Dream. Dream. Dream machine. Air plane. Vector of suspended animation. Planes. Plane images. Transport of the paradise present.

How soothing this seemed. Not just a dream—the coffee was too terrible and the vivid blots of pressed flowers that fulfilled a friend's request now stain my table before joining the ranks in the pageant of her pages. Paradise's residue. I was there. Alamanda, dwarf poinciana, tulip—but from a tulip tree, hibiscus. The haliconia was far too fat for the modest press of a book, so too the torch lily with its plump, clustered petals of frozen pink flame. And the frangipani was there for scent alone, exuding clouds of night fragrance as succulent as its name.

Cold, so cold at home. More brutal than the temperature still was a body rendered pale and gelatinous by indoor inactivity. I longed to see myself in summer's mirror with a burnished body tautened by the ocean. No longer to be a clammy caterpillar but to spin a cocoon of vacation and reemerge a boyish butterfly. To will another season.

Now, quickly, sounds and scents and sights must be submerged in ink before they drift into vapors of forgetfulness. Already winter's whiteness repaints my skin, and the pressed flowers fade from flame to flush. The echo of the nocturnal tree frog has grown too faint for me to spell its song—I barely hear the endless e's that seem to roll into a p. More remembered is the rolling of the sea. The Caribbean—softer than Atlantic sounds—its regular rhythm that rafted me into sleep still unfurls splash and spray in my calmer dreams. My flesh, now again clutched by cold, yearns for the smooth embrace of the warm wind and wishes back the whistle of its nocturnal wanderings.

But paradise is forgetfulness, and what stands out now are the sharp edges of the unexpected and unwanted. Paradise imperfect. A more than formidable Garland stove that made improbable the tiny kitchen of a beach front restaurant dispensing shade and sandwiches to its sparse clientele. The tawdry twang of Texas Country and Western when the resonance of reggae was assumed. The pure and placid waters depleted of fish by an economy dependent upon their abundance—and so an all but steady diet of frozen chicken legs from somewhere in Pennsylvania eaten to the sounds of a cascading crescendo of rooster crows. No fish, no fruit, no vegetables—well, hardly any at all. And the landscape laughed with lushness. Natives dour and dehydrated from two waves of Christian colonization—first Catholic French, then Anglican English. Now free and independent but full of poor and hapless males not unwilling to be re-colonized by alcohol and white, female tourists. And an apple tree called manzenia bearing a fruit that needed only to be touched to spread a pox of puss and pimple. And . . . but no more. Perhaps it is best not to unsettle the warmth of forgetfulness.

Tags:
Short stories
voyages and travels
BOMB 3
Spring 1982
The cover of BOMB 3
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