It was on a summer night that Suki jumped out of that train and into that basement, not a winter one. She remembers the stale cigarette smell, still feels it scratching the back of her throat as she talks about it.
The rooms were filled with graffiti and brimming with loud music. Suki sashayed through the narrow, smoky corridors and crowds of people, every so often wiggling her hips to the rhythm of Guantanamera. She scanned the room for signs, any signs that would lead her back to her train of thought but her attempts were futile at that point.
The cook—that dapper fellow chopping up pumpkins and stirring them into soup— twirled her with his eyes, his handlebar moustache trembling whenever she walked by. At one point she even saw his hair bounce up lightly and undo itself from the bun it was twisted into when she blew him a kiss from afar. He was dying, I mean literally dying to kiss her.
Suki told Helen this when she saw her. She was standing on the edge of the dance floor wearing a baby blue satin gown. Helen’s reply was that she herself was dying, once again, literally dying for something deliciously sweet, like cake, or ice cream, which she normally detested. “I see,” Suki said, sucking the smoke out of a cigarette.
Helen sat down on a giant quilted cushion on the floor. She leaned on her elbow as she twirled her keys. “We could get one of those Indian banana leaves with the weird mix of sugary bits inside,” she said. “Thali pockets, they’re called.” And then stretching out the ‘o’ until she could no longer breathe she said, “They’re goooooorgeous!”
Suki thought this sounded fabulous. But she still needed to find her train of thought, so she started opening the doors that flanked the corridors, little warp holes that gave her a peek into nonsensical madness.
Having found nothing but soap bubbles and washed up ideas in those slots, Suki made her way back to the dance floor. That’s when she found Helen holding a smiling pig, a giant stuffed creature that she had materialized out of thin, smoky basement air. She was holding a knife and fork in her hands.
“How about this?” said Helen.
Suki felt a tiny jab between her breasts when she saw this.
“Helen, pussy cat, that is excruciatingly disturbing,” she said trying to play it down.
“I know, I know,” said Helen. “But it tastes divine.”
Suki secretly agreed. She was terribly hungry. So hungry she would eat a perfectly happy plush pig toy right in the middle of the dance floor. So hungry, it made her muscles hurt. That’s when Suki looked down and saw her whole body was suddenly filled with open mouths waiting for something, anything to feed them.
Helen was still smiling when she turned around, knife and fork in hand, anxiously waiting for her response. Suki shrugged and turned to the cook. He was stirring the soup like crazy saying, “It’s almost ready, Suki! Coming right up!”
But suddenly, right there behind him, she saw it, an arrow with a sign that said To The Trains of Thought. This made her yelp with glee. Even though it was just a little yelp, Suki quickly covered her mouth and ran down the corridor.
The truth is Suki didn’t want to leave. Of course she didn’t. She’d been breathing Salsa, Cumbia and vintage beats, inhaling pure delirium through her pores, and relishing in it, one must say. But she knew she had to. By that point she was feeling a demented desire for a good old dose of H20. She had to walk out of there and breathe some sense into this madness.
Suki pranced up the stairwell. When she glanced back she saw the cook winking at her and raking his fingers through caramel hair, right before she headed out the basement door and into the rain.
A rainstorm was not what she expected when she wished for water, but it was what Suki got when the basement door shut behind her. She froze in front of a big wooden sign that said “Everyone, protect your creatures.” Suki knew it was talking about her creatures.
When she finally managed to move, she didn’t walk. She ran. She ran to her train along with hundreds of animals looking for shelter, trying to escape the dark and cloudy skies, the thick rain and the thunder she feared would split her skull in half.
When she made it into the train she looked out the back window and saw the road snake back and bisect the endless green field behind her. There was a small pocket of sunshine to her right, fighting its way through monstrous clouds. Seeing all the animals fleeing in horror from the turbulent skies, desperately trying to cross the road to sunshine made Suki shrink to the size of a squirrel.
You see, Suki was breathing air now, fresh, clean air, not that psychedelic vapour she was so happily inhaling downstairs. This abrupt change unsettled her creatures and filled them with panicky anxiety.
