“So I’m in a field and I come upon a single tree. It’s not big. The canopy of the thing is maybe seven or eight feet high and it doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground. Anyway, I kneel down underneath it and I start noticing glimmers in the dirt at it’s base. I guess somewhere around this time it starts to rain pretty hard. But the canopy of the tree is guarding me from it like an umbrella so I’m not getting drenched and I’m not paying the rain much attention anyway. Instead, I’m intent on these glimmers I’m seeing in the dirt at the base of this tree and I begin to scrape at it.”
“Well, I’m digging through the dirt with my hands at this thing that is partially covered up and I pull it up to see it’s a coin. A nickle or quarter or dime or something. Then I notice more. Some are partially buried with only their centers exposed and some are just lying there atop the ground, plain as day.”
“The more I look, the more of them I see. All silvery coins just lying there in the dirt under this tree. Anyway, I start digging and picking up these silver coins–they were all silver, mostly nickels and dimes but some quarters too, I guess the important thing though was that they were all silver coins–all the while the rain is falling and I am staying relatively dry under the canopy of the tree. There are a few drops here and there that make it through but nothing that draws my attention away from excavating these coins. They are covered in dirt obviously and I’m gathering them up in my hands one by one.”
“Then the idea occurs to me to wash them off in the rain. So to give you an idea of how small this tree that I was kneeling under was, all I had to do was take them in my hand and reach out so that they caught the rain that was falling outside of it’s canopy. And this may have been the most vivid and impressing part of the dream: after washing them in the rain and bringing them back under the canopy, I held them in my hands and they were the most vibrant and clean shade of silver I could imagine.”
“They were beautiful, really. Like freshly minted coins. Then I gathered more and rinsed them in the rain by simply reaching my hand out. I did this until I had more crisp, clean, silver coins in my hand than I could carry. They were spilling out of my cupped hands in fact, but I wanted to take them all. I couldn’t though. And it ends with me trying, almost desperately, to corral all of these coins. And failing.”
“Some are spilling out of my hands. I don’t know though, for some reason, the way the rain was so effective in making the coins so clean, and the amazing silvery sheen of the coins after they had been rinsed in the rain, stand out the most to me about the dream. I’ve been thinking about it for days because the imagery has just stuck with me. But I have no clue what it could or might mean. What do you think?”
“Sounds pretty cool. There was nothing that happened after trying to gather all the coins?” Brian asked.
“Nope. Well yeah, there was, but it was kind of that weird segue into another dream that always happens. At any rate, I knew it wasn’t important, you know? The significance of the dream was definitely contained in the scene I just described to you.” Answered Paul.
There was a long silent pause as Brian contemplated the dreamscape that Paul just described. It was obviously important enough for Paul to share with him so Brian didn’t want to have nothing to say. Brian thought hard about the images described to him. Then something occurred to him.”You were finding coins–money–in the dirt?” He probed.
“Yeah. Cleaning them off in the rain that fell just outside the canopy of this tree I was under.”
Brian grasped on to the first inclination that came to him, “Well it sounds like maybe you are finding wealth, or riches of some kind, in humble places. Like maybe you’re pulling something from nothing. Diamonds in the rough kind of thing, ya know? How long have you been dating Melissa?”
“A year and a half or so. You saying she came from the dirt?” Paul responded.
“No, no man, just trying to piece things together.”
“Yeah, that was one of the first things I thought about too. Doesn’t seem quite satisfactory though. There was just something about how silver the coins became after washing them off in the rain.” There was another extended pause between the two, then Paul continued, “definitely something about how…unnaturally silver they became.”
That night as Paul was making his way through the streets on his drive towards his girlfriend’s house, the images he dreamt came to his mind again. He turned the stereo down so that all he heard was the working of his engine and other cars passing by. At a red light, the vividness of the coins came back to him. He became convinced that this was the crux of his dream. But there was still so much more to consider. He decided to take a detour.
“Hey, I thought you were going to be here sooner. I already started eating.” Melissa said as she welcomed her boyfriend into her apartment.
He kissed her and said, “It’s ok, I’m not really hungry. More tired than anything. I kinda just want to lay down, maybe sleep early.”
“Is everything ok?” Melissa asked.
“Yeah, work is just kicking my ass.” He embraced her warmly and gave her a reassuring kiss. Then he headed for the bedroom. As he lay awake in Melissa’s bed, she was doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen. He was flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. Then, very quickly, he sprung out of bed and reached into his day bag that he had placed next to the bed on the ground. He took out a small nylon pouch, a lighter, and a small plastic bag then stole away to the master bathroom.
He flushed the toilet but didn’t care enough to put up anything more in terms of a smoke screen. When he emerged Melissa was already changed and settling herself into the bed. Paul turned the lights off and joined her in bed.
Melissa drew close to him after they made love. “What did you have for dinner?” she asked him as she nestled her cheek against his chest.
“I didn’t have any dinner.” He answered in a drawl.
“You said you had already eaten.” She volleyed back.
