I cannot tell you how much I hated my cousin that day, both of them really. My extended family from my dad's side was staying in a cute beach rental house. I was old enough to be sulky about having to go on this trip with the family, but still young enough to secretly be excited about the house ON the beach. It was awesome, but I sure wish my cousins had been left at that last rest area off of the I-5. My cousins, Triana and Brian, knew how to be mean. Today was like most days with them where I was being held down by one and tickled until I wet my pants by the other. They have done stuff like this for as long as I can remember.
These little interludes with my cousins could almost be over looked by the fact that my precious dad had somehow managed to arrive first at the house which meant that my brothers and I could pick the rooms we wanted to stay in first. We knew we'd have to share with someone, but I had heard there was a room with a window seat. I've had dreams of living in a huge house with a window seat and walk in closet and my own bathroom. I raced my brothers up the stairs. Each of us racing the clock knowing the rest of the family would only be minutes behind us.
I opened door after door and finally I found the one I had heard about! It was mine. I win. I wasn't surprised that my brothers didn't care. They found one with bunk beds built into a wall and stars that probably glowed on the ceiling in the dark. I threw my bag on the bed and promptly pulled out a pen and paper to make the sign that would designate this as my room. I wrote it out, pulled the door closed slowly over the edge of the paper so the words would face anyone passing through the hall. The door clicked shut as I head more feet tromping up the stairs. I stood arms crossed in front ready to stand my ground. Then I deflated when I saw that it was just my grandpa. He smiled and patted my head and winked at me as he walked past.
My cousins didn't show until much later so I forgot about them entirely for a while. Later, after a brief thunder storm and overhearing about my grandma's deathly fear of it, some adult that didn't belong to me said it must be time for the kids to go to bed. I ground my teeth. Why is it that other adults seem to think they get to decide when I go to bed? I mean, only my parents get to decide that. It irked me something fierce. Of course they were talking about all the kids and that did include me in the general scheme of it all. Sadly, I heard my parents agree. I was told to gather my brothers and head upstairs to get ready and that they'd be there in a few minutes to say good night.
I found my brothers but I did not gather them. Like they'd ever let me gather them. I just told them the news and marched myself up the stairs. I wasn't too upset about going to bed since it meant sleeping in the room with the window seat. I rounded the corner but immediately saw that may least favorite aunt and her daughter my evil cousin where sitting on my bed! My note was easily seen crumpled in a waste basket. See, this is a good example of why my cousin is so mean. It's because my aunt is the same way. I have no doubt that she was the one who crumpled my note and the worst part is that when I walked up to the open doorway she just smiled at me sweetly like nothing was out of place at all.
I turned and marched back down the stairs so angry that tears welled up in my eyes and by the time I found my gorgeous mother my face was red and streaky. She took one look and came to me in a rush and took me to a private corner. All I could get out at first were squeaks but she waited patiently until I could catch my breath. Finally I told her about what happened and my suspicions and how now I had nowhere to sleep and really that was the heart of it. I had been displaced and feared I'd have no bed, but I'd rather blame it all on the evil duo.
My grandpa must have over heard because just as my mom finished saying she'd find me a good spot he came over, bend real low, lower than I thought possible for an old man, and told me he had found my bag deserted in the hall and had taken it up to his room where there was an extra bed. At first I was so relieved that I gave him a hug and thanked him. Then after he left I realized I'd be sharing a room with my grandpa! I had never stayed in a room with an old person before. Would he leave dentures in a cup by the bed? Would he snore? It was too late to turn back. I had thanked him and didn't want to be ungrateful.
He came back for me and handed me a flashlight. This really had me worried. Did we not have power in our room? But he winked at me again and I relaxed. A wink from grandpa meant something fun was about to happen, usually. So, I took the flashlight, flicked it on, and followed. Up and up we went to the very top floor. We walked to the end of the hall but I had thought all those rooms were taken. He came to a door that I thought was a closet and he opened it, stepping aside so I could see.
The stairs went up a short distance then started to curve along a rounded wall. I couldn't see the top of them so I looked up and grandpa, he just tossed his head a bit up toward the stairs as if saying "get a move on already." So I did. I had no idea this house had another floor. I turned and turned again. It was a tight little staircase, but it didn't really go far. Before I got to dizzy the room opened into existence. It was a small room but it was perfect. There was a big round window on the far wall with a large four poster bed in front of it. A little wooden bedside table and a little white lamp sat next to the bed. There was a hand carved book case that was set into the wall on my right. All the wood was a soft medium and had a worn used look that gave it a cozy feeling. On the floor was a hand woven oval rug that looked to be made of old ripped clothes. The floor board creaked a little when you walked and you could feel the house tremble against the brisk ocean wind.
