I am getting off the school bus at the top of the driveway in the afternoon on a Friday. In real life, there were only two years where my parents thought I was old enough to be home alone but I still rode the school bus. I liked those afternoons.
On this day, in the dream, there’s a distinct quiet happiness that surrounds me like golden dust as I walk down the driveway by myself crunching gravel. The happiness comes from being on the bus with people I think are cool, who I hope and maybe believe also think I am at least a little cool, from being let off at my own special stop that belongs to nobody but me, from being trusted enough to walk down the driveway by myself and use the spare key to let myself in, being grown-up enough for that. From the quietness of that walk, and of the house when I’m the first one to come home, and the anticipation of that quiet. From the looking back on the jokes that were told on the way from middle school to home, the smiling, the wondering what everyone else who is still on the bus will keep on saying to each other as the bus moves inexorably away down its roads. The not minding not knowing. The following nobody’s will but my own—the bliss of a Friday afternoon, of having practically three whole days before I have to do anything I don’t feel like doing.
There’s a lot that can fit into a feeling.
Anyway, I’m walking down the driveway feeling that Friday afternoon feeling. When I get to the bottom of the hill and out into the field that comes before our house, I happen to look up at the sky. It’s that gorgeous bright blue of late April pure hope that forgets you can’t count on any particular day to be sunny until after the fourth of July, that insists every day is going to be this good from here on out.
The sky’s criss-crossed with jet contrails. I squint up and note that there are more planes up there than usual. Tiny planes, way up in the sky, like Matchbox planes. Like planes from a page in an I Spy book.
I always liked seeing planes from our house. I’d see them make their slow way across our patch of sky while I was swinging on the swing set in the front yard. I wondered where they were going to and from. I still don’t know. I liked it because there was no possible way for them to know I was looking up at them: even if they were looking right down at me, they’d never know. I wondered if some of them were reading mass market mysteries with creased spines up there, like people I’d seen on planes before had been. If a plane was a pinprick, way up there in the cloth of the sky, a paperback would be a proton.
I liked it because I’d been in a plane before, right? So I knew that feeling of not being to where you’re going yet, but being there already in your mind. So all those people who were up there in those planes, they were right above me, right up there, here, but they were also already to wherever they were going—which was somewhere I didn’t know and couldn’t imagine. Therefore, somewhere unimaginably far away existed right within my sight, which was magic.
Because I had been on planes, I knew what the insides of planes looked like. Those people up there, I knew what they were seeing—tray tables and seat backs and sky and millions of tiny tiny trees—I’d flown above Oregon before, so I knew this—but there was no way those people in those planes could look into the deep green sea of trees and know what I was seeing. The yard and the garden and the field and the orchard and the barn and the ridge of Douglas firs—these trees, our trees—that blocked our house from the not very much noise of the road up above. It gave me this feeling like the world was big and small at the same time.
The planes now, in my dream—I don’t know, maybe thirty of them or something? I don’t count things—give me that same feeling.
And then I start to notice: some of them aren’t planes. Some of them are, but some of them aren’t. Some of them are too round to be planes, like pancakes, or too curved, or too fluid as they move across the sky.
Some of them are whales. Some of them are dolphins.
Some of them are sea turtles.
The sky is an ocean of air.
I run inside through the utility room to tell my mom, who’s home even though up until now I was going to be the first one home because this is a dream. I can’t wait to tell her. Sea turtles! Swimming through the sky! She’s going to get a kick out of that! She’s going to love it.
My first hope upon discovering the ocean in the sky was to hope that it would last forever, desperately, that sea animals would swim overhead always now. Like snowflakes falling hard: pure joy, and then, before that has the chance to even take its first breath, desperate, desperate hope.
It probably can’t be. But I’m not sure. I wake up before the whales and dolphins and sea turtles and schools of fish instead of birds swim away and leave behind just regular planes.
Friday afternoon feelings fade into Sunday nights squandered. But that’s okay. Sunday nights squandered lead back around to Friday afternoons again.
Meli Ewing is a writer in Eugene, Oregon. She works in a bookstore, reads broadly with a particular interest in young adult literature, and writes letters when she isn’t writing fiction.