He took a few beats to respond. “I said I wasn’t hungry. Never said I ate.” He was answering with few words and slurring his speech pretty badly.
She looked up at his face but he had his eyes closed and his expression was so blank that it all but gave him away. It seemed to Melissa like the standard template of a face before god puts any features on it. “Are you ok?” she investigated, leering ever more intently on his face.
He kept his face pointed toward the ceiling, his eyes closed, and answered shortly, “I’m tired.”
She reached across his body and switched on the lamp set atop her nightstand. Now he had to open his eyes. What she saw was a pair of glassy eyes in the dim light of the lamp. She hesitated for a moment, then spoke, “Don’t tell me–goddammit Paul, are you using again?!”
He didn’t answer–just shut his eyes up again, lying on his back.
“What the fuck Paul, did you just shoot up here in my room?!”
Still no answer or movement. Then Melissa climbed over him and reached into his day bag.
Paul snapped to life. “Hey! That’s not yours is it?!” It was like a comatose person being stabbed in the heart with a syringe of pure adrenaline.
That was all she needed to know. She stood over him beside the bed and he propped himself up on his elbows. “Goddammit Paul, when did you start using again?” She demanded.
“Not that it’s any of your business but tonight was the first time in over a year.” he answered coolly.
“Not that it’s any of my business?!” She echoed, most appalled.
He began puling himself out of bed and gathering his clothes that were strewn all over the bed. “Well, I figure it’s my body, and so long as what I do with my body doesn’t effect you in any negative way, you don’t need to know about it.” He responded as he pulled his shirt over his head and down his lean torso.
“Jesus, you’re a fucking asshole when you’re on that shit!” Melissa gasped out.
He began puling his pants up and cinching his belt. “And you’re a potty mouth when you’re sober so I guess we’re even.” He flung his day bag over his shoulder and made for the door.
“Where are you going?” Melissa demanded.
“Home.” Paul answered. He walked out of her bedroom and she heard the front door open and close quietly.
Once Paul was home, he shot up one more time. That night, there was a full moon and Paul could see it from his bedroom window as he sat, smacked out, on the edge of his bed. His high put him in a daze and he stayed staring at the bright, full moon as the thoughts passed from one edge of his brain to the other, and finally on to oblivion.
The moon shone a pale, milky white and while striking to behold, ‘nothing like the coins’ Paul thought. He could sit erect no longer and fell backwards on his bed.
Almost a week passed before he heard anything from Melissa. As he saw her name flash suddenly on the screen of his phone, he became aware just how much time had passed since the night he left her apartment. He was surprised at how long she was able to wait. He answered her call, “Hello.”
“Jesus you even sound high again,” was her greeting.
“That’s funny because I’m not.” He replied in a flat tone that made it clear that he had no interest in arguing her assumption.
“Yeah right, so–” before Melissa could continue any further, Paul stopped her. “If you called to scold me, I don’t want to hear it. In fact, whatever the reason you called me, you’re probably going to be disappointed.”
“I’m already disappointed. You’re using again.” her voice was still fiery after the handful of days since Paul heard it last. At this last statement of hers, Paul remembered her nature as it really was underneath all her layers of insincere kindness and civility; self-serving, and at it’s core, completely uninterested in the concerns of others.
He was getting angry and he didn’t want to grow angry from this exchange. “Melissa, I don’t want you to call me again. I don’t want you to text me, I do’;t want you to email me, and I definitely don’t want you coming to my apartment anymore. I don’t want to see you anymore–at all, in any sense.”
He could hear her huff incredulously, a pause, and then, “I can’t believe what a scumbag you must have always been–and how apparently good you were at hiding it for so long. I can’t believe your choosing fucking heroin over me.”
He put an end to her ranting right there, “Whoa whoa whoa…let’s make this clear. I’m not choosing heroin or anything over you. I’m just not choosing you.”
A week passed since Paul’s phone conversation with Melissa and he had scarcely left his apartment. He was deliberately putting himself through a hellish cycle–using to excess one day then letting a couple days pass while he suffered self-imposed withdrawals.
On his table were half-eaten meals that he couldn’t choke down. His bed was a mass of clothes. Sweaters that he would squirm into when his withdrawal made him steely cold, and shed when he began to sweat uncontrollably.
There were a dozen quarter-empty to half-empty plastic water bottles scattered across the floor of his bedroom. His fridge was empty but his kitchen was sloppy with haphazardly slapped together and abandoned meals that were starting to give the whole place a rounded, rancid smell.
Of course, during this period, he had not been to work at all which is what prompted all the calls from Brian that went missed or unanswered. Paul had let his phone battery die and only ever charged it and looked at it when he needed to re-up. In fact, as far as Paul could remember, he hadn’t left his apartment at all except for the sole purpose of scoring.
And that is what prompted Paul to plug his phone in and look at it on this day. This was an “on” day so he allowed himself to shoot up but he was almost completely out. It was time to pick up and this is when he saw all the missed calls from his boss–these were wholeheartedly expected–but almost as many calls from his co-worker, friend of 6 years, and the only person Paul had described his dream to. Brian.
