• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 03
Image by

The Escape Route

The dream was jumbled, a recollection in
shards, unintelligible. Her face opaque,
the rising smoke, the fiery quarrel, a mish-
mosh of images culminating into late autumn,
rotting wood, fallen leaves all around.

No flames, but thick with smoke, a floating
plume of clown hair, lingering like a puffy
dandelion weed, white at the edges with blue
highlights. The aftermath twisting and turning
into itself, casting light in all directions.

At first I was drawn closer in, to reach, to
assist my lover, my friend, my enemy, breath
of my breath, with whom I exist without
separation. There was no clock, but I could
mark the swirl of time bearing down.

She stands at the mouth of a tunnel. Behind her
symbols painted onto concrete walls, loud Japanese
graffiti in bold white. You can’t see it or hear it, but
her eyes and neck muscles are popping. She is
gesticulating madly, screaming obscenities.

Five fingers of her right hand are still visible,
clutching the contraption from which all the
perfumed smoke emanates, blue and thick
as cotton candy or loosely held as if she were
holding a bouquet of hydrangea.


The Escape Route

Her foot too, still visible, sneaker clad,
pressing against the ground. In minutes
they too, will depart as the smoke
dissipates and with it, she too,
will soon be gone.

It was a trick she learned in adolescence,
to deal with conflict, disappearing when
disagreements or squabbles arose among friends,
family or later, in her marriage. Whenever the
argumentation rose to an unsustainable pitch,

she would pull out her contraption and poof, vanish
through a hole in the ether. The churning blue smoke
was all that would remain. No one knew where she
went. She was, for a time, unfound and unfindable,
and could turn up almost anywhere—

She would bolt to a different part of the house, in
the yard, up in the tree fort, or simply lost and gone.
It was her way of dealing with unbearable tension,
to hide behind a loose globular curtain of smoke,
a time machine of sorts that took her elsewhere.

My problem is this: She is my wife. We have been
married for forty years. She hasn’t pulled this stunt
for decades and I am furious at her. We had been hiking,
deep in to the bush, when our discussion turned sour.
The dispute, minor, something too dumb to mention,


The Escape Route

but passions did rise, sharp words were said,
sticks were thrown. I think it was when I said,
“I can’t abide…” The blue smoke rose up all
around her, encompassed her, swallowed her,
blocking my sight, my access to her.

I ventured into the smoke, coughing, blindly fanning
the smoke, but could find no flesh. I don’t know where
she is, where she’s gone. I wander the same woods, stand
in front of the same tunnel entrance and call her name.
Maybe she’s listening? Maybe we can make amends.