Hannah Cates

H. Cates

Creative Writing

7 November 2017

3254

        It looked like a star among the rest of them; the flecks of obsidian in the red granite stone was a permanent reminder that her recent trip to Upper New York was one that she would never forget.  Her rock collection, given identification with black sharpie,  grew more each year as she traveled, often aimlessly and without direction, to places she saw in her thoughts and dreams.  How could I ever explain the significance of these stones to anyone who asked? It all sounds so stupid, so crazy.  Edith gingerly brushed remnants of house dust from her Sacramento Rock and closed the glass door that housed the growing collection, and walked into kitchen.  

        “Did you add your latest artifact to your collection?” Edith’s dad was reading the paper at the antiquated kitchen table and smoking his fifth cigarette of the day.

        “Yea, it’s actually probably my favorite one.  I didn’t realize how many colors it had until it was sitting beside the other ones.”  This numbing small talk was excruciating for Edith, as she attempted to breathe life into the dead relationship she had with her father.  Her words fell like pebbles, plinking one by one on the ground at her feet.  

Edith walked to her small bedroom, and came out with her yellow scarf wrapped like a lie around her throat.  “I’m heading out, dad.  Not sure when I’ll be back.”

        “Ok…” Her dad took a drag on his cigarette and didn’t even look her direction.  

        When the crisp air hit her face, Edith was free. She was out of the smoke and memories that held her captive, and her mind began to wander.  The park close to her apartment was always good for a getaway, and she often sat, nondescript on a bench under the large oak trees that stood like knives in the ground, marking her place.  

        New York is nice, but it’s only a place I had to go to find out the truth. Edith sat in the low hush of the afternoon breeze and remembered the trip, or the part that she held secret, like all the other secrets, in the deep recesses of her mind, vaulted up, compartmentalized with confusion, and explanations that would never be fully realized. I can’t believe that house actually exists. And there it was, right there in her mind, a house, all white and clapboard, that she saw in her sleep weeks before she decided to push into doubt and find if her dreams were once again, telling her things that existed.  

        It wasn’t a scary dream this time.  Edith remembered it clearly.  She was sitting in a field of high grass watching children playing in the yard of a large farmhouse.  She heard the sounds of the children laughing, as an echo of real times in history, and stared at the house like looking at a statue in a museum.  This dream came to her for days on end, and each time the house remained, aged and weathered, even with the changing time.  The children grew up, the family moved, and in her dream, the last few times, the only person coming in and out of the house was an old woman.

        It happened this way a lot.  Places and addresses would come to her in dreams, and at first, it was explained away like the residual culmination of exposure to the everyday world around her: media, mail, street signs, absent conversation.  But then patterns began to emerge, and Edith decided to pursue the persistent places she traveled when sleep came.  That’s what put her in the car the first time, a travel to California, what inspired her to pick up her first piece of earth flesh, a rock, and begin a collection that would soon grow representing all the places she had seen without leaving her bed.  

        Her trip to New York started as a dream where the image of an old farmhouse aged, and became more familiar each night.  Soon, she wasn’t just seeing an old woman coming and going, she was getting a view of a street sign, Flanders Lane.  Then she saw a house number appear: 3254.  

        On the drive north she began by typing the address into her GPS app on her phone.  3254 Flanders Lane, New York.  She had no town, but only one registered with that address, so she drove.  The pattern that had been true since her dream-inspiried roadtripping started, proved to be prophetic in many ways once again.  There was a real address in New York identified by 3254 Flanders Lane.  There was a real white farm house found at the address that looked exactly like the one Edith had so frequently seen in her dreams.  When Edith got to the house, it was not like the image in her sleep.  It was run down, like a storm had brushed by one too many times.   The paint was peeling, the screen door frayed and hanging, and the yard overgrown.  

        I feel strange every time this happens to me. I knew this house would be here.  I just never expected it to look so rundown. Edith felt a sense of grief in the pit of her stomach for reasons she could not fully understand.  Getting out of the car, her shoes pushed gravel around and gave her steps momentum and a voice.  An old, gray mailbox precariously perched on a weathered wood post stood like a soldier in a salute, the post flag up, hoping for the mail carrier to visit, remove contents, giving permission to be at ease again.  

That’s strange.  It’s obvious no mail has been picked up or delivered here for months, maybe years. Edith thought, drawn to open the mailbox and uncover its contents.  

Almost as if by magic, Edith arrived at the old mailbox, opened the flap, and stared in shock at what was inside.  It wasn’t the contents themselves that put her on edge, it was the writing she saw on a piece of outgoing mail that had already been yellowed with age.  

