Like Jorge Luis Borges told the Gnostic scholar Willis Barnstone, I had this wonderful dream of being given a lost treasure. With Borges, his dream was of reading a lost play by Shakespeare, but his dream was interrupted by the sound of a bomb rattling the windows of his apartment in Buenos Aires.
He could not remember the words, written in illuminated script, but the dream remains, in fiction and reminisces, told to his friend Barnstone.
My dream, however, was much more mundane. It was of a photograph, watermarked and published, and I cannot exactly recall it, either, having been awakened by a cat desiring to be fed. Calvin, as he is called, took the place of my mother, who was the one who would wake me when I ignored my alarm. As a child it was 6:45, in order for me to eat breakfast, check my homework and journey down the hill on the gravel road to the bus stop to take me on my long ride to elementary school. In early spring and in late fall, due to daylight savings, the bus stop on the side of the road was dark. I remember those half-asleep silent mornings at dawn only as fleeting memories of night breaking into sunlight as the bus crossed the overpass over the interstate slashing through the valley I lived in North Carolina.
Much like this childhood memory, half-forgotten because in the totality of things, the main element in my dream was eminently forgettable, I failed to recall the photograph in my dream. I was unsure whether it was in color, or in black and white.
I posted on a photo website where I have a sizeable portfolio, thinking perhaps this was a sign of greatness which had so often eluded me in my years living in New York, struggling for my fortune, which had rapidly recently dissipated in several large bills, including daughter’s tuition and rent. Fortunately, wealth is not wasted, and just on the young, my child is always worth it, and in New York, the first rule is to always pay the rent, and on time.
I waited a few minutes in pensive expectation as I fed Calvin a tin of Friskies sliced beef, made myself a pot of coffee, stirred in the last of the skim milk and returned to the Mac laptop to check the progress of my image submission.
After refreshing my screen for the umpteenth time, I saw the portfolio submission queue was empty. The picture was deleted, rejected by the editorial staff. That and the other photograph I had submitted. I shrugged, so much for trying to come up with a well-crafted piece of fine art photography, and on both accounts.
I checked Facebook and my email before taking a bath.
I do not blame Calvin. He was hungry.
However, I do wish I could remember the photograph. Perhaps I will take another at some future date, and this was a premonition. I am fortunate in that déjà vu and premonitions are of minor, mundane moments and actions—nothing spectacular or life threatening of myself or of my friends. I remember a dream I had of being in the kitchen of my mother’s boyfriend. This event came true a couple of years later and I think I felt afraid of something bad about to happen. Instead, mom and I came home to be told by my grandmother that my half-brother had visited with his family, and had just left. Neither mom nor I thought it was that big of a deal. I never really liked him, and my mother had a habit of being indifferent regarding people close to her. I inherited that trait, with two exceptions—my daughter, and a woman I was in love with for a very long time.
The woman I was in love with was not my daughter’s mother, and I used to wish she was. I do not any longer. I also am not in love with her, anymore.
Got dressed, turned off the computer, gathered my things: journal, book I was reading, pen, and camera, placing them in my small black cloth satchel. I pet Calvin, who wanted more attention than usual—my daughter had only recently left for college for a summer course—and shut off the laptop.
I took photographs on the way to work, trying to see if I could recreate the magical image I was shown in my dream. Impossible if you cannot remember what it looked like, but I am a dreamer, and always shall. Blessed there are no bombs in Buenos Aires, and not blind like Borges and premonitions are mundane, fall on the dull side, reflective of an occasionally interesting but thankfully placid middle age, lacking in dramatics.
I have no Barnstone to tell, but I do have Facebook, yet I am a private man. No one needs to know, and quite frankly, Calvin isn’t interested in my story. He’s hungry instead, as usual.
Mike Lee is a writer, labor journalist, editor and photographer based in New York City. Fiction and forthcoming publications include West Trade Review, The Ampersand Review, Paraphilia, Sensitive Skin, Reservoir, The Avenue, The Drunken Llama, Visions Libres, Dime Show Review, The Scarlet Leaf Review, The Euonia Review, The Solidago Journal, The Corvus Review, Violet Windows and The Potomac. His stories are featured in several anthologies, including Forbidden Acts (Avon) and Pawn of Chaos (White Wolf). A story collection titled All Your Ambition is published in Germany by VL Editions.