On the back of a big horse, I rode through my hometown – magnified and condensed and honeycombed by dream.
The horse had no saddle just a rope and halter and I slipped across the warm breadth of his back uncertainly, even as he walked steadfast through the streets.
We climbed stairs to a garden, stopped to talk to neighbors in an open-walled barn. I knew them, they were familiar but I couldn’t place names or faces. The light through the trees dappled this way and that, like water, obscuring eye contact and blending features into light.
image courtesy of quentin de briey.
The horse descended sure footed over a rock wall. I felt my weight slip onto the thick crest of his neck. I wove my fingers into mane, knowing if I slipped off, it would be impossible to get back on. He knew where we were going, I did not.
We stopped in the center of a sunbaked street next to my flat sand-colored middle school. A man came into focus. He flanked the horse’s shoulder and looked up at me. Jesse. He’d been a beautiful, beautiful boy but growing up had marked him in unpleasing ways I could never put my finger on. Here he was, open faced and brushed with color as he should have been. The boy extrapolated.
“Where were you last night?” he asked. “I stopped drinking.” I said. “We did a dinner this year, that’s it.” “Well, next year then…” I trailed off. “Yep. Next year.”
My dog, I thought suddenly. “Did I have a dog with me?” He opened his hands palms up and shrugged. “Bye, Hana.”
I nudged the horse but he had already begun turning back home. Was it the beagle or the hound who had been with me in the beginning? Where did we begin?
I yelled both their names and turned the horse in tight circles on the hot street, his hooves clapping unceremoniously as he tried to pull me back in the right direction.
What age was this? If I could only remember, I would know which generation of dog had been here. I’d be able to retrace our steps. But as I called for the lost dogs 15 years apart, the way home was already abstracted into a curve of Victorian homes I’d never seen before.