort of pool alongside the house. It had a steep down-slope of a back yard that led toward bigger water, but the pool was immediate and the way to the water was unclear, so we waded in and swam. It was a naturalistic pool– lined with rock and stone, and growing things in it. Moss. Turtles! I was amazed by these patterns they made. They seemed to be dormant, and many had gone from their shells (like snails who’ve moved on), but they’d hunkered into the pool forming these oblong perfect patterns, two or three deep stacked layer upon layer. At first I’d thought they were some sort of elaborate pool-scaping, but when I looked closer, the shells were unmistakably not man-made. At the far end it was shallow– interrupted by a stone ledge housing some up-lights and plants in squarish patterns. There was a stone-work deck along the side as well, between the water and the house. I don’t recall the interior of the house, but with lights in the pool and deck it was pretty, if strange. With those turtle stacks. We stayed at that one for awhile.
The final place we found was by accident, but we recognized it from some previous time– we’d been there before. It was not far from the previous one; it had a big white farmhouse and a very, very large pool– very good for swimming. Turquoise, deep and meandering, it took up well more than the space of a standard yard-lot in this area. We jumped in, felt it was ours in some realer way than deeds or law– at least for that moment. It was night and the pool had no linear angles, and the way it was lighted made it appear bottomless. We looked out on the lake or sea beyond, black and glittering. We knew it was not where we were supposed to be– recalled having been caught here before, trespassing swimmers.
After awhile, we noticed a young girl sitting upon a ledge at the top of one of the ladder-steps of the pool, nearest the house. She told us we weren’t supposed to be there. We told her we’d forgot, that from the outside it looked like another place, one where we were supposed to be. She knew we were lying, but there was a calmness about her. She wasn’t trying to get us into trouble. You could tell she had some understanding of how lucky she was; that it was a truly magnificent and enviable pool, merging with the sloping landscape; the type of place most people would never see, let alone enjoy. So she waited and didn’t hurry us to leave.
There was one other house in the dream, one in which there were many, many rooms, and strange things happened. Magic pierced the walls, and several dimensions or times, leaving a row of small, hand-sewn and embroidered rectangular pillows with new legends stitched medievally on the obverse sides; illuminated in black and red thread against silver-grey– a riddle, or answers to something. Lettered out in a staggered way that made the reading difficult and left questions as to the order of things, result of some Tolkien-esque alchemy that collided with horror and religion, like war. A terrifying string of moments wherein scenes were revealed; walls unfurling like pages to fire and chaos, a tempest of unknown history and unreal power. It was all illusory save the stitchery on the pillows, which was real, and hadn’t been there before, and I didn’t know what to make of it.
This may even have been in the big house beside the beautiful pool, ethereal in the darkness when we went back outside. Had we broken in, or found it unlocked? We knew we’d have to return to the small house with its dim turtle pool; moss and mosquitoes, the eternal smell of rain that accompanies shallow depths and stone, and no sweeping bottomlessness, the color of a pool at midnight overlooking the dark sea beyond.