I Dream of Sunstroke

I dream of falling asleep on the beach.

I dream of falling asleep on a pile of rocks that have been baked in the sun until they are fire-hot clay, the way they were made. It is impossible to imagine falling asleep on a pile of rocks until you have done so, but these rocks are smooth and round, and your muscles and the folds of your skin sink into them and before you can understand what has happened, they have become a comfort that holds your discomfort inside of itself and cradles it until it does not exist. I dream that the sun touches every bare part of my skin, that it makes me warm in a way that only exists in the sun’s touch or in a someone’s breath. I think that babies’ skins are always warm like this, as if they, too, have been expelled from beneath the crust of the earth. Curdled liquid sun.

Breezes from off the ocean roll over my body uneven minutes apart, pushed by the waves that run up and down the sand in perfect rhythm but with varying volume. I become the sea weed that grows on the rocks, thin and ragged and clinging. I dry in the sun. I am salt.

Even in my dream, I know that I should not fall asleep on the beach. I know that they should not let me fall asleep on the beach. Last time I fell asleep on the beach, I slept for centuries, and then I woke up and didn’t know where I was. I looked around and saw no one else, and I thought that they had all finally gone. I stood up, and everything was white and quiet. I threw up. Then their arms lifted me into the boat, and they took me home and sat me on the couch, and for the rest of the day I did not want to remember who I was.

But in my dream the others are swimming, far out from shore, and they are not here to remind me that I should not fall asleep on the beach. So I dream of falling asleep on the beach.

When you fall asleep on the beach, you let go completely but there is a part of you that is still conscious, staring at the insides of your eyelids warped exploded peach and yellow, kaleidoscoping and buzzing. You feel the sea’s whispers on the soles of your feet. No part of you moves. You have never been this asleep before.

Asleep on the beach, I dream of nothing and no one. The shouts and the sound and the sand with its tiny creatures slip away, and I sleep for longer than my lifetime, but not longer than all of time, a friendly amount of time, not a lonely one.

The sea laps at my toes and then it pulls me into the ocean and through my sleep I think, this is nice, I’ll wake up on an entirely different beach, but when I wake up I am in Ottawa and the sun is thin and cold and the snow is melting, leaving behind a flood of cigarette butts and orange peels, the mush of old newspapers and the castoff trappings of gluttony, the debris of the dark winter of an entire city. It swirls around my feet as I walk home, and I wonder when I can go to sleep again.

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