As the road extended behind her, Suki could see it filling up with headlights. Cars sped past her train and cut briskly through the thick rain. To her left, she saw a large cluster of trees suddenly open up into a lake. She saw two donkeys and a family of goats running in panic from the shore to the road. Feeling hot all of a sudden, not knowing if they were going to make it across it or not, she heard her little heart hitting a higher musical key as they got closer.
The donkeys and goats made it. And it filled her with relief, but it was very short-lived because that’s also when she saw the two rafts still floating on the choppy lake.
There were ten American Paint horses in total, five in each raft. And there was a woman with them. She was wearing a diving mask. The rafts were relatively close to shore but it was still a bit of a swim.
Struck by the unsteadiness of the rafts and the force of the water, Suki turned her head back to the road, noticing the first decent gap between speeding vehicles. That’s when she saw the woman lift her arm and jump into the water.
Ten endangered horses, mini Suki thought. Ten. She didn’t know she had them but there they were, completely engulfing her mind.
The woman had jumped as soon as lighting had hit, close. Suki saw it, felt it, she had even wrapped her arms around herself to prevent her body from shattering.
When Suki saw her jump, her heart sank to the bottom of her feet, where it broke in four. For two whole seconds, pretty much equivalent to one and a half years, she thought the woman was deserting them. But then she saw the first horse jump, then the second and she understood. When she saw all ten of them come out of the water, Suki dove back into herself and quickly stitched her heart back together. Her ten horses made it across the road, safely, milliseconds before the cars drove through.
Yet it wasn’t until thunder hit the rafts and then the train —that long line of thought Suki was riding— and destroyed them, one might add, that she managed to breathe herself back to her normal size. It was during that inhalation that Suki saw the woman again. She was dancing in the middle of the ten horses, naked, underneath a pocket of clear, sunny sky. Her creatures were finally safe.
Suki had been shot up in the air by then though, and she couldn’t tell which way was up or down. Fear made her shut her eyes. And when she opened them the sun was out, the sky was blue and she, well, she was falling fast.
When Suki hit the water, it received her like a warm embrace. Right smack in the middle of the ocean though, no denying that. There was nothing else but her and the deep blue.
She could see sunlight above her every time she went under, the blue enclosing it, bubbles, her bubbles rise, greeting her right before she surfaced.
She did this many times but poor Suki was tired now. And every time she went under, it got harder and harder to surface. Somewhere deep inside her she could recognize a glimmer of fear, for sharks maybe or something else lurking beneath. But even that felt odd. She was sure by now that this was home.
Interblending with the water, becoming it, Suki let herself sink. She felt her body melt into the ocean and cool off again as it dispersed in it. That’s when she heard someone say, “Hey!” in that bubbly, watery way you hear things when you’re underwater. “You did so good!”
They had found her, she thought —even though the thought was like a disappearing thread. In this vast open ocean, someone had found her.
When she heard the splash, Suki tried to swim back up. But she was so tired. It was an exhaustion she had never known before, an exhaustion that made her want to choose the vast blue instead of what was above it, that lured her to stay in that snug, peaceful space, a womb.
“Suki!” she heard again. When the cook dove in Suki saw his moustache dancing amidst air bubbles as he swam to her. She felt him put his arm around her and pull her back up. And all that Suki could think amidst that overwhelming exhaustion was, bastard. That’s all. Really. And that she had to flip him off. Flip him off. Flip him off. If she found the energy she would have to flip him off.
Once on the surface, He grabbed her and gave her a loud smack on the lips, as if it had all been a game. He was grinning, so she flipped him off. He laughed again. “You did so well!” he said and kissed her forehead. Suki finally slapped him, overtaken by a wonderful feeling of gratification, but he just held her tighter and grinned wider.
Floating safely in his arms, feeling him caress her face and hair, Suki knew she would have to continue looking for her train of thought, somewhere, sometime soon. But right now, she was in the middle of the ocean, wasn’t she? Swimming in that sea of contentment and looking at the endless, clear bright sky.
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