Leaving had been difficult, and no matter how long Darcy was away, her days were not getting better. Part of the problem was that her trip and subsequent three years in Australia had been her life’s dream. Something she had thought about and prepared for since she was a teenager. The feeling that being on the other side of the world in a place not unlike Canada had seemed tangible, not so exotic or different. Now back in Canada, she wasn’t sure what to dream about. All her dreams were gone. Everything she had worked for had washed away like the tide, one wrong move or life choice after another.
Yes, all her dreams were gone. Except for the ones, she had a night. They were vivid, hopeful, and full of energy. Her reality was bleak and depressing, fraught with physical and mental anxiety, but her dreams remained buoyant, bouncy, and technicolor.
One night she was walking down paved roads with brightly colored buildings on either side. Was it a small village or town? White with blue trim, yellow with white trim, blue with green windows, orange, pink, maybe purple. Row upon row of these two, three-story houses. Where was she? Was she allowed to be here? Darcy wasn’t sure as there was no one around. But she didn’t feel scared or unwanted. There was nothing about the dream that seemed ominous.
She woke up the next morning back to her real undream-like problems and set about putting her life back together. She was in debt and needed a job. Her job skills needed improvement, and she had no friends, only a whole lot of people she would rather not run into. It’s not that she was controversial or had done anything wrong; it’s just that she was from a tough city. A city where one’s social status and bank account were everything. A world where it was better not to have a job than have a low-paying, low-status job.
Darcy had never fit here, which had led her to Australia. But it turned out that she didn’t there either. She always seemed to date the wrong guy and end up in the wrong job surrounded by people who wished she wasn’t there. Whether she was too good at her job that she made others feel threatened or not good enough, causing coworkers to become frustrated or angry. Before she had even had a chance to find her footing, she had been swept up into drama, politics, and a lot of wild moments that had landed her right back where she started. But now what?
Darcy felt defeated from the crushing anxiety that was so overwhelming it was unconscious, just there, not easily able to identify. Every step she seemed to take in life led her the wrong way. Every person she spoke to was the wrong person. In between losing her life’s purpose, Darcy had lost her confidence. What would be different if she tried again? How would she not end up in the same predicament again, or worse? The truth was, she was older every year. Her opportunity to dust herself off and try again wasn’t limitless. At some point, it would be game over. She would have used up all her life coupons and would be stuck in some awful physical or mental state without hope. And after all, hope was the only notion that gave her even a glimmer of motivation or encouragement.
But Darcy had been someone well defined. There were things she had loved. Drawing, books, tennis, swimming. Dreams like moving to Australia that she had held dear and wanted to experience one day. A soul who was there somewhere underneath all the pain, the loss, the manipulation, and humiliation. She was still there if only she could access her true desires. The real ones. The ones not influenced by cruel words or harsh circumstances. If only she could find that truth; maybe she could turn things around. In the meantime, she numbed herself to everything around her to get by. She didn’t need much. A few beers or glasses of wine at night kept her senses just dull enough to endure the drama around her.
Sometimes, while sitting staring out the bus window wondering where she should go and what she should do next, the words Cuba exhaled on her breath. That was strange because although she knew Cuba was an island country and a guy in junior high went there with his family all those years ago, she didn’t know much else.
Maybe it was the ads on the bus stops. Perhaps that’s why fleeting thoughts of Cuba passed through her mind.
This time the dream had her walking down the path past the bright buildings, to a restaurant. She went inside and was happy to see a bartender. There seemed to be a lot of staircases going in many directions leading to landings with different tables. Some tables were big. Large enough for celebrations or family gatherings. Other tables were small, maybe for one or two. Perfect for reading a book or staring out a nearby window. Maybe long conversations with a friend or partner about life, business ventures, future travels. Other tables had chairs and booster seats or high chairs, sometimes with room for three or four or five...
Outside Darcy had felt totally fine walking the streets and admiring the multicolored buildings, but inside she became terrified she didn’t belong, would offend someone, or become trapped. But as scared as she was, she looked around and found a dance floor with tables lining the wall and a large grand piano. The bartender she had seen on her way in, was at the bar, smiling. Relieved, Darcy asked if she was allowed to be there and where everyone was? The bartender laughed and welcomed her.
“Of course, please come in. You haven’t even started yet. It’s early. Have a drink.”
All of a sudden, the bar counter was covered with drinks, but when Darcy drank one, it tasted more like coffee than alcohol. It didn’t matter. She was delighted by the endless opportunities, the small and large glasses—some with fruit, some with umbrellas or straws.
The following evening, as Darcy walked down the street, she wondered about the recurring dream and its meaning in her life. She stopped in front of the liquor store and thought about whether she wanted beer or wine but then decided to get a coffee down the street. She should try to save money and her health. Maybe reward herself with a cheap vacation deal in Bermuda, or Cuba even. Also, she had a lot of books she never seemed to have time to read; maybe tonight, she would start.
Years later, Darcy walked along a sandy beach and wondered if she would have time to change before salsa class. Up ahead, her boys chased her husband into the ocean and disappeared, then re-emerged laughing in the waves.