• Cory Howell

The Waves Recede



My recurring dream invaded my sleep last night.


It’s the same every time: I’m supposed to sit a final exam, but I don’t know where the classroom is. I haven’t studied all semester, I don’t know the material. I haven’t even been to class.


But I need to take a crack at it. Maybe I can bluff my way through.


I spend the entire dream wandering vague landscapes I tell myself I’m supposed to know.


They’re altered versions of schools I’ve actually been to: Whittier dense with forest; an American Waseda; La Costa Canyon with less concrete.


I’ve had this since college, usually when I’m stressed. And I can never recognize I’m dreaming.



The Unconsoled attached itself to me in a way other books never have.


I suppose reading Ishiguro’s stress dream hasn’t helped my own nightscape.


The climax of the book is the biggest piano concert of the protagonist’s life, and leading up to it, he realizes he hasn’t prepared for the performance at all.


He spends a significant portion of the book trying to find a place to practice, and when he finally finds one, things get in the way--the room with the piano is too small to move around in, half the door is missing, there’s a strange banging coming from an adjacent room.


But eventually he gets to practice.


That’s the part of the dream I never get to.



This morning, I stood on the beach with a thermos of chicory coffee I brewed at home, cream and sugar.


Sunsets in San Diego are a burning sky extinguishing in salt water, but sunrises aren’t quite as dramatic.


The dawn crept in, and blue and orange splashed above the hills in the east. The sun was already up behind those hills for thirty minutes by the time I felt its warmth, by the time it glinted in the morning tide.


The sand was cool against my bare feet, and an image rose in my mind--my dad shallow diving under the white wash. When he surfaced, he’s thin and tan, and he ran a hand through his hair the same way I do when I dance.


My coffee is still hot, and the waves recede.