Wednesday, June 23, 2004

I step ashore and gingerly pick my way over an obsidian spikey reef. I am reporting for military duty.

There are long lines which snake through coutyards and what looked like superficially elaborate government buildings in South America. We were in line to buy desks. That's right, desks.

Apparently (and there was no one telling us, which isn't the way of military life at all; you're closely directed and monitored) we must first of all be outfitted with this office apparatus. We pass by working models, like sparse sidewalk cafes. Oh, that's nice, mahogony, and there's a mini, the size of an end table, now, that would be ever so much simpler...

I ask a friend to hold my place for me. (I know her and one other; she's like an acquaintence in a small town; you can ask favors in the big city although you never pay attention to one another back home.

I find a dark room with a bed. I have no idea how I knew it was there. I nap.

But when I return to the line, my placeholders are not in sight. I walk up ahead, but I'm not moving ahead of anyone; everyone is moving surprisingly fast. I had thought this was like breadlines in Moscow cica 1950. But we amble forward through these strange passages at a goodly pace.

We pause, roam, even sit. There does not appear to be any pattern to it, and I somehow feel the futility and embarrassment of asking anyone anything. It would be like an admission I'd lost my way in life, and I'm guessing that's what keeps panic down along these paths.

I sit, pick up a pictoral album. It's in quarto, or half-sized. I see along with the photos and descriptions there are some notations in pencil.

I recognize my own handwriting.

Hey, I say to one near, Here are notes I've left here! I must've been here before!

He isn't at all excited by the news. Either he doesn't believe me, or he doesn't think it remarkable. Does this mean we've all been down this road before? Is that how I found the bed for my nap?

We are up and shuffling along now. Through herd instinct, I join others in a vehicle, and we're moving. I am thinking now about where to spend the night. It's alarming not to know where you'll spend the night.

"Hey, where will we spend the night?"

No one answers. Either all know, or no one does, or no one else cares.

Here we are. I recognize this. It's the lobby of a hotel. I ask for a room. I am handed two each small shells from the beach, each intact, perfect. I am told these will work at another hotel, and I should pay them now and they would transport me. It would evidently cost me some dollars here, then the shells when I arrive there.

I'm suspicious. "So there's another hotel which will take me in for two seashells?"

A guy behind the counter is chuckling with a coworker. They sit in those old row desks from ancient schools.

"If there wasn't," he says to her, "We wouldn't have to work so late."

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