I stepped aside to let my grandpa past me, but I just stood there watching him place his copy of Moby Dick on the small table. He looked at me puzzled. I asked "Where's my bed?" Because I was so not sharing a bed no matter how much I loved the old man. He just chuckled a little and then walked up to me, took my shoulders, and turned me to the left. There was a door at the top of the stairs that when open hid another little bed that was tucked under the slanted ceiling where the roof sloped down. It was a little nook just big enough for the bed. The foot end faced the shorter wall and l loved it because I could lie down and put my bare feet on the low ceiling that draped over me like a curtain and feel the vibrations of the sea rolling as it crashed onto the shore.
After I climbed into bed my grandpa opened the round window for a few minutes to let some fresh air in. The slightly salty ocean scent permeated everything and I pulled the clean sheets up to breathe it in. Even without my feet on the wall I could feel the ocean's heart beat as I lay still. There was a constant quiet roar like white noise or the earth's deep breathing. It sang me to sleep and definitely influenced my dreams.
I was in a huge empty cargo ship. I don't know how I knew it was empty except that in a dream I guess sometimes you just know. That and the ship was lifted farther above the water line than normal for a cargo ship. I was alone in a room with a door that opened up to the elements on the side of the ship. It reminded me of the upper hayloft doors in a barn only it was a grey metal room and you could hear the creak and moan that ships make, like it was speaking in whale tongue, the voice of the lonely ship.
Straw and hay had been strewn across the floor. It looked as if it was once tucked in the corner, perhaps for a bed, but now was trampled and scuffed about. Some of it teetered at the edge of the open door about to be swept out by wind and glued to the softly rolling waves. I sat there in the cold room looking out at the ocean but staying away from the edge. I was a little afraid of falling, but the boat was dead still and there was no danger.
Beside the boat, all around and drifting slowly further away, were old wooden wine barrels. Each without its lid and an object inside, like the barrel of monkey game only there were no monkeys. A dress on a hanger carefully hung inside one, a football in another. Books, crystal goblets, sheet music, a compass, all set in their own barrel like individual lifeboats with no sails. They just bobbed along with the great empty cargo ship.
The sky was blue and clear with only little white puffers casting small shadows as they floated by. It had the look of happiness but it felt a little sad, lonely, and ... curious. I couldn't help but wonder why there were barrels and I crawled to the edge of the open door way to look down on the wine barrel fleet.
In the middle of it all there was a flat boat. Hand carved and dark like the hard wood sleigh beds the curl at the head and foot. There was a soft cushion set into the bottom. A pale cream fabric with embroidery sewed by hand at the edges, of gulls and ships and men. There was a fiddle and bow set neatly to one end of the boat and an indent in the center where someone must have sat at one time. When I looked at the fiddle I could hear the phantom of music playing like a memory. I tried hard to remember but it was just a fog in passing.
It seemed as if I didn't belong there, as if I walked in uninvited at the end of an old mariner's tale of high seas and albatross, but the story teller stopped talking when I arrived and the scene I saw told a different story. I had missed the important part and left with an aching need to know. I wanted to reach down and touch that fiddle, I wanted to hear it play but I knew I didn't have the skill to do it myself. I wanted to sit in the place where one once sat and look down into the water. Where were they?
I woke slowly from that dream. It was so interesting, more than any dream ever before, and the coastal winds that still beat on the walls lent a rhythm that kept me holding on to it as long as I could. When I finally opened my eyes the room was bright and airy and fresh. Grandpa must be up already like adults always seem to be. I was all the way at the top of the house though, and I couldn't hear anything.
I got up and wound my way down the stairs, and down the next set, and the last set too. Along the way I saw no one. Not a sound came from the house and the little hairs on my arms rose up a bit. I finally reached the kitchen but again there was no one there. The back glass door was open, the wind blowing a dust of sand across the floor, and so I thought maybe everyone was outside on the beach, but I didn't hear or see anyone. I wasn't brave enough to go wandering around looking for them alone.
Somehow I knew that all was well but my irrational fear was starting to rise the longer I didn't find anyone. I mean, how hard could it be to find someone from this large gangly family I had? Did they leave to go do something fun and forget me all alone up in that room at the very top of the house? That's stupid. My parents wouldn't ever forget me…would they? I walked to the front door and opened it just a crack. I wasn't supposed to go out front with no adult but I looked and shock filled my body. I was looking at the scene from my dream! Ocean reached as far as I could see and there were those strange barrels with the things in them floating nearby. The ocean is on the other side of the house! I looked behind me and I was no longer in the house but in that room again on that ship. I breathed but there was no room in my tight lungs for air.
Then I sat up in bed…and stayed still until I heard my grandpa breathing gently on the other side of the room. I let out a quick breath and crashed back down onto the airy pillow with a poof. The wind still blew, the walls still shivered and I would never ever forget that dream.