It must have been a trick of perspective. Combined with the magical spider-webbing gossamer of half-sleep. But in spite of the charges, and no matter how many hours – no, weeks – of litigation lie before me, I maintain that this situation is not my doing or in any way my fault.
Today was the first day of school in Gwinnett County, Georgia. I woke up well before sunrise so that my kids would have ample time to eat breakfast and get ready. It was about an hour earlier than I normally wake up, and I normally wake up fully ready to go back to bed. If I wasn’t reasonably afraid of some trigger happy Armageddonist interpreting the clearly figurative for literal I’d compare myself from this morning to a zombie. But I am so afraid.
In spite of my bleary eyes and shuffling feet I somehow managed to fix breakfast and the kids’ lunches – though there is a very good chance that one lunchbox got two lunches while the other got two helpings of nothing. It would not be the first time such a mistake was made. I have a small industrial complex in the back of my brain where I manufacture apologies en mass. The supply never outstrips the demand.
At about six o’clock my daughter was already chomping at the bit to go. She was vibrating with such anxiety and excitement that if I hadn’t been ready she’d have certainly burst into a beam of light and right now would be out in the cosmos searching for something to reflect off of. But as luck would have it, and though I cannot explain how, I was ready.
The trip to school was uneventful. Or perhaps I slept the whole way. I cannot remember. I was driving, so it was probably uneventful.
I dropped my daughter off in plenty of time and then I went to the bus stop where I had to wait a half hour for the next bus to take me into town. That’s where the magical thing happened. I fell asleep.
No, that’s not the magical thing. Not that exactly. Though, had I not fallen asleep I might have avoided all of this mess and nonsense. But fall asleep I did, and then it happened. Ok, it didn’t exactly happen then either. After I fell asleep I woke up. That is, I sort of woke up. It was one of those half wake ups that everyone does in the middle of the night. The kind where you wake up well before your body is ready and your mind really has no business waking you, but there you are, and you’re swimming in darkness, and all of the magic and unreality of dreamland has left your sleep with you. Here time has no function and any combination of words counts as a coherent and brilliant thought. Here everything is possible until the plug is pulled and the magic whirlpools out of your consciousness leaving you standing in the kitchen half naked holding a glass of milk and a candy bar you never bought. That half wake up is where it happened. Between my half closed eyes, through my blurry eye lashes, out my dirty window and in the reflection of my side view mirror, I saw the sun rise in the car behind me.
What I should have seen was the sun rising from the horizon through the front and back window of the car behind me. In truth, the sun doesn’t rise at all. The whole concept is an illusion of perspective and our me-centered understanding of the universe. We rotate and revolve around the sun, giving the impression that the sun rises in the east. But whatever “truth” science can tell us about the sun; how clever it is and how much bigger, it could not escape the un-logic of my half-sleep. And for some mysterious reason, as I rubbed the blur from my eyes and the magic of a greater dimension drained away, enough stuff was left behind and the sun was caught. Snared in a beat up, old Ford Escape.
I sat in the front seat of my car as reality slowly crept its way back into my brain. (Why am I in the kitchen and where did I get this candy bar? And what happened to my pants?) I chuckled at the notion that the sun chose a Ford Escape to rise in and now couldn’t escape from it. The absurdity of the concept started eating at my brain when through the side view mirror I saw a couple of people approach the car.
“What happened?” I heard a voice say.
“Someone’s trapped the sun in this car,” another voice responded.
A crowd began to gather around the little Escape and worry about the poor sun inside. “Who would put the sun in a car?” “Can we let it out?” “What are we going to do?” Someone tried to open the door, but the handle was too hot. This did nothing to calm the nerves of the crowd. In what I am certain psychiatrists and social anthropologists would say was the appropriate amount of seconds, someone decided that this must be blamed on someone and since I was the only one in the parking lot who seemed to be hiding they blamed it on me.
My father is a fairly honest man. Perhaps this is the reason that he has always told me “don’t ever confess to anything where the law is involved. Always get an attorney.” But the fairly honest part that he passed on to me – or perhaps the fairly stupid part I constructed on my own – always forgets this rule until moments after I have made a full confession.
“I don’t think we can arrest him,” the police officer told the crowd who had tied me to a tree in spite of the fact that I said I wasn’t going anywhere. “He hasn’t broken any law and you really don’t have the authority to arrest him in the first place. You’re gonna have to let him go.
“That doesn’t mean,” she continued, “That we can’t sue him in civil court.”
“What for?” I demanded. “All I did was dream.”
“You dreamed wantonly,” said one of the crowd.
“Irresponsibly!” said another.
“In a car!” said a guy shaking a Bible. Though I’m pretty sure the Bible being in his hand was coincidental as there are no verses relating to the sinfulness of cars. None that I’ve read, that is.
“Look,” I said, “Please calm down. I’m sure tonight the sun will set in the Escape and tomorrow it will rise just like it always does.”
“You’d better hope so,” said a woman in green. “Otherwise you’ll be hearing from our attorneys.”
The crowd began to walk toward the bus and the woman turned around and added, “You may yet!”
My stomach knotted up when I realized I still had to get on the same bus and ride into Atlanta with them.
In retrospect I should have gone back to sleep and tried to reawaken in the parking lot. Perhaps if I had done that then in the reawakening swirl of magic and reality my sensible mind would have put the sun back in the sky. But there is no guarantee. It’s so hard for reason to set right those things that the irrational have misplaced. In time it will sort itself out.