A few nights ago I had a vivid dream which has stayed with me. These are the details.
I am residing again with my grandmother and brother in her home in Santa Clara, but the neighborhood is not the idyllic scene that it had been decades ago when I lived and played there. The residential streets are no longer safe for young boys to ride around on their bicycles or to shoot hoops at the nearby elementary school. The homes are totally run down, the street pockmarked with abandoned vehicles, broken glass, and hoodlums selling drugs and girls to Porsches and Ferraris that scream into this section of town for no other purpose. As if God is making known His displeasure, the sky is forever overcast and on the verge of an ashen gray dusk. What had been a quiet, treelined street when I was a child is now a pedestrian walkway of homeless, druggies, and gangbangers lost in their own sordid worlds. They are everywhere up and down the residential street: A sad platoon of the walking dead, or an encampment of sheets and cardboard on someone’s lawn, or a naked meth-head burrowing like a rabid raccoon through someone’s trash, or an aged, crazed hooker with enough makeup on her face to be a female Joker. All of the old timers still living here feel besieged inside their quaint, middle class homes. It is said that decline is gradual, almost imperceptible, and then sudden. We have hit the sudden phase, and the octogenarians or older still living here seem unable even to comprehend what has happened. My grandmother always had been a strong, feisty, independent lady unwilling to be frightened away from whatever she really valued. She is too old and frail now to go outside and to confront the bastards who have taken down her neighborhood, but neither is she about to leave for greener pastures. She sits up in her bed practically daring the misfits and the criminals to break through her door. It is not like she would be able to do much of anything if that happened. She does not own a firearm and would not know how to fire one if she did. Nevertheless, the defiance is set in her old eyes, and at a glance anyway she can look mad or even murderous.
I am seated at the kitchen table on the other side of the house. The inside of the house is a shambles. There are old boxes, newspapers, books, and knick-knacks all over. I am typing on my old laptop. The alphabetic notations on the keys are fading, and the screen discolors, now and then. Nevertheless, I have a sentimental attachment to this laptop. It is the one that had been stolen when I was the victim of a home invasion in Mexico a few years ago. The Federales retrieved it from the burglars and returned it to me later. Right now, as I am seated at the kitchen table, I am typing a commentary that will be included in an anthology of my stories. I have a name for this anthology already figured out: “The New Michael Sean Erickson Book.” Am I new? Or is the book new? While thinking about that, I perceive on my cellular phone that I am receiving a call from my former employer. Without answering the phone I know that this is a former co-worker who wants me now to return something to the office that had been loaned to me. Since I am removed from that place and have no interest in returning there, I do not feel the need to return it, and so I ignore the incoming call. I turn in my chair and look behind me. The door that leads to the garage is open. The garage is a shambles, as always, and the garage door is open. Meth heads are wandering around in a daze on my grandmother’s driveway. Out there, it looks like “Night of the Living Dead.” I save what I have typed on the laptop, and I leave to see how my grandmother is doing in her bedroom.
When I return the laptop is gone. I search frantically for it among the many items spread out in the kitchen. I see my brother in the kitchen. He is looking at me with disgust, for I am to blame of course for every problem I encounter in my life. I finally find a laptop that I hope is mine, though how it got to where I found it makes no sense. It is protruding out from a stack of old, faded, National Geographic magazines. When I pull it out I see that it is a lot cruddier than mine. I open it, and two Ziplock bags full of shredded paper fall out from inside. The laptop is inert. I realize that if I saved my work on the iCloud, then I can retrieve it later. Still, the fact that my laptop is gone after all these years really angers me to no end. I look out the door that leads to the garage. I see the Meth heads out there. It is horrible for me to imagine that my laptop is out there, somewhere, in that ashen dusk world. Moreover, if one of those creeps can sneak inside to grab my laptop, then nothing and no one is safe in this house. I turn to my brother and insist that we are in danger. We must relocate our grandmother before something happens to her. He tells me that I am out of my mind, but I am all the more insistent. We can take her to Mexico, I say. No one will threaten her there. I seem to have forgotten the home invasion I endured there, but none of that matters tonight. All I care about is getting our grandmother out of here fast.
I am gliding over rolling, green hills cut by a country highway that is sifting in and out of the fog. The world down there is so clean, cool, and fresh. This is just before sunrise, so there is a bluish coolness to the light that erases whatever down there may be unsettling or ugly. The dream world is good just before it awakens to the heat that will burn off the fog. I realize that this highway is taking us all to a safe place. The more we snake around those rolling, green hills, the further we are from all those creeps back in the ashen dusk world. My grandmother is going to be safe now, and my brother and I will be with her.
I am in a living room in San Miguel de Allende. Like the living rooms for most ex-pats in San Miguel, especially the ones who have written off the United States as a cultural and political wasteland, the decor is excessively Mexican. Imagine a Frida Kahlo wet dream in bright oranges and reds. The warm colors simply do not stop. The fringe, the tassels, the bejeweled sombreros, it is all just too much. I am seated on a sofa with a margarita in hand. The alcohol should have eased me by now, but I remain anxious. I am living out of a suitcase on my ex-pat friend’s sofa. I know that I cannot stay here forever. The front door opens, and a group of ex-pats wander in. They are all blitzed or high. John Wharton, an American who has lived a long time south of the border, is the leader of the pack. He is urging all of us to work for him in a new business in the Mexican town of Soledo. Since I have never heard of Soledo, I try looking for it on a map on my cellular phone. I find no trace of Soledo, and yet John insists it is a real place. If it is not on the map now, then his business venture is going to put it on the map. That’s for sure. I try to be as enthusiastic as everyone else, but I cannot help imagining a remote, desert, one burro village where I am seated all day inside of a rickety hut. I am waiting to answer a Third World telephone, while swatting the flies away. The image in my mind is not all that inviting, but given my circumstances do I really have a choice?