                Edith Fairchild

                2315 Westminster Ave.

                Fern, Pennsylvania 15034

“What are the chances…” Edith spoke into the fall air.  “My name on this envelope?” Edith’s hands shook as she held the envelope in her hands, and she decided to return it to the mailbox, just in case it was there for a reason, but not until she took a picture of the front of the envelope as evidence for anyone she decided to confide in later.  

After a few hours of thinking, walking, and taking pictures, Edith found a perfect rock to mark her contact with another place her dream had revealed.  She left, still shaken by the mail she found, and as if dazed, drove home by night fall.  

The park was a place evening seemed to embrace.  And although the night was approaching, couples walked by, children played, and Edith sat in her thoughts.  When the last people were fading like lightening bugs caught in a jar, Edith got up, took her thoughts, and returned home.  

The front door, the only door, to the apartment always opened like a loud, obnoxious yawn anytime someone entered.  There was really no way to sneak in or out, which is why it was also rarely locked.  

“Dad?” Edith spoke as she removed her shoes at the door, letting them fall in a haphazard formation on the floor.  

No answer.

“Hello? Dad, are you home?”

It was unusual for Edith’s dad to leave the house.  As long as she could remember he’d been a strong homebody, a hermit.   He found himself wrapped in his own loneliness like a straight jacket that he pretended to enjoy.  

“Eddy? I’m in the living room.”

Edith walked round the corner of the kitchen counter and rounded into the living room, smelling evidence of her father’s presence in stale cigarettes.  “Hey, what are you doing in here? I haven’t seen you spend time in the living room in months.”

“I found some papers your mom left when you were born, and I’ve been sitting here trying to get the courage to look at them.”

“What are they from?”

“I don’t know. They were underneath the couch, and behind the books somebody I know keeps collecting.”

“Can I look?”

“Sure.” Dad’s face didn’t have an expression, but his eyes welled with tears as the memory of the love of his life became near.  “I can’t believe she just left. I seriously can’t believe it.”

Edith reached for the box of papers letting her father’s words turn to a click of a lighter and deep inhale. The box contained receipts, magazine cut-out from 1963, a few notes that seemed to mean very little.  Each paper had it’s own style, it’s own texture, and Edith, like when opening a new book, found herself smelling each piece before putting it in a neat pile to the side of the box.  

Near the bottom of the box were some old photos, one that stopped Edith and drew her attention more than the rest.  An old farmhouse.  Just like the one in her dream.  Just like the one she had visited recently with a house number clear as day: 3254.

“Hey dad? When was mom’s birthday?” Numbers, little significances always proved to connect in some way between dreams, travel, and her regular life, and for some reason Edith was focused intently on the numbers of that house.  That house.

“Uh.. I think March fifth, no March second, ‘54?” Her dad’s drowsy words laced with sadness were a reverberating tone that clouded her mind, and she had to get away.  

“I’m going to bed.” Edith took the photo discretely and walked out of the living room towards her bedroom. “If you do want to look in the box, it’s really nothing that personal.  I mean it might be to you, but I didn’t see anything special.”

After changing into yoga pants and an old band t-shirt, Edith threw her hair into a messy bun and flopped down on her bed.  Holding the photo up into the air above her, Edith stared into the black and white remnant of the past like looking for the hidden symbols in a dollar bill. Edith’s arm dropped like a rock by her side, partly out of frustration, partly out of exhaustion.  Sleep crept in like disease, loosening her fingers from the edge of the matte finish photo, and pushing her mind into places she’d understand in quips and phrases come morning.  

        

        Edith woke the next morning very unsettled, not by the dream she had, but by the fact she didn’t remember dreaming at all.

        “What the hell?  I don’t remember the last time I woke up from sleep with no dream to think over.” Edith sat up in bed, her messy bun from the night before barely being held together.  She walked to the bathroom in the hall outside her bedroom door, and without looking in the mirror, headed to the old tub and turned both knobs to full blast.  As steam filled the space, coated the mirror, and dampened yesterday’s mascara on her face, Edith sat on the sink top and stared aimlessly into the floor.  

        “Eddy?” There was a quick knock on the door, startling Edith into a quick response.

        “Yeah?  What?” The snap back to reality made her response edgy and irritable.  

        “I’m heading out.”

        “Okay.”

        Edith heard her dad walk sock-footed down the hall towards the door.  Pause and shuffle, putting on his shoes, and jingling his keys he opened the squeaky door and a loud clap of wood on wood behind him signalled his departure.