This triggered a new train of thought in Paul’s brain that was, in it’s current state, having plenty of trouble communicating effectively between lobes. He scrolled through all the missed calls and figured that this was a chore that should be handled in person.
Paul and Brian arranged to meet at a cafe that was close to their office. Brian was already there and seated at the outside table under an awning where they almost always had lunch together. Paul sauntered up to the cafe and spotted Brian quickly. As he walked toward him, he thought about how long he had known this man and how little he really knew him.
Brian sat back in his chair and just stared at Paul while he walked over. “Christ, I didn’t want to believe it, I didn’t even want to consider it. Fuck man, what happened?”
“Nothing.” Paul replied and sat down. He hated that his heroin use was always the first thing anyone mentioned. Which was, in part, why he secluded himself for a week. He hated even more that he couldn’t hide when he was high. Brian had actually told him once that he walks a certain way when he’s smacked up.
“Something must’ve happened man. You were doing so well.” Brian commented.
Paul was getting incredibly tired of hearing how well he was doing and that “well” equaled “clean.” Brian had known Paul when he was completely lost in addiction, and when he got clean and started living a life that most people would call normal; a job, a girlfriend, and lack of a swallowing addiction.
Paul was already getting frustrated with Brian’s words and began regretting his decision to meet him in person. But he closed his eyes and refocused as well as he could in his current state. “Like I said, nothing happened. Anyway I’m not here to talk about that.”
Just then, a waitress walked up and interjected. Brian ordered a latte and Denver omelette. Paul didn’t order anything.
“Really. What are you here to talk about? You know Melissa called me crying, saying that you broke up with her.”
At this last statement, Paul’s focus sharpened to a needlepoint. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds; just stared into Brian’s eyes. “Why do you suppose she called you?”
“Because we’re friends, and she was distraught.” Brian answered.
Paul let it go. “Do you remember that dream I told you about? The one with the coins and the rain?” Paul asked.
Brian moved the pupils of his eyes in an upward arc; thinking. “Yeah, I think so. Why?”
“I think I’ve finally realized what it means.” Paul said calmly.
“What’s that?” Brian inquired.
“Well you suggested that it meant that I would find something or somethings of value in humble places. Or unexpected places or whatever. And to be honest, I’ve been wondering about this dream–what it meant–until this moment. I know now that we both looked at the images all out of order. The coins don’t represent something outside of me. They actually represent me. My life. In the dream I rinsed them in the rain that fell outside the shelter of the canopy of the tree I was under until they were so beautifully, vividly, silver. Now I know that I have to cleanse myself, my life, of all the dirt that I’ve sunk it into over the years for it to be truly beautiful. I have to shed the dirt.”
“I agree,” commented Brian in a tone of relief. He continued, “You could start with that shit,” pointing at the crook of Paul’s arm.
“Nah” replied Paul. “That’s not it. There’s real dirt in my life. There was a pause between them and then Paul continued. “I met you here because I wanted to let you know that we’re not friends. I’m not going to see you anymore after this. I’m going to lose your number and I suggest you do the same.”
“Wow, where is this coming from?” Brian asked but Paul didn’t answer. Instead, he stood up, got ready to walk away and asked, “Do you remember my housewarming party? After I stopped using, had been working full-time for a long time, hooked up with Melissa, and leased my apartment?”
Brian answered suspiciously, “Yeah…”
“I saw you. I saw you and Melissa.”
Like a boxer on the ropes, Brian replied, “You saw us? That’s great, we saw you too. We saw Tim, Lindsey, Jared, Sam…Mike. We all saw each other that night. What’s your point?”
“You grabbed her ass. You grabbed her ass and she laughed. You whispered something in her ear and then you guys proceeded to exchange numbers.” Paul answered.
“Paul, nothing came of that. We were drunk, ok? I’m sorry. Anyway that was years ago man, and you’re just bringing it up now?” Brian contended.
“Goodbye Brian,” Paul said and walked away.
A few nights later Paul gathered up the last few hundred dollars he had left in his bank account, called his connect, and bought as much smack as he could. Then he drove out to Santa Monica and parked about a half mile away from the pier.
He took from his car a heavy sweater that he immediately flung on, a flannel shirt, and a pre-prepped syringe filled with all the junk he just bought. It was late and all the patrons had vacated the cold windy beach hours ago but the lights of the pier were still blazing.
‘It’s nice’ Paul thought to himself as he trekked to where the sand begins to slope down and the foam sizzles out on the shore. He put the flannel down on the sand and sat on it. And with the cornucopia of unnatural light coming from the ferris wheel flashing and rotating off in the distance, the sound of the ocean threatening to soak or sweep him away, and a silvery moon shining in the sky, he shot up everything in the syringe.
He immediately fell flat on his back atop his flannel and saw the planes taking off from the airport low in the night sky. His hope was that he will have shed the last specks of dirt from himself.