I’m lying outside on the beach sunning myself. I can hear the surf pound the shore. I take a pull on my beer. I’m relaxed and content. Life is good.
All of a sudden my mother stands over me blocking the sun,
“You’re going to be late for your brother’s wedding,” she says.
“Oh my God. Is it today?” I say
“Hurry or you’ll be late.”
I get up and brush the sand off myself. Children run about with water pistols. A group of boisterous teenagers smack around a volleyball. Shapely women sashay around in bikinis.
“Ok let’s go.” I say gathering my things.
Something catches my mother’s eye. “What’s that?” she asks pointing to the horizon.
Like a giant white tipped cerulean serpent, a massive wave silently uncoils itself out in the distant sea. I know what it is.
It’s a tsunami.
“Mom, this is not a safe place to be. You need to go,” I say turning to her.
“Ok, I’ll meet you at the church. Don’t forget,” she says smiling like she doesn’t have a care in the world.
I watch her get into her car and drive away. Suddenly I’m aware of grass under my feet. I’m standing in the backyard of my boyhood home. My suit is inside the house. I need to find it.
I look back toward the beach. Even though I’m several miles away I can still see the young revelers cavorting on the shore. Some distant part of me realizes all those people are going to die.
I have time before the wave reaches me. I go inside the house to look for my suit. I find it crumpled up in a ball at the bottom of a closet. Damn. I run around the house looking for an iron. I can’t find one.
In the distance I hear a horrible roar. The wave is coming.
I race outside. Now I can’t find my car. I walk around with my suit balled up in my hands.
Like a river of liquid concrete, the first waves consume the houses across the street. Mrs. Anderson, the nice old lady who used to give me chocolates, happily waves from her porch as her house is carried away.
Utilizing a childhood escape route, I run through my neighbor’s backyard to the street behind mine. I hope they don’t see me and tell my Dad. I find my car and drive away.
Driving around my old neighborhood I become aware of how dire my situation has become. All around me people are running for their lives. There are too many cars on the road. I can’t get anywhere.
My godfather sits in the passenger seat. He taps me on my shoulder.
“You can’t be here,” I say to him, “You’re dead.”
Putting on his old Greek fisherman’s cap he looks at me lovingly with his cool blue eyes.
“Everything changes,” he says.
With a tremendous roar the tsunami arrives in all its fury. Blue green and glistening it towers hundreds of feet high. I can see the shadows of sharks swimming inside. It heads straight for me. I’m going to die.
“And nothing changes,” my godfather whispers.
The wave hits. I cry out. I’m tumbling in darkness.
My eyes open. I’m awake sitting up in bed. The sun streams though the windows. My little dog licks himself contently. No one is screaming. There are no sirens in the distance. I’m high and dry. Safe.
Driving into work I think about my dream. I’ve been in therapy so long it’s easy to figure out. The tsunami symbolizes change. I hate change. But it’s inevitable.
I walk into the bistro and begin to work, moving without the guidance of thought. I’ve performed these duties so often it’s all physical memory now. Often my head is somewhere else. My coworkers will attest to that.
A tsunami is caused by seismic activity deep within the earth. Deep inside me the tectonics of anxiety and desire are rumbling. Change is coming. I can feel it. Whether it comes with the subtlety of wind eroding rock or the violence of a tidal wave – it’s coming. It’s inexorable. It’s inevitable.
I won’t be a waiter forever. I don’t know what I’ll be doing. The future is in shadow like the sharks swimming in my dream’s wave.
I drop off an entrée to an old man sitting alone. He used to come here with his wife. She died months ago. Through force of habit he still eats at her favorite table. He looks like he’ll soon join her.
I walk to the opposite end of the bistro and take a drink order from a young couple. They look like they’re in love. Their baby squirms in his high chair. From one end of the restaurant to the other I’ve just witnessed the entire arc of life. One day the young couple will be old. Their baby will have babies.
Everything changes. Nothing changes.
“Are you all right?” one of the waitresses asks me.
I look at her. For the first time I realize what beautiful eyes she has.
“I’m fine. I just want to go home.” I reply.
I cashier out early and leave. One day I’ll no longer work here and another guy will take my place. I’ll become just another customer remembering what it was like to serve tables a lifetime ago. I hope I tip well.
Everything changes. Nothing changes.
I walk into the Irish bar down the street and order a pint of Guinness.
“How ya doing mate?” Lenny the bartender asks. Even though it’s an Irish pub all the staff is from New Zealand. Kinda like pizza joints being run by Albanians.
“Ok Lenny. I’m ok.” I reply.
“You look a little down,” he notes.
“Not down just – philosophical,” I say.
‘Well drink this,” he says sliding the pint of stout towards me,” that e’ll help with yer philosophizing.”
I propose a toast, “Malt does more than Milton can to justify God’s ways to man.”
“Damn straight mate,” Lenny says walking away.
I look into my beer glass. The stout stares back at me.
I think too goddamn much. Somethings never change.