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In the Virtual Bank Line

I was a little girl staying with a woman who was perhaps my mother, or maybe my aunt. She was beautiful in a very strong, competent way. She wore long, old-fashioned dresses with muttonchop sleeves and high collars. We were out on a stretch of railroad track leading into the middle of a jungle, hundreds of miles from anywhere in a place that looked tropical - Africa or South America. The woman's first husband had died earlier in the voyage, and the doctor accompanying us had stepped in as both her husband and our protector. He was very kind and good to us, and I didn't remember the other man at all - just this man who was a completely good and benign figure. We were on a conveyance that looked like one of those railroad push carts with the handle in the middle that you pump up and down to make it run, only this one had no handle. This one had a small motor at the front end of the flat car, and a coal furnace in front of the motor to generate power. There was a huge pile of coal in the middle of the floor that the woman was shoveling into a furnace. This cart was hitched to a solid yoke hooked to two draft horses, and the yoke was pulling another cart laden with our household goods.

Once we got to our destination, the cart with the motor would be our only way to get back to civilization, should we need it. The draft horses weren't being made to pull the cart itself, because we'd need them to work the land and we couldn't afford to work them to death on the journey.

The man was sick. He was lying in the cart full of household goods, feverish. The woman was shoveling coal into the furnace to run the motor, but in her haste to get somewhere that the man could be looked after, she shoveled too much. Burning embers fell onto the wooden floor of the cart and it started burning. She swept the burning embers off the cart, but it was already aflame. Before jumping off with me, she undid the lynchpin that held the yoke on so that the horses could get away.

We walked through waist-high grass and trees through boggy puddles toward the sound of a river. The woman went first, I went second, the man third, but when I turned around he was staggering. I asked him if he was okay. His skin was waxy, his eyes red and he was sweating freely. "No," he said before falling first to his knees and then on his face. He never got up again.

I'm lying in bed with the Baby Goddess, telling her this story. It's the story of how we came to live by the river. We now have a cozy little house with a breezeway and another building behind it. There is a proper road not far away that leads to our little dirt road, and we have visitors occasionally.

I'm trying to tell her this story to get her to take a nap, but she keeps talking. She's talking to keep herself awake, so I stop and just hold her, and she falls asleep. I walk outside and my parents have arrived. They're putting their stuff down all over the place and saying hello. My stepmother is carrying a baby - my baby. She didn't say anything, but I realize that I've had a baby boy. That's why they've come - to see the new baby. I try to remember being pregnant or giving birth, but I can't recall it. The baby looks like my other two children looked when they were born, blonde with light eyes and constant smiles.

My mother is here too, and she takes the baby from my stepmother so that she can change his diaper. Even though I can't see the diaper change, I know that his baby is a boy. Now that I know he's mine, I want them to back off. I want to hold him and touch him and get to know him. I take him from my mother and feel the amazing combination of fragility and strength that all babies have. I touch the very soft skin of his bare back and tickle his chubby arms. He smiles at me and I feel better now that I'm holding him.

I give him back to my mother and go outside. Some blues singers have arrived. They're playing at some venue nearby and have stopped by to say hello and jam on our porch. I watch them sit down, fix themselves drinks and start talking. I talk to them for a while and then go to lie down and read in the small outbuilding.

There's a bunk bed there, and I climb onto the top bunk and lay on my side close to the edge. A man comes in, the brother of one of my childhood friends. He's an adult now, and he has some sort of skin disease that means that his extremities are a grayish-purple and cold to the touch. The discoloration is on his nose and forehead too. He's playing hide and seek with my nephew and wants to hide by lying flat in the bed behind where I'm lying down. There's plenty of room, and I tell him yes. Then I realize that you can see his swollen purple feet sticking out, and my nephew will know they're not mine. I look at the feet, but I don't feel alarmed that this person is behind me. I just feel sad that he's younger than me and sick.

My nephew found the guy and they ran off to keep playing and I got out of the bed to go see the blues singers. The dogs chased a skunk out of their food, and the skunk came running into the breezeway before disappearing into the woods beyond.

And then I woke up.

The irony is that when I went looking for the significance of babies in dreams, I found this: "If you dream that you forgot you had a baby, then it suggests that you are trying hide your own vulnerabilities; You do not want to let others know of your weaknesses."

And right now, that is so true.