I had a nightmare the other night. There were no specific images, no specific sequences, no specific fears. Only a feeling. I shattered back into the waking world out of breath, my heart in an ice cold knot, trembling; my eyes were wet with the stinging salt of tears. The nightmare hasn’t come true, but I know it will.
I’m not ready to leave London. I’ve seen a lot of things and done a lot of things, but there’s always more. There’s all of England outside of London, all of Scotland, all of Wales, and half of Ireland. And then in the rest of the world, there’s the other half of Ireland, there’s continental Europe. There are Asia and Africa and Antarctica. There are places that would change my world if only I could find them. If only I had time to find them.
In Wales there’s a mountain in Snowdonia National Park called Cadair Idris. Ages ago, according to the local lore, the giant Idris made his throne there, and the lakes surrounding Cadair Idris are said to be bottomless. There is magic there, in legend, and if you spend the night on the mountain, you’re likely not to wake up at all. If you do, you’ll either wake up a madman or a poet. If I wasn’t a student, I would spend the night, but I am busy with classes, finishing up final exams and papers. If my budget was more generous, I would find a way to get there, but traveling can be expensive.
I had a nightmare the other night, and I woke up with a knife in my heart—a knife of regret. I don’t regret not having done more in the time I’ve been here; I don’t regret not filling my remaining time with more adventures despite my classwork. I regret not having more time, and I regret not yet having the means to see more of the world. I know I’m privileged to be having these regrets, but the privilege does nothing to ease the ache of the emptiness the knife has torn into my heart.
In my dream I was home, and everything was over.
In Celtic folklore, there is a race of immortal beings called the Aos Si (the Fair Folk), and it is claimed that they can be found in the proximity of earthen mounds called Sidhe, which are located all over Ireland, Scotland, and Northern England. The Sidhe are sometimes thought to be portals into the fairy world, but I don’t have the means to find them. I can’t rent a car, and, unless I care to fail my classes, I can’t take a weekend-long hike.
City life in London didn’t bring me any closer to the rich mythologies of the United Kingdom. It showed me the world—influences of every culture can be found in London—but it did not let me understand it. The city is a city, and in a city, everything gets diluted by commerce. Everyone wants to experience everything, but few people care to understand even a single thing.
I had a nightmare the other night, and it’ll soon come true. I worry about the elusiveness of understanding and my inability to catch it without having more time to experience this new world. I’m afraid I might not have another opportunity to travel.
Fear in dreams is strongest when you know it’s more than just a dream.
What happens to the memories when you’re finished making them? And what about the memories you never had time to make? They are nothing you can touch, nothing you can relive, nothing except your imagination. They are only a feeling—a flower blooming from the knife wound in your chest that will wither and die come winter, and all you can hope is that it will blossom into a garden come spring.
Even the photographs will fade with time, but at least I had the opportunity to take them: