I pull over at the gas station. As I get out, I am hit by the resplendence of my situation overlooking the meandering roads lit by singular red and white lights and the cold street lights stretching far into the horizon. The low-hanging clouds are intensely neutral, the skies a vivid grey.

Suddenly, the unsympathetic neon lights above me blink on and I’m aware that it’s chilly, although there’s no wind.

Then I remember: I have to do something. I have to go somewhere.

The cashier allows me to vault over the small but imposing metal bar between the two counters. The shelves are void of the usual gossipy tabloids, the carts all stacked in the right-hand corner of my peripheral.

Some time later, I’m surrounded by hospital white walls, the dusty escalator under my feet a stark contrast.

Then I’m running on old cobblestone. I’m on a bridge, but the water below is censored by the dark. The lights above light a warm yellow path, surrounded by a deep midnight blue and the sounds of evening quiet and imminent rain.

Tucked at the intersection of the bottom of the bridge’s curve and an unobtrusive building is a non-descript door, which I open. Another stairway.

Then I am rushing down the stairs, chased by my own imagination, and gradually, the concrete begins to be replaced by a well-trodden velvet carpet.

The musty stone walls give way to bright mustard paint, and I arrive at my destination. I am greeted by a golden display of ancient chinese art next to a portrait of some emperor, blotches of honey and saffron everywhere.

Except the warmth from the yellow was balanced by the glass cases invading the walls. So I ran on – there must be somewhere safe.

A stern-looking woman with pursed lips wearing a red suit, her ebony hair in a tight bun, notices my intrusion.

May I help you? What are you doing here? Why are you running?

I try to explain, stuttering a stream of unintelligible words.

Another room, this time a belligerent crimson. More chinese art, more glass shelves. I need to find somewhere safe.

Halfway down another flight of stairs, I realize I need my pencil case! Where did I put it?

Oh, the shelf! The walls are getting too narrow for my desperation.

I sweep through the yellow room. Where’s the shelf?

I stumble my way to the red room, then I remember the second red room.

Finally, a pile of pencil cases among cardboard and cotton swabs on the black plastic shelf in the corner. I need my pencil case.

Each of them has exactly one key and one wallet. Each of them is transparent. Each of them is 6 by 3. My zipper is blue. Or is it pink? My wallet is pink, that’s for sure, and my keys are blue. No, my zipper is blue.

Blue zipper, green wallet, yellow keys. Yellow zipper, pink wallet, green keys. No no no.

Blue zipper. Pink wallet. But those aren’t my keys. Where could it possibly be, my pencil case? The lady in the red suit is telling me to hurry up. I say it won’t be long.

Morning already? I feel a heavy sense of melancholy. I really wanted to find that pencil case.

Photo: William Luiz on pexels.com