I decided to try one of the exercises mentioned in the Fiction Writer’s Workshop book. The challenge was basically to recall your earliest dreams and write a story from them. I have two dreams that I can recall from my early childhood. One was of me being in downtown Jacksonville, lost from my parents. The second is of me being in room filled with yellow hot tubs or baths. So, here it goes. This is part one:
The Yellow Baths
By Jackie Cubero
I was lost, with the large, towering structures of the Jacksonville cityscape looming above me. “Remember,” I coached myself, “don’t talk to strangers.” I decided my best bet was to climb up the steps into the closest building and talk to someone working at the desk, a “safe-stranger” I recalled from school. As I tilted my head upward to get a glimpse of that building, I recognized it: that tall, pointy, blue-grey icon that I had seen from the distance whenever we drove over the St. Johns River.
Here goes nothing I thought.
As I planned for action, I became aware that I was in the midst of the bustle of downtown life. I saw the grown ups around me in their office job suits hustling to and fro, briefcases in hand. I took a breath, looked both ways, crossed the street, and took my first step up. I noticed some glances toward me, an out of place little kid, alone in the height of the city, a stark contrast to this grown up, professional backdrop.
I darted up the steps, grabbed the metal handle on the glass door with both hands, and heaved it open with all my body weight. I stepped into a marble tiled atrium with elevators, sign plaques, and absolutely no people in sight. I looked around. I did not want to go back outside to the chaos and glances of nearby strangers, so I went with the only other route available to me.
The elevator button glowed orange the moment I pushed it. I couldn’t ever remember riding one of these without my parents. Despite the haze of anxiety I felt about being lost for the longest time I could remember, I couldn’t stop myself from punching the buttons for every floor once I stepped inside. The door closed and I could feel the pressure from the elevator rising. The button dinged and I stuck my head out as the door opened. It was just another atrium. There were a couple doors, but no desk and no people on the floor. I decided to pursue my search for a desk with a receptionist, that safe stranger figure that I had learned about. I continued my journey upward, but I was disappointed to find that every floor was virtually identical. I got off on floor 22, the last stop on the elevator ride.
I needed a new strategy. It was time to try out my new, limited reading skills. I walked over to one of the doors connected to the atrium and moved my eyes across the silver plaque on the door. “Y-E-L-L-O-W b, ba, bath, baths” I read to myself. The first word was just not going to happen with my reading level, but I was surprised to find I could figure out the second word. “Baths!” I thought to myself, “that sounds weird.”
I hustled over to the other door. “M- A- I- N- T- E- N- A- N- C- E,” I said quietly. That word was also out of reach. My choices were something about baths or something completely a mystery. I knocked on the “baths” door.
“Come In,” I heard someone say.
I pushed the handle down and then pulled it toward me, then stepped through the open door. And there it was: a desk with a receptionist! For all I was concerned, I had struck gold. I explained my situation about getting lost in the middle of downtown earlier that morning, not seeing my parents anywhere for what seemed like ages, and finally resolving to find someone to help. The receptionist listened with concern. She asked for my name, told me she was going to call the local police, and asked me to have a seat in one of the chairs to the side of her desk.