This morning I got up with the sun, skipped breakfast, and took out one of the kayaks. I wanted to see the island—the whole island—from the water. Plus I kind of wanted to be alone. Spending this much time with the same group—sharing breakfast, lunch, and dinner plus most of the activities—is sort of like going to a high school reunion that goes on for days and days. At first you’re just excited to see everyone and then you start thinking about skipping the Sunday brunch and just staying in your room. Not that I haven’t had a great time. I have. But I felt like I needed some Dave-time. So I got a kayak.
It was low tide. The soft coral reef that rings the island like the halo of hair on a Capucine monk was so close to the bottom of the boat in places that I worried about running aground. Clown fish darted in and out of the blue and red and orange coral. A small shark nervously searched for a way out of the lagoon. I paddled south, against the current, figuring it would be easier when I got to the other side of the island and was coming back with the current behind me. After 15 or 20 minutes, I’d reached a spot opposite my vale. The folding doors were pushed back and I could see into my living room and bedroom. It was odd, but a part of me half-expected the guy that was staying there—me—to come out on the deck holding a cup of coffee in his hand, and wave at me.
“Dave!” I yelled out across the water. Of course, Dave didn’t show up because Dave was in the kayak. But I kind of got a kick out of it anyway. It was like when you’re dreaming and you’re in the dream but you still somehow know you are dreaming. That’s what it was like. I was paddling in a kayak (or was I?) and looking back at the house on an island (my life?) and wanting Dave to come out on the deck so I could talk to him. But Dave wasn’t there.
A long, long time ago I was driving by myself to Oregon and stopped, exhausted, in the middle of the night at a campground beside Lake Shasta. I slept in the back of an SUV and shortly before dawn, I woke up dreaming that a bear was in the car with me. Except it wasn’t a dream. There was a bear. Leaning in through my open back window, pawing at the bag of food next to my sleeping bag. I remember how foul his breath smelled. Like dog food that has been sitting in the sun for a couple of days.
The bear snatched the food and lumbered away. I sat up in my sleeping bag, my heart racing, feeling breathless. The surge in adrenalin made it impossible to go back to sleep. So I got up and, dressed only in a T-shirt and boxers, walked in the darkness through the trees down to the edge of the lake. The sun was not yet up. I sat on the muddy red bank of the lake trying to calm myself down. I watched as the sky went from a deep bruised purple to a soft orange light. And then I took off my shirt and boxers and walked into the water. I swam out about a hundred feet from shore and then I turned around and looked back on where I’d been. A part of me was waiting for the bear to arrive. And the thought didn’t scare me. I imagined that the bear would swim out into the lake, not towards me but near me, and the two of us would just float, several yards apart, waiting for the sun to come up. And, of course, the bear would be me.
That’s the way I felt in the kayak looking out over the water at my vale where Dave was asleep. That’s exactly how I felt.