Another day another dollar. That’s what they say right?
“Alright guy’s, I’m off. See you after work!” Mara called over her shoulder as she shut the door behind her. She heard the calls of goodbyes from her family.
“Have a good day sweetie!”
“Wait, Auntie, Wait!” This call caused Mara to stop and turn, pushing the door back open.
Small feet came running and a pajama clad kid came running to the door. “Aunty wait! You need a goodbye hug!” Little arms wrapped around Mara, and she accepted the goodbye with a laugh and a quick squeeze.
“See you later kiddo!” Mara told the little one as she set her down to get back to heading out.
Mara closed the door behind her and heard it lock with another muffled, goodbye auntie, from behind the door. She stood for a moment taking a deep breath and looking up at the sky the cemented stairs gave view to.
Grey, wet, cold.
“Alright then.” Mara said to herself. She grabbed her umbrella from the alcove in front of the basement entrance to her family’s apartment. Holding the cartoon coated umbrella over her head she started to climb the stairs.
The fresh air filled her lungs in a way that awakened her slow limbs and brought a feeling of joy into the forefront of her mind. At the top of the steps, she looked around at the nicely maintained garden her upstairs neighbour and landlord kept. Beautiful, fresh, hopeful.
With a clear and happy mind, she began her short walk to the bus stop to head to work. As she walked, she hummed. She hummed as she walked down the alley, then hummed as she walked up the col de sac towards the main street. On the main street she lifted her head to look up at the bare trees and the nests birds had left. Now in full view with the leaves fallen on the ground. The leaves were plastered to the ground, and they squelched under her feet.
She frowned a bit at that. The water on the ground and in the fallen leaves seeped lightly into her socked and shoed feet. She stopped for a moment to lift her foot off a particularly wet bunch of leaves. They stuck to her light pink shoe. She shook her foot to get them lose but it was no good. Now with a nose crinkling grossed out look on her face she scrapped her shoe along the pavement to dislodge them. Satisfied with the loss she went to step forward again to continue her walk.
One step then stop. Her eye caught the glint of something on the ground. Something that must have been under the leaves that had stuck to her shoe. A silver looking tin was there. The kind you’d keep mints in. She shook her head wrinkling her nose and stepped over the tin.
She needed to get to her bus stop before it came and went without her. She didn’t want to be late for work. And stopping to pick up trash was not on her to-do list this morning.
She pressed the crosswalk signal and waited for the lights to change. After a second the chirp of the cross signal sounded out and Mara looked both ways quickly before stepping off the curb. She waited at her stop. She was early by a good ten minutes. Which was for the better the way buses were sometimes. One day it could come just a minute earlier than you were there, and you’d be stuck waiting for the next. Hoping you wouldn’t end up late for whatever you were doing that day.
Mara glanced back at the place on the walk where she’d passed the tin. She pursed her lips feeling a tinge of guilt for not grabbing it to put it in the trash. But the thought was quickly banished as an elderly man neared the stop. Mara raised her mask and pinched it to her nose. A reflex now at this point in the pandemic that had been plaguing the world for some time. Another reason why she was reluctant to pick up random trash besides the usual reasons.
People began to fill up the stop and the bus soon arrived. Mara boarded and found a seat. The normalcy of the bus and bustle of people brought a sense of calm to Mara and soon her stop came. Another passenger had already pulled the stop signal and she got off along with two other girls. She recognized both from work but none of them acknowledged one another. Mara’s excuse was that she was new to the company, but she wasn’t sure what their excuses were.
“Ah well.” She thought to herself as she slowed her walk towards work. She didn’t want to have to walk awkwardly next to the coworkers that didn’t acknowledge one another.
Passing a few stores, she saw another glint flash from the ground. And like a crow she stopped to check out the glinting piece.
“Oh, a quarter!” She said aloud to herself. She bent to pick up the coin and she slipped it into her pocket. With a sudden grimace she dug into her purse to grab her hand sanitizer. Rubbing her hands, she had another flash of guilt over the dumb tin she’d seen earlier.
She sighed and hung her head. “Alright then conscience,” she thought, “If it’s still there on my way home I’ll pick up the tin!” With a light sigh passing from her lips Mara straightened her shoulders and walked up and into her workplace.
Four hours later.
Rain fell from the sky just as it had when Mara left for work that morning. And now her shift was over, and it was time for her to head on home. But not without a few errands.
She dragged herself over to the nearest market and entered. The quarter she’d found this morning was inserted into a buggy and she went inside. Stopping by the stand of tomatoes she pulled the list out of her purse pocket. She grabbed the bananas, bread, eggs, cream, sugar, and coffee. Isles were gone through and passed, and she went to the till to get her items rang up. $35.98 showed up on the screen after the cashier scanned her items.
