State of Mind by Dakota James
Story inspired by the band RISE (Debbie, Elaine & Gerry)
I am finally awake in the dream. Lucid, I see the sun rise over the sand, its rays caress waxy lemons, gnarled olive trees, and blossoming vines. Butterflies sail, navigating between sun and shade, with Hummingbirds and Bees carrying their cargo of sweetness to their young.
My mind is calm as I sift through the thoughts for the day. I hear meowing and look down across the garden. From this balcony, I can see Aisha feeding the Pushka kittens from the barbunya I caught this morning. I call to her and ask if she would like chamomile tea. Her smile is white against flawless black skin. She mimes, please.
* * *
A voice wafts up through an open window over looking the lane. Tarjeque is travelling to market with sacks of oranges and walnuts slung over his broad shoulders; he shouts he will see us for dinner this evening, and signals he will bring the wine. Even from here, I can see his eyes sparkling with good humour, his turbaned head bobbing to his inner rhythm. I wave. Still smiling, I open the Arga’s rusty cream doors and lift out one of the blackened trays laden with rustic loafs, dark crusted and covered with poppy seeds. I tap them in turn to make sure they’re done. Heaven is fresh bread made by Aisha’s hands.
The mangoes are oh so sweet this morning; I taste them on Aisha’s lips. My smallest friend, Sparrow, interrupts our kissing from the bougainvillea, calling for his meal. He chirrups joy, encouraging his family to join him, singing excitedly when I offer them roasted poppy seeds. Their delicate feet grasp my fingers, their little beaks tickle my palms as they eat.
Chore appears between the leaves of the giant potted Aloe Vera cactus, to sit with us. She is purring like our ancient windmills motor. One of the fledglings sits on her back and grooms her languid, swishing tail. Chore closes her golden eyes to the hot sun and gentle preening.
‘Have you seen Tobias this morning Chore?’
One eye opens slowly, looks directly at me, then blinks shut.
‘I guess not’. I scratch under her chin until she pushes her face into my fingers so I can rub around her mouth.
‘I saw him in the herb garden playing with the fennel fronds’. Aisha’s hand touches mine. ‘Where shall we eat tonight?’
‘How about building a fire on the eastern beach, I’ll cook some squid, maybe roast some yams?’
‘Wonderful. I will pick some papaya and strawberries’.
Her green eyes shine, then she blinks them at me, by way of a goodbye. She slips from my arms and heads for the ancient spiral stairs.
I watch her walk towards the ocean, long strides moving her body in the most delicious rhythm. I sit back in the rattan chair, put my feet up, and luxuriate in the heat for a few moments before clearing the table. What shall I do today? I need more time to consider. One more cup of tea, maybe a cheroot? Why not, then I’ll decide.
The illusion unwinds.
By midday, it is over a hundred degrees. Cicadas hum in the trees whilst ants scurry across the tiles in search of shade. Lunch is a basket of fruit and water fresh from the spring. We lick each other’s fingers and shed our clothes.
Under the giant eucalyptus tree we intertwine, then fall asleep in each other’s arms. Time passes with each wave breaking, with every pebble crunching in the tide as fingers of kelp stroke the reef. I am in another place looking back at the dream.
Aisha wakes me with a lingering kiss.
‘Hey sleepy head, want to practice some guitar for tonight?’
‘How about a swim first?’
She playfully wrinkles her nose whilst retying her bikini, pretending to consider my suggestion, then turns and runs, shouting; the last one in peels the yams. She giggles as I give chase, knowing full well it will be me.
Into clear water we dive. Urchins sway amongst coral cities.
Breaking the surface Aisha shouts,‘Dolphins, look!’
Treading water, I see them driving a shoal of Mackerel to the shore.
‘I will get the net’.
* * *
Later, under a canopy of undulating palms, we prepare our fish for the barbeque, rubbing garlic, coriander and lemon salt into them. Tarjeque arrives with his partner, and the rest of the band, all with their lovers and children. Everyone pitches in. Soon the feast is ready. The charcoal glows, the vine leaves are stuffed, and the wine breathes between the drum beats.
We all eat sitting on the rugs we’ve woven, laughing and drinking, sharing the day’s adventures. Dogs and cats lie all around.
The sun finally goes down and many of our neighbours come from the village to hear us play and share our bounty. We’ll sleep under stars and bamboo lanterns, after sharing jokes and inevitable stories of the old ways.
‘Do you remember television, how our parents told us they would sit inside watching it every night.’
‘Rarely talking to each other.’
‘Except on. What did they call them?
‘Always intruding on their lives they told me. Weird.’
‘It’s hard to believe.’
‘My parents fed me dead animal parts. My lips touched gore’.
They sighed in unison.
‘Please, we’ve just eaten.’
‘But it’s true.’
Crying, her old face screws up in disbelief. ‘I sucked juices from mortal wounds’.
‘We know little one, but we can forget our past cannibalism now, it was long ago, they have forgiven us I’m sure. And anyway, we always avoid talking about it in front of our animal friends’. I whisper, ‘it makes them, and all of us, sad’.
‘What state of soul and mind were we in?’
Aisha strokes the little lamb in her lap.
‘Who would do such things to you?’
It bleats contentedly as Aisha tickles his furry ears, seemingly unable to comprehend such nightmares at our ancestor’s hands.
‘Did anyone ever see a computer?’
‘Really, what was it like, did it speak?’
‘A thin, rigid, book-like-thingy. With an apple motif on its lid. It didn’t work though’.
‘What about cars, did anyone ever ride in one?’
Tarjeque laughs, ‘my father’s was pulled by Donkeys’.
‘Come on, enough of the past, who wants to spoil a nice evening thinking of cruelty and soulless machines. Yesterday is someone else’s story, his-story’.
‘And tomorrow is a mystery’. We chime.
‘Today is a gift’, a voice calls out.
‘That’s why we call it?
‘The present’, everyone chants, dissolving into laughter.
‘Play something Aisha, something slow, I want to dance and make love with my man.’
The plaintive sounds of an unvarnished Spanish guitar and the lilting tones of Ismail’s antique Barbat, fill our ears with Persian melancholy.
* * *
Days pass slowly now we have woken. They are long and filled with light and laughter. Simplicity, tolerance, and sharing, these are the three attitudes we’ve embraced on our island. We have no idea how many survived; there’s no way of knowing. The radio broadcasts ended years ago. We have seen no ships or craft of any kind. Most of us have grown up without ever having seen a stranger. None of us knows if we are the only survivors, in many ways it doesn’t really matter.
I can hear the water lap against our little deck and feel the cool breeze on my skin as I consider life before the death of sleep. Wind chimes tinkle brightly, filling the night with delicate tunes. Aisha’s breathing tells me she sleeping, gone to the next place. I pull the cover over her breasts and kiss her cheek tenderly.
‘Goodnight my love’.
Somewhere in the mango grove, an Owl calls. Maybe tomorrow I will bottle some more olive oil; maybe I will leave it for another day. My friends on the hill need some help with their windmill. I will take a basket of avocadoes, Selena loves them so. I will take it as it comes, rain or shine, with the sunshine in my mind.