lost keys

As the plane breaks the cloud cover over Key West, I look out the window and see the ocean for the first time in I’ve-lost-count-how-many-years.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I hate the sea.

But I have to admit, despite myself, it is an impressive sight. The water below is a mottled green and gray.


It is like looking down on the planet Venus, a poisonous cocktail of green and gray. Blue threads run through the surface, little rivers tracing out a maze of capillaries across the face of the waters.

Small white tears appear on the surface of the water. I mistake them for birds as first, but we are too far up and too far away. They are the points of collision between waves as they rush together, obliterating each other in a spasm of foam.

Here and there, small islands appear like strange floating worlds all unto themselves.

For a moment, just a moment, I entertain the thought of leaving everything behind and living on one of those for the rest of my days.

But there are deeper things beneath the surface, darker shapes that appear in strange, organic configurations like bacterium in a petri dish. I wonder if these are other islands that have been reclaimed by the sea, the minor arcana of forgotten Atlantean worlds. Or perhaps they are nothing more than blooms of algae or seaweed.

They are fascinatingly organic, fractal — menacing, even. They appear to drift on their own, to undulate and move beneath the mottled surface of the sea.

There are darker shapes as well, deeper shadows that swallow everything — blotting out the islands and the shapes below the surface.

These are massive . . . slowly invading and overtaking the gentler shades of gray and green like tumorous clouds.

I realize that’s exactly what they are: Clouds — or, rather, the shadows of the clouds overhead. They are not below the surface but above it, above me — caught in between the sea and sky.

In an instant, a spray of colorful boats of every shape and size appear scattered across the face of the sea like a child’s toys lying forgotten at the end of the day.

The boats give way to other structures, derricks and piers. And then comes the shoreline encrusted with terra-cotta and beige homes that, even from the sky, I immediately recognize from my dreams.

The plane banks as we approach, showing me the sky one last time before we slam home on the runway with a rattling jolt that would worry me, if I weren’t so preoccupied with this strange, familiar feeling that I’ve seen all of this before.

Nervous, relieved laughter and the chime of cell phones flutter around me, while I sift through my dreams for lost memories of the keys.

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