Most of the time, Jay got rides from Colin. If Colin couldn’t drive, Jay walked. He almost never took a ride from his mom—no self-respecting senior would—but today was an exception, a reason nobody understood except for Jay. When his mom asked him why he needed to be at school early, Jay told her “homework,” and his mom accepted it without protest. She didn’t ask about—nor did he mention—the leather notebook tucked under his arm.
The morning light was orange as he stepped through campus. The sun, like the students of Cascadia High School, seemed to be recovering from its Monday night hangover. It peaked over a distant hummock, bathing their school in a deceptive beauty.
The Cascadia campus was broken out into four main buildings, and the two biggest were A-Court and C-Court (there was no B-Court or D-Court). A-Court was nearer to the front parking lot. It held Principal Oatman’s office, bigger classrooms, and the best vending machine. Hence, it was the stronghold of the popular kids. Belonging to A-Court meant joining the Cascadia Royal Society—as Jay and some others mockingly called it—and fighting for relevance.
North of A-Court was the shop building, an ugly warehouse irrelevant to all but the dumbest of kids. Past that was the library, a small but valuable tributary of the county system. Directly in front of Jay was C-Court. C-Court, the poor man’s A-Court. C-Court, the domain of the freaks. It had windows, but never enough light, leaving it in a state of perpetual dusk. Like its inhabitants. They were the brown kids; the Latinos, or the youth of the Skookullom Tribe. They were the smokers, skinny kids in big jeans and hoodie sweatshirts, who carried skateboards to classrooms. They were too quiet or too loud, too stupid or too weird. Here, Jay had once made his home. He moved along the pebbled wall of C-Court, heading south towards the baseball field.
On the rear of C-Court, jutting out like some elephantine appendage, was the school’s gym. In its rear were two heavy steel doors, painted red. On nice days, when things got a hot during line dancing, Mrs. McNamara opened them to let in fresh air. There was a cement stoop that looked out on the baseball field and the farms beyond. The view was beautiful, though there were students rarely ventured out to see them. Jay was now on his way there now. But not to catch the sun.
Jay reached the top of the stairs. A light wind blew over the cement platform with a bitter bite of winter. Jay hugged his blue windbreaker. Javier Ruiz was there, as Jay knew he would be. His legs dangled over the cement lip, his hands holding the guardrail. Javier didn’t hear Jay, but Jay could hear him. Rather, Jay could hear the muffled music from Javier’s headphones.
Jay walked into Javier’s periphery and waved. Javier turned. He fixed Jay with half-lidded eyes which seemed to droop. He wore the same plaid flannel he always wore, red and grey. He pulled his headphones down, letting them fall to his shoulders, and clicked the stop button on his walkman.
Jay saw Javier was wearing mascara. A cigarette dangled from his fingers, but it didn’t smell like the Marlboros of A-Court, or the American Spirits pf C-Court. It was sweet like cinnamon. Jay sat down beside Javier and thumbed through his notebook.
“Hey, morning. I’ve got another one for you.”
Javier shut his eyes. “Bring it to life.”
“Okay, here it is: ‘Safe as nothing. My phone’s ringing, over there. Safe falling, doubt is away.’”
“That’s the chorus, yeah.”
Jay softly sang the words, to melody he remembered. Javier closed his eyes. He hummed the tune, tapping a finger against the guardrail to the rhythm. His lips began to move:
“Safe at last, seeing my thoughts in order. Safe, fallen down this way.”
“Yes. Yes! That’s it, that’s the song!”
Javier opened his eyes. “Cocteau Twins. The track is Summerhead.”
Jay scribbled furiously into his notebook. “You’re a genius.”
“Also, I have another one for you. That one you gave me last month. My Bloody Valentine. The track is Loomer.”
Javier took a drag of his clove cigarette.
Jay was scribbling madly. “What’s the album?”
“Loveless. Can I see what you’ve got?”
Jay held up his notebook.
Javier appraised the list and nodded his approval.
“ The B-52’s are an odd addition, but I like them. Gives the thing some levity.”
Jay shook his head. “I can’t take credit for it.”
Javier took another drag. “Tell me about your dream again.”
“Well, it’s the same. Sometimes I go to different places in it. Different songs. For that track. My Bloody…” Jay glanced at his notebook.
“...Valentine.” Javier finished.
“My Bloody Valentine, so what’s happening during that is, I’m in my mom’s Camry. I’m wearing this grey suit that’s a little baggy. I get out, and it’s raining hard, and I get wet immediately. I hurry around and open the passenger door. The girl is sitting there.”
“The same girl?”
“Yeah. It’s always her. She’s stunning, man. She’s wearing this green dress with sequins the color of her eyes. I tell you, she’s the most beautiful thing Dunam’s seen.”
“She lives here?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, I’ve never seen her. But it seems like it. Her eyes are slightly wide, and just… god I don’t have the words to describe them. Like emeralds. She smiles and it’s just…”
He shook his head, unable to finish.
“And My Bloody Valentine is playing?”
“Yeah, somewhere. Like in the background, or on the radio. I don’t know, I can’t figure it out. But the girls name, I forgot to tell you, I’ve got her name. Nobody ever says it but somehow, I’m one hundred percent certain, her name is Liz.”
“I don’t know a Liz.”
“Neither do I.”
“And then you wake up.”
“And I write everything down. Everything I can remember about the song, and the dream.” Jay turned his attention back to the playlist. He pointed to the last song on his playlist. “What about these others? Any leads?”
Javier took another drag of his cigarette. “Not yet. I’m keeping an ear out.”
Javier chuckled. “Who would’ve thought. Jay Banksman, lucid dreamer.”
“What’s lucid dreaming?”
“It’s what you’re doing in these dreams. When you know you’re dreaming, and you know it. It’s an art. Something I’ve been working on. When you get good, you have total control of your dreams.” Javier sucked on his clove and exhaled. “Supposed to be therapeutic. Helps with feelings of anxiety and helplessness.”
Jay laughed. “If that’s true, mine’s broken.”