I did not want to wake. I so rarely have such beautiful dreams.
This one, it was the sort from which I never wanted to wake.
I was dreaming of Pat Conroy.
Pat and I were meeting at a bookstore. Not just any bookstore, but one tucked into a multi-level pagoda nestled between two ragged-edged cliffs that dropped off into a misty abyss. What was beyond those crags, I could not say. Those cliffs rose above me and dropped off below me. As I walked, crowds of people stood to one side or the other, afraid to move for fear of accidentally walking off a ledge.
To get to the store, I had to walk through the pagoda, making my way through a maze of stairs, nooks and crannies. In each of those nooks were artists creating. There were musicians and dancers, weavers and paper-makers, instructors teaching various ancient arts, things I don’t even have words for.
I kept getting distracted by shiny gold things, pale pink flowers painted on the sheerest of fabrics, and beautiful Asian women performing a water dance. I stopped at one particularly lovely nook and purchased two identical hat pins with pelicans perched upon the ends. I pinned one onto the linen top I wore. The artist who made them wrapped the other in a creamy box tied with a white bow.
Pat was there, wearing rumpled Khakis, a bright red polo, and boat shoes, no socks. His hair was blond. He was tanned, His face sunburned even. He was sitting cross-legged among a group of people when I entered the store. He was talking, telling stories, and the people were gathered around him, laughing, listening, whispering back and forth to each other. When I came in the room, Pat stood up and grabbed me in one of those hugs only Pat could give, and then he stepped back. He held my hand in his still.
“Wanna dance?” he asked.
I didn’t have time to answer. Someone took the little box from me and another cranked up the music. It was Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons singing Sherry. Pat and I danced among the laughter, ours and that of the crowd. We all had a rip-roaring time.
We both knew it would be our last meeting.
“Tell Dad hi for me,” I said.
Pat’s eyes glistened and he nodded once, acknowledging that he’d heard me.
I got lost on my way back through the Pagoda, once almost walking off into the abyss beyond. An Asian woman stopped me. She cupped an ornate bowl in her hands. A creation she had made.
“The magic is everyone tending to their own pots,” she said. “Creating.”
Karen Spears Zacharias is author of BURDY (Mercer). She is a supporter of the Pat Conroy Literary Center. Please consider making a donation toward Pat’s legacy of art and beauty and creating.