The lady behind the till was a kind robust woman with glasses and her mask pinched securely over her nose.
“Total’s thirty-five dollars and ninety-eight cents, and how will you be paying?” She asked nicely.
“Debit” was her answer as she held up her card for payment.
Bagged and paid Mara left the market and returned the cart. Shrugging the bags over her shoulders she popped the umbrella open again and headed to the bus station across the way. Luckily for Mara the bus pulled up just as she reached the station. Mara got in line to get on the bus and boarded quickly. Pulling her bags as close as possible to save room for other passengers she rested her aching back against the stiff-backed seat.
She got off at the corner of her street. This time she didn’t have to cross at the lights and she just went on to turn the corner of the street. She headed down the walk and saw a clump of leaves that reminded her of this morning’s leaf sticking incident. Which then brought back her promise to pick up the tin if it was still there.
She groaned knowing that if she didn’t make good on her promise it would immediately bother her. Mara’s eyes searched the ground and to her dismay the tin was still there.
She set her waterproof bag down and bent to pick up the tin. It was cold and droplets of rain were gathered around the surface. She reached down to pick up the bags she’d set down. Gathering them onto her shoulder she straightened her back and went back towards the bus stop. There was a trash can there where she could dispose of it before she went home.
She reached the bin and went to drop the tin in when she saw an engraving on the other side. Her eyebrows furrowed and she pulled her hand back. Turning the tin over she read the engraving out loud, “Dreaming is a portal in which you may follow wherever your heart desires.”
Mara rose an eyebrow at these words and huffed. “I’m too tired to dream let alone desire anything unless its food or sleep!”
But seeing the engraving on the tin made her curious. Under the cover of the bus stop she placed her belongings down and sat on the cold but thankfully dry bench. She ran her fingers lightly over the raised feeling of the engraving. She slipped a nail beneath the opening of the tin to pry it open. Slowly she opened the tin afraid of what she might reveal. For all she knew it could be gross or illegal. Or just none of her business.
As the lid came off there was a sudden warmth that radiated from the tin, and it opened wide without further prompting from Mara. Light emanated in purple and pink swirls. The lights encased Mara and her belongings, and she was gone.
Mara was gone. Not on the street, not on the bench. She was nowhere to be seen.
A minute passed, two minutes passed, then three, then four. A bus passed the stop and passengers unloaded and dispersed. Ten minutes, fifteen minutes. Another bus. Twenty minutes. Half an hour…
Around the corner where Mara had first seen the engraved tin the street was empty. The sidewalk was plastered with wet leaves. The was a sudden break in the silence as pink and purple swirls of light emanated from the broken concrete.
A glitch of light swirls and Mara stood in the middle of the walk. Her bags were on her shoulders and there was a wild look in her eyes. Her head turned every which way looking for some unseeable thing. Or just confirming that she was, indeed, where she thought she was. Where she’d been a half an hour before. Blinking rapidly, she walked swiftly down the walk and turned abruptly down her street then onto the alley to get home.
Stopping in front of her home she looked at it as though it were a dream. She then slowly descended the stairs as if she weren’t at all sure of where she was going. At the door she hesitantly reached out for the knob and turned it.
Opening the door, she looked inside. Everything was the same as she’d left it this morning besides a few things moved around. Just dishes and blankets. There was a smell as though her sister had burned something on the stove during the day.
“Hey Mara, I got some laundry in the wash, but do you think you could switch it over for me?” Her mother asked from her spot on the sofa. A cartoon was playing on the TV and the kiddo was running to and fro around the house.
“Yeah, sure mom” Mara answered abruptly, a little too loudly. She put her things down and put the groceries on the table. She investigated the bags with a confused look. Everything was there, well and accounted for.
She opened her mouth, then closed it again. Without saying anything more she shrugged off her coat and shoes and went directly into the bathroom. She pulled up the bottom of her shirt to reveal her abdomen which was intricately tattooed with wispy swirls that were shaded darkly with purple and pink. “Dreaming is a portal in which you may follow wherever your heart desires” was engraved along the tattoo in silver. Raised off her skin as though it had been burned into her.
Her mind was awash in the things that she’d seen. What her desires had given her. A world that she’d only begun to conceive while she dreamt at night. Adventure, sights, and smells she always wanted but never believed she could have.
Mara looked at the engraved skin with a slow and purposeful smile. She could go anywhere, do anything, live whatever life she wanted with only a few words. Behind the surface of fallen leaves she’d been able to pick up her own fallen desires and lost dreams and make them reality. She had power over her life and her future.
She became the dream that could portal herself to her own heart’s desires.