        After a long bath in a steamy room, Edith dressed for the crisp fall air waiting like a lover outside the door of her apartment.  Edith had taken two weeks off work for her last trip, but only used three days, so she spent her reverie in walking, writing, and thinking.  With yellow flats, skinny jeans, and a black tank and cardigan, she blended well into the stereotypical artsy crowd found wandering around downtown, and she headed there to slowly drink black coffee in an old millhouse, now called Off The Block Cafe’.  

        The glass door, old paint letters signaling entrance succumbed to her push, walking her into the aromatic cozy rustic cafe’ where hipsters and students congregated to find meaning in their lives.  

         Ding Ding. The spring bound bell made the search for quiet isolation ironic.

        “Hey, what can I get you?” The barista smiled like an old friend, and Edith wondered if she had been pegged as a ‘regular’ yet.  

        “Just an in-house black, please.  Thanks.”

        “Coming up!”

        The entrance bell continued to ring as people entered and exited.  The steam machines blew fragrant billows of coffee scent into the room.  

        “In-house black?”

        “Thanks.” Edith took the thick white porcelain mug to a recently vacated table in the corner of the cafe, and sat down.  

“Shit!” Edith whispered as she accidentally tipped the mug spilling some of the hot liquid over the rim, onto her fingers, and onto a paper that had been left behind on the table.  While trying to regain composure from the quick hot sting of her spill, the paper on the table caught her eye.  In black ink pen, in rough handwriting she saw words that took her breath away:

If you go to Fern, you’ll see.

If you go to Fern, you’ll see yourself.

If you go to Fern, time will no longer matter.

If you go to Fern, you will know all of it has been a dream.

        Edith knew by now, that she was in a realm of reality that no one could understand.  She had no one in whom to confide.  She had no one who could possibly help her explain away all these coincidences, so she leaned into them.  She leaned into her dreams, and she found that the line between awake and asleep was very thing. The line between dreams and reality was blurred much more than she thought.  She pulled the photograph of the letter she found at the old farmhouse in New York up on her phone, and punched the address into her phone’s GPS.  Fern, Pennsylvania was only 15 minutes from where she was at this minute, and as the reality of that sank in, so did Edith’s heart into her stomach.  

        Without finishing her coffee, Edith grabbed the paper from the table and shoved it into her bag, cell-phone in hand, she left the cafe and made way to the apartment parking lot. Thoughts consumed Edith, and visions of her mother’s face from the old photos her father had hidden swarmed in front of her.  In no time Edith’s hands were opening her forest green Ford Focus and she was following the robotic directions to 2315 Westminster Ave. Fern, Pennsylvania, the address with her namesake.

        The GPS conversation was one sided leading Edith’s hands to turn right here, left there, and straight for 8 miles, and soon the digitized woman’s voice announced, “In 900 feet, the destination is on your right, 2315 Westminster Avenue.”

        Okay, Eddy, this is weird, but hasn’t all of it been?  I can’t believe I’m not freaking out right now. Eddy put her phone in her bag, put the strap over her shoulder, opened the door to taste the wind of fall in her face. The address numbers were silver, slanted, and strong like the truth she was afraid to find out. “Here goes…”

        The street was lined with old shotgun houses, clearly constructed post World War 2, and 2315 was a red brick town house, a stout stair entrance beckoning like the desire she had within her to find the answers to the questions brought on for so many years by her dreams.  Edith stepped lightly left foot first up the entry steps to the front door.  I don’t even know what I’m going to say when I ring this doorbell, she thought, but as her hand lifted, almost in slow motion she heard a voice behind the door.

“Eddy is that you?  Eddy?”

“What the hell?!” Edith said to herself in a panicked whisper, until she realized that the name that belonged to this address was also Edith.  Just coincidence.  Just coincidence. With some feigned momentum, Edith willed herself to respond with, “Uh, sort of.”

The doorknob turned and behind the craftsman style door a woman stood, looking eerily similar to the one she had seen coming and going at the white farm house in her dreams.  “Eddy!  Sweetheart!  Come in!”  The old woman, with piercing blue eyes smiled warmly grabbing hold Edith’s arm, and pulling her gently inside.  

Maybe she has dementia and thinks I’m the Eddy she was waiting for.  It’s all coincidence.  It’s all coincidence. Edith tried to will herself to calm, but her heart just kept racing, and then she heard low voices from another room inside the house.  

“Eddy’s here!  Eddy’s here!” The old woman shouted into the house with a strange excitement that made Edith feel committed to a role she had not practiced for.  

In a blink the old woman had disappeared into the room where the voices had come and a younger woman replaced her walking toward Edith.  

“Mom?” Edith squinted, held her eyes shut, and squinted again.

“You’ve been in my dreams all my life, Eddy.  I’m so happy you made it.”