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You Were Watching From the Sand

·2421 words·12 mins·
book-swap 2023 reading-challenge-2023
Jerry S
Jerry S
Table of Contents


I was first introduced to magical realism with the stories written by Jorge Luis Borges. The first one I remember reading was "The Garden of Forking Paths". Fantasy has always been a genre I prefer due to the magical elements, but magical realism, in the style of Borges, is the type of brick I use to construct my own sleeping dreams…and even some of my reality.

Dream: A broken elevator

As an example, I’ll tell you about a dream of mine that I’ve named “A Broken Elevator”.

For a few days I had been trying to dive into the realm of lucid dreaming. Lucid dreams are those where you know you’re dreaming and can control the dream. If you follow the technique right, you’ll train yourself to figure out if you’re in a dream or not.

One of the simplest techniques available is to look at your wrist watch every hour on the hour for a few days. According to a Batman tv show I watched as a child, and articles I read as an adult, most people can’t read properly in your dreams. What this means is that in real life you’ll be able to read the time on your watch while in the dreamworld you likely won’t be able to. If you are sleeping deep enough, and your mind can withstand the reality of being in a dream without waking up, you can then do as you wish with the dreamworld.

I decided to use my digital watch to help me with the endeavor of lucid dreaming. Every day for about a week, upon waking, and upon getting to work, I’d look at my watch face and ask myself “What time is it?” and “Am I dreaming?”. I would ask myself the questions in my own mind, not aloud. Throughout the day I set an hourly alarm to keep doing the same ritual. I’d stop at the end of the workday when it was time to go home.

One particular morning I woke up like any other but I was running late and got ready for work as quickly as I could to make up the time. I didn’t have a chance to get my morning coffee but luckily I hadn’t forgotten my laptop at home. That had happened in other instances when I’d gotten up late and having to go back home when you’re already late is infuriating. Being in a hurry causes you to forget the simplest things, no matter how important. I’m surprised I haven’t yet fully forgotten how to breathe when running late.

I got to the office and called the elevator that I typically got on to go up to the office. Nothing was out of place. I jumped in and pressed the button up to my floor and it lit up as I expected.

Then I remembered that in my rush I had not checked the time! We can’t have that now can we! No, of course not. I raised my left wrist up to read it and where my eyes tried to focus things became blurry. Not just the watch, but my entire left hand and arm. It wasn’t just my vision that was blurring, it was reality itself that blurred in and out of focus.

No big deal, I focused my mind a bit and recruited whatever parts go to sleep when you stop paying attention to the teacher of the class giving you a boring lesson.

Reality slowly de-blurred and I looked at my watch again. Even with reality back in focus I couldn’t read the time.

“Hmm….it must be a dream”, I thought with some excitement.

Well, what to do? First, avoid too much excitement or I’ll wake up. Second, I’m in a dream, so no matter what I do here, no matter how fantastic or amazing, it’s still within the confines of a dream. Does it really matter then what I do? Does it matter that I know I’m in a dream and that this world is nothing more than an echo of the “real” one?

I know, I’ll fly. What else are dreams good for if not to fly and be boundless? But I’m in an elevator. I know, I’ll eject the elevator out of the building, like in the old-school Willy Wonka movie.

As I was thinking this reality responded to my will and reason and I knew the elevator was launching out through the roof of the building, obliterating everything in its path to the skies outside, but somehow in a quiet clean way so that no one would have to clean up the debris of my “dream job’s” office building.

I knew I wanted to fly on my own and be exposed to the air like a paper airplane instead of like an astronaut in a shuttle. So I decided to destroy the walls of the elevator to escape out into the open air. As the walls of the elevator began to fall away, and I began to question what the world below me would look like to my dreaming eyes….I woke up.

I didn’t get to see the dreamworld of my own making below; I didn’t get to fly wherever I wished. However, I did wake with a sensation of having accomplished a miracle. Flying in my dreams would not have been that exciting anyway. I had already flown in my dreams plenty of times before then. The accomplishment was deciding my own fate.

And so, my dreams are always bizarre even at the tamest times. Either they start off bizarre from the first dream drop, or they become bizarre and unreal at some point after having a semi-normal start. The ones with a semi-normal start are rare for me. Usually they start off bizarre.

Magical Realism Intrigue

That is why magical realism intrigues me when I read it. Like my dream above, I’m waiting for the flick of the wrist that changes whatever I think is real and replaces it with another surreal dimension.

If I pay attention, real life is like this to me. There’re days where something happens and suddenly the colors of life shift and I feel more alive. It could be a smile from a stranger, or it could be the raindrops lightly rapping their rhythm on the fall leaves outside, or it could be when the caffeine from my coffee mule kicks into my nervous system.

And then maybe the magic wears off and:

Sometimes a sadness we can’t control fills us…We perceive that the magical instant of the day has passed and that we did nothing. It’s then that life puts away its magic and craft.

Paulo Coelho By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

About the Author and the book

Juliana Lamy - The Author

Juliana Lamy is a Haitian fiction writer from South Florida according to her own site. The book came out very recently, September 19th, 2023, and I finished reading it October 23rd, 2023. The fact that I read it so soon after it was published is miraculously unheard of but it was made possible by a few things that I’ll list below:

The Book - Amazon

1. The Recommendation

When I got the recommendation I remember hearing “magical realism” and I was immediately intrigued.

