The Samurai Way.
And as soon as he opened his eyes, he smiled.
In the darkness he gauged everything by its shape. A certain shade of grey existed between the bleakness of the world around him and the shapes that moved through it allowing him to discern one darkness from the other.
When he would awaken he would wonder what it was that he had left behind in his history that caused him to rummage through the black holes strewn amidst his memories. He would wonder if it was the curse of maturity, or perhaps of reading Kafka too much that turned what was easily his only dream in several decades into a beautifully horrific, surreal nightmare.
He walked towards the light. It wasn’t light as much as the absence of darkness that highlighted the structure against the black backdrop. But he could see it and so he went after it. And with each echoing step grew closer to the sounds of a gentle ocean. It was a sound much dissimilar to what he could recall of oceans. He remembered them as daunting, ferocious, frightening. As vast, watery graveyards. He didn’t know how to swim and thus had feared the water for as much of his life as he could remember. But guided by nothing more than sensation, found comfort in the tranquil lapping of invisible waves against an imagined coast. He felt peace surround him. He felt ease. Strange thing to find in a nightmare, in a world of black on black on black but that which he feared hadn’t followed him here. What he feared had been left far behind somewhere where he couldn’t even return.
He walked up to the monolithic structure that slowly fell into comprehension. It was a building of some sort. No. More like the sculpture of a building. A giant block of granite had been carved into the shape of a mutilated hotel. It seemed as if it had been regurgitated out of the quickly rotting creativity of some has-been artist. It loomed over head like the scion of all that is hopeless. But the water, it’s kind caress across the sand that rang out in the silence all around like a father’s appreciation, a mother’s reassurance, a lover’s acceptance, lent the promise of comfort It engulfed him as he stood beneath what would’ve been the structure’s shadow if the sun had dared shine inside this masochistic corner of his mind.
He looked all around and found nothing but a vast empty blackness. Only ahead of him was anything even remotely resembling a semblance of hope. It rose up high and away, unlike most tall buildings he thought he had seen while awake. It was as if the building was trying not to oppress or upset the beholder, as if it was trying despite it’s grotesque face to offer peace, solace, reprieve. .
He thought about this dream many times in the years that he got to live beyond the dream. But could never quite understand the reasons behind it or the meaning he felt it must hold. He thought for the longest time that it signified the coming of the end. But he was never quite sure. Even when he finally found the end, and everything he had ever done, every choice ever made became crystal clear in the few moments between his breath stopping and his soul leaving, he still wasn’t very certain at all about what the dream had portended.
He scanned the deep grey surface of the building and found nothing. He began to walk along it, instinctively taking his shoes and socks off and rolling up his trousers. A reflexive response to the music of the sea. It reminded him of the time spent preparing his pipe sitting on the sand, watching his wife teach their kids how to build castles in the sand. He remembered that smile, he remembered feeling in that moment that despite all that had been left behind, he was still a contented man. But he also remembered remembering that some of what had been left behind had left gaping holes in his soul, or his heart, or somewhere of such consequence that nothing else had as yet been able to fill the void.
And for many weeks following the dream he would feel his own breath choke him, and in that half a second of breathlessness he would feel the monolith tower above him, embrace him in its non-existent shadow and reassure him that it wasn’t yet time. It wasn’t yet.
The sign cast in granite read. He stood staring at it for a while, his immaculately polished shoes with the socks stuck in dangling from a careless grasp. For several moments that felt a bit like forever but mostly like no time at all, he pondered over the meaning of this. He knew, sort of, that he dreamt this and was desperate to know what it would come to mean. Finally he walked on only to notice from the corner of his eye words almost materialize underneath the ones he had just read.
-For lost souls
He wondered many times if he had lost his soul somewhere along the ways of the world. He wondered and often felt that he had. Fighting off depression as it transcended unbidden like a scorned woman’s fury till he was left too weak to even get out of bed, he managed to somehow convince himself that he hadn’t. Yet the feeling lingered like the taste of bitter almonds and slowly gnawed away at his decades’ worth of self respect. He thought about the dream as he sat slumped on the rickety subway seat, battling an angina attack with nothing more than sheer will power. He wondered how much more poetic it would have been if only death had claimed him at the last resort instead of in this dinghy little commuter space meant for average humanity. How much graceful would it have been, how much more honorable. The code of the Samurai adhered to by the sword-less warrior who fought not mortal enemies as much as mortal temptation to signify the virtue of virtue for his progeny.
The code of the Samurai; Death before dishonor. He smiled as he turned around the corner. Before him the ocean spread wide like eternity. The song of breaking tides as subtle here as in a distant dream. The black water’s dance: gentle. The serenity rose around him palpably. He felt every single fiber rise within and without as if guided by the breeze of god’s own will.
The stair case before him led down into the ocean. Into solace. Into reprieve.
Smiling, he let his treasured Bally shoes drop to the sand. On the wall besides him emerged the last sign:
Escape into eternity.
Smiling, he let every single regret fall of his burdened heart. The air blew cool around him and didn’t even tickle his fragile lungs, his sparse grey hair danced unabashed. He lifted his chin up in pride and his chest heaved with satisfaction. He drew his first wheeze-less breath in several years. Then, as was his way, he held his hands behind him and almost like a lion on the prowl, as proud as the proudest father, head held high and back ramrod straight, he descended.
He makes it to the tunnel leading out to the road above. His breath, sporadic; His heart, atremble. He finds the closest wall to lean against but keeps his hand from instinctively rising to try to brace his failing heart, his daughter was too close by…close enough to witness her father lose. She walked ahead, he faltered behind. She turned to check, the reflex of a loving child with an ailing father… always, always check twice. Once: he’s walking as was his way, he held his hands behind him and almost like a lion on the prowl, as proud as the proudest father, head held high and back ramrod straight. Twice: and he’s buckling down against the wall.
He feels her tiny lap cradle his head and wonders when their roles got reversed. He tries hard to draw breath, to get up and place his hand on her head, just to let her know he’s there, like always, he’s there. But he isn’t, and he won’t be anymore. But she is. His little girl is there and she’s holding on strong. Stronger than he can.
The black waves crash against a black beach and the music bruises his soul. His eyes close as he recalls the honor of the Samurai way. He feels one last regret clamber up on top of his heart.
The dream denied, he ascended.
And every time she closes her eyes, she cries.