WAIT. The sign is flashing, yellow letters against a black background. WAIT WAIT WAIT and then it becomes
WEIGHT. In red letters. And then back and forth between the two, until the red-yellow becomes an orange blur.
The word pulses in the air. It is my voice saying it, but my lips do not move.
My grandmother Ruth Ellen appears. She has an orange in her hand. She is standing in the back yard of her home in Southern California. Her father — my great-grandfather, Jacob — is smoking a Kent cigarette.
"If you do not wait there will be weight," he says. Or is it the other way around? He shakes his head no, then nods yes. I notice his eyes are blue, like ice.
"If you wait it adds weight," my grandmother says.
It starts to rain and they both melt, like sugar figurines caught in a downpour. They become photographs on the ground.
"You should wait to put those in frames," says a voice. I look up and see a woman standing midcalf in a stream. Her jeans are rolled up and she's wearing a flannel shirt, green and purple and blue.
"They're wet now," she says, gesturing to the photos. "Too much weight. You have to wait."
"One hundred twenty-eight months. Or is it 128 lifetimes? I can't remember what the book told me," she says. "I would carry it with me for reference but it's too big. There's too much weight."
She starts to sink into the stream. Her face remains serene. Happy.
"Wait," I say, but she goes under. Her hair becomes a floating circle in the water, and then it is gone, too. I jump in and realize the stream is a sea, thousands of feet deep.
Swimming. Sinking. There is no difference. The water goes black.
The signs reappear. WAIT. WEIGHT. They are above a door on the ocean floor. I knock and she answers. Her eyes are searching for something in my face. After several long seconds she nods.
"If there is weight there should be no wait," she finally says. We enter the cavern, which opens into a valley. In the distance I see smoke curling from a chimney of a house by a lake. Between here and there are fields of wildflowers. I know the place where the fire burns is home.