2. Dominican Republic

The summary of the book on Amazon mentioned the short story “We Feel it in Punta Cana” that takes place in the Dominican Republic. I went to the Dominican Republic this year for a wedding and was highly intrigued by this.

3. We Feel it in Punta Cana

The first story I read had some Spanish mixed in there. That made it even more interesting. Especially since it dealt with the issue of Haiti and the Dominican Republic and the tension therein.

4. Short stories

The book is a compilation of short stories and with my lower reading speed it was easy to read one without too much effort. The book itself is 169 “pages”, whatever that means, so it seemed surmountable.

5. Eli

The second story I read had some cursing in it. The first story had an abrupt sorting of open ended ending. This one is the same. No end in sight. I like that.

6. Poetry-like

It was a blend of story and poetry, due to them being “short” stories with lots of flourishes of the English language.

7. The Oldest Sensation is Anger

This one might be one of my favorites of the book. The title might not be true, but a few days afterward I was reminded of an important thing in life that I had forgotten; I use anger as a force for good.

Favorite Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes. I won’t divulge which short story each is from. Truly, it doesn’t matter which story they’re from. Knowing which story it originated from won’t add anything to the quote except in maybe one case.

You forgot that laughing could be easy, like breathing, like blinking, like being before that eternity in front of the beakers.

Maybe it’s only me, but I’m convinced that as I get older I forget the important things. I’ve slowly forgotten what my own real laughter sounds and feels like. The beaker reference in this quote is a sad one given what happens to the character in the story. In the abstract sense the beakers represent an instant in life where something changes for the worse, an accident or something similar.

I’m fortunate in some sense. Fortunate enough that I’ve had instances in my life that have re-taught me how to laugh again, and fortunate enough to realize while laughing that I had forgotten my own genuine laughter and how easy it feels compared to whatever I thought was my laughter.

I’ve written down these memories in a small book so that I don’t forget my own laugh again. I have to reread the book once a year to make sure I get a real one in at least once a year.

When you start looking forward to every beat of your heart inside your chest again.

Hm,…..I wonder if this is something that I will forget. I’ve forgotten it but there are always things to remind me of it. Thank you heart, for beating even if I have not had things to look forward to.

It’s a Haitian thing. If something big is gonna happen to you or someone close to you, good or bad, you’ll feel it even when your’e closed shut, asleep.

The author says this is a Haitian thing. Maybe. I don’t know what to call but I have awakened a few times in my life with a pressure on my mind about something happening to someone that I’ve not spoken to in years. Maybe it doesn’t happen often enough for me to be Haitian. Maybe it is a Haitian thing afterall.

This thing, this wanting with no getting, is a sweet, titled failure.

What?! I have never felt this as sweetness. My palate must not be attuned to life this way.

My husband believes that the past can make you sick if you’re not careful.

I believe it too, and based on me reading The Body Keeps the Score science believes it as well.

When Don Rodrigo grabs my arm tight it’s like he’s grabbing the throat of ever day I’ve lived before this one.

I know that grab. It’s the grab of an adult that has seen you nearly every day of your life and has played a role in raising you but that isn’t your parent. Maybe it’s a mad aunt or uncle, or maybe it’s a complete stranger. I think some kids need to experience this growing up. The perspective it transmits is invaluable.

This is what a person could come here and do to you without me. Pues ten cuidado mi negrito y walk slower.

The mix of Spanish and English in this story was nice and flowed well. I stay away from mixing it in my own writing, maybe because I’ve never been agile at it.

In this quote there is a sense of protection being provided to someone and a threat of taking that protection away. I don’t agree with the way the threatener threatened here, but I do think it should be part of every formal education to experience the clear lack of safety, a raw sense of danger. I think it provides a better perspective on life.

He used to tell me a bunch of stuff, used to say that in the Caribbean, color pools in all of life’s parts, collects everywhere like runoff. No matter what happens there, good or bad, it happens hard, with more force than you could ever imagine.

The way the author described the colors pooling is astounding here. This is a…vibrancy to the Caribbean and some parts of the world. They seem to just attract more color like the parts of a rainbow that take the longest to fade because they were the ones richest in color.

But his eyes age him. They’re blacker than those bits of the universe light can’t touch.

Eyes darkened with experience. Secretly, I wonder what it would be like to have eyes this dark one day. Dark enough that light will scream on the way in.

Your reflection can’t help but do whatever you do, it’s stuck with you, trapped by you.

Imagine if it weren’t? Where would it go? That’s a fun daydream to have.

Ezra’s smiling. “You threatened Ely?”
“I mean is it really threatening if I’m related to her?”

As a brother that has threatened his sister as children I also wonder…is it really threatening? If you don’t ever threaten your siblings and they don’t threaten you…are you even related?

I don’t want to have to carry breaths that aren’t my own.

Whoa! Really makes me think about identity again and it’s another way to state the conflict of self and other.

I know that if we talk about my leaving, it will god us, force us to rule over our own hurt.

Hmmmm. The characters in this story ignore the reality of what is to occur, as many children likely would. In my adult life my only real goal is to not do that. I want to rule over my hurt because if not I fear it will rule me in ways that I know not of.