James belonged where his mind wanted him to go, and getting there had been an eternal postponement. He was saving his money, and grinding on a government job. As the years went by, his fantasies became clearer, and his reality dimmer, so that he was bumbling between four walls. His colleagues thought him to be boring and out of place, and no amount of convincing or story-telling could change their minds.
“I’ve had it!” James said. It might’ve been accumulated frustrations, or that twice as much paperwork washed across his desk like a flood of dead rotting fish that he didn’t want to deal with.
“I’m going on a permanent vacation! It’ll be like the trip John Hinkley took before he shot Ronald Reagan—five-star hotels—sandy beaches—with no future in sight—just like the ocean, with no memory.”
He packed his suitcases, and put them in the back of his pickup. The rain was coming down. Gray skies and no color contrast made him depressed, and then desperate. It’s the bright hew of lime greens, and sparkling blue waters that could send him into ecstasy.
James got to the airport.
“Do you have a reservation?”
“No reservation, huh.” The typist behind the computer reminded James of everything wrong in society—it was scheduled, boxed in. He wanted to burst out. She had curly hair, and long nails like talons.
“You’re in luck. We have a plane leaving in 30 minutes for St. Barts.”
He walked to the Starbucks. “Give me six shots of espresso and some foam on top.”
When James got onto the plane, he read a James Bond novel. Somehow, having the same name as the double agent, made the fantasy more real. Was he trying to escape from reality? A man is ready for war. He’s ready for divorce, dismemberment, and being disinherited, but not drudgery. He thinks he can handle it, by living in the dream world, but even his dreams become nightmares.
“Would you like some coke?” The stewardess asked. She was stressed and stretched, like she had started to do the job to see the world, and now her illusions had worn off. If the dream is realized— there is nowhere to go—that’s when real desperation sinks in.
When James landed, he pinched the stewardess on the buttocks.
“Harasser!” She was from Seattle.
He laughed inside. There were no consequences.
The rental car was a mini with one of those marketing names that convinces people to buy—like the Honda Fit. Fat people drive it. Or the Nissan Leaf—smokers like that one.
James got in and drove to the mini airport with the small planes.
“Is there somebody who can take me up and scare the shit out of me?” He asked.
“That might be difficult—you’ve got the 10,000-hour stare!” The cowboy said, while lounging in a lawn-chair.
“Vacationers have it! It comes from looking at a computer screen all day. I had a chance to sit behind a desk, but I would rather be trapped on an island with native dancers, than fight traffic to get out of a downtown city. You’ve got no idea what it’s like to be in the air!”
“I just got off an airplane,” James said.
“No. I mean—weightless. I can show you, but have you eaten lunch yet?”
Two minutes later, James wanted back on the ground. The airplane was like a broken arrow, being controlled by a madman. Sometimes, we have to go places, to appreciate where we’ve been.
“Maybe, you’re not a bird, but a fish,” the cowboy said. His sunglasses made him look like he had figured-out how not to care.
James was airsick, and trying to find his land legs without vomiting, as he walked towards his car, and away from crazy. He drove to the wharf. Breaking out of a routine was all he needed.
The scuba instructor was giving lessons, and the tourists looked like two-dozen eggs, bobbing in the surf.
“What’s your name?” The instructor asked.
“Well, I’m giving everyone a lesson in survival, James. Strip down to your swimming trunks and join us.”
James saw a man like him, before. He was his fat swimming instructor taking a crap at the pool without any dividers around the toilet. James could never get the image out of his mind—all those rolls closing in around a shriveled…” He mentally erased it.
After hours of self-help, James knew that people were wired for survival, and that’s why they couldn’t change. They needed to perceive threats, and they were always identifying new fears. Now, he might be confronted by the real thing.
There was an octopus woman bobbing next to him who reminded him of the sea witch. She glared in his direction, and James felt his soul shrink into a dark cave somewhere inside himself, but when he got under the water, it expanded, and swam around with the rainbow fishes.
James didn’t want to die. He wanted to spend eternity, where only gods go, when they leave the world of men behind.