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Close your eyes - dream all is well

Column/Thomas T. Huang

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[mk1] It's light outside. I have worked all night, and, caught between the transition from darkness to morning gray, I fall into a light-headed trance, a kind of exhaustion. I stare at the problem set.

At 11 am, the radio is on. Out the window, sparrows catch my eye. The station is playing "We Are The World," and I switch to another station, but the song remains. I turn the dial again.

At first, I think I've gone crazy. All the stations are playing the song at the same time. I sit down on my bed to listen. It should be an emotional moment, but I just sit there. I hear the song over and over again.

Later, stepping into the shower, I think the water can revive me. I hope the water can restore my sanity.

In Raymond Carver's short story, "So Much Water So Close to Home," the narrator is deeply disturbed when she learns that her husband has, on a hunting trip, discovered a girl floating in a creek. The husband and his buddies had for some reason chosen to complete their 3-day hunting trip before reporting the body to the local sheriff.

The narrator at first suspects that her husband and his friends raped and murdered the girl. Then she realizes that her husband's inaction was in itself a crime. This inaction, this inability to react as human beings, is destroying their lives. She says:

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I look at the creek. I float toward the pond, eyes open, face down, staring at the rocks and moss on the creek bottom until I am carried into the lake where I am pushed by the breeze....

Two things are certain: 1) people no longer care what happens to other people; and 2) nothing makes any real difference any longer. Look at what has happened. Yet nothing will change.... We will grow older, both of us, you can see it in our faces already, in the bathroom mirror.... And certain things around us will change, become easier or harder, one thing or the other, but nothing will ever really be any different.... We have made our decisions, our lives have been set in motion, and they will go on and on until they stop.

But if that is true, then what? I mean, what if you believe that, but you keep it covered up, until one day something happens that should change something, but then you see nothing is going to change after all. What then? Meanwhile, the people around you continue to talk and act as if you were the same person as yesterday, or last night, or five minutes before, but you are really undergoing a crisis, your heart feels damaged....

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A boy in my high school drowned during the senior class trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. I didn't know him well, but others did. A lot of people loved him.

A bleary-eyed girl passed me in the hall, but I couldn't meet her stare. In the school's attic, a student quietly told everyone what had happened. Later, the victim's brother slammed his fist into a stop sign. I couldn't help but think about my own brother and sisters, and I knew that was cruel, that was selfish. I slammed my locker shut.

I wanted to tear the door off its hinges.

In the shower, the hot water strikes my body. The water blinds me. I let it run down my soaked hair, into my eyes. My hands cover my face. I let the water beat me down, because I am a coward, hiding.

I wished I could have saved him.

We all wish we could save the starving people in Africa. But we seem to float helplessly, tugged by events we can't control, in directions not of our choice.

I cry in the shower as the water bombards me. As I leave, my feet touch the cold tile, and I shiver, wrapping my bathrobe around me. The cloth is like a thin, momentary sanity.

There is so much water so close to home. There is so very little in Ethiopia.

When you're hurting, when you're exhausted, go to a pool and swim in the deep, cool water. Float on your back and relax.

You're safe, back in the mother's womb.

Water purifies you. You come out a new person. You leave your pains and worries in the water, like a snake leaves its skin. You feel clean. The water gently caresses your skin, a lover.

Close your eyes and dream. Dream that everything's all right, that everyone's been forgiven.

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