I am still shaking mossy dreams from the rivulets of mind when I remember the story my mother had been describing—it was the one about the yellow duck, the man with the wooden paddle, and the long curl of the Yangtze River in summer’s ebbing light. Somehow I’d forgotten the story in the swinging gate of mind, forever ushering in new things and crowding out others, like a garden grown wild, full of mint and mustard where once yarrow and violets thrived.
The darkness in my room had layers, the dresser, a mountain, the floor, a repository of something lighter. I thought through that darkness as a train barrels through mountainside that I should call mother and tell her I remembered the story of the duck, the paddle, the willows bent by wind. Mother has small blue eyes and a down turned mouth. She is often sad. The call would please her immensely.
But then I remember that mother is many years dead and her number is now disconnected. I can only speak with her in dreams. I lay back down, but the tendrils of sleep are gone, whisked away to other bedrooms across the luminously lit city, where they fold old weary men and skittering young children into sleep. I wonder, in the folds of dark, how many more times I’ll remember mother and how we once had the luxury of misunderstanding each other.