The pain ripped up the back of my left thigh at unexpected intervals. All the muscles of my body, feet to fingers, were tensed and had been so for miles. Then the sciatic nerve on the outside of my right thigh began to pulse, and though almost home, I slowed on the familiar back roads bracing myself for another sharp thrust. When I left the driver’s seat, I straightened my back and legs as if something molten and thick had been poured into them. Then the chills that had begun to shake me in the car took firm hold. My hand shook so that when I tried to place the key in the lock to open the front door, I had to steady it with both hands. I threw on a fleece, draped a heavy blanket over my shoulders and shivered as if I had been caught in a terrible cold spell. The furnace pumped out heat. After a shower and Tylenol, I lay in bed unmoving, warmth finally seeping into me. Feverish and strained, I fell into a deep sleep and into the most vivid dream I have had in years.
I was in my late twenties and knew that I was dying. The inside of my right armpit, under my cuirass, had received a sword thrust. Everything inside felt loose. Bodies lay strewn around me. I recognized a Roman Gladius along side me. I could sense others walking near me. Somehow I raised my self and slumped against other bodies. I could breathe more easily. A man in battle gear saw me and raised his sword as he walked toward me. I knew that he was going to finish me off. I raised my left hand, thumb, index and middle finger extended straight up and said in perfect Latin, “I would like to speak with you.”
My executioner stopped. I repeated myself. He called over other Romans and told them what I had said. One wanted to kill me immediately. He gestured toward the Roman bodies that surrounded me. Again, in perfect Latin, I said, “I shall join them soon.”* Two of them sat next to me. One gave me water. I told him to reach inside my cuirass at my left arm. I had something for him.
He snaked two fingers inside and pulled out an object wrapped in an animal skin. It held a round, gold coin or emblem. I knew that it was a remembrance of my home village, a close cropped layering of stone huts tucked into a sunny valley in southern Gaul. I could see this place as clearly as the homes where I have lived in my waking life. The Roman soldiers told me of their villages. I could not tell how long all of this went on. I looked at them, smiled, the dream ended, and I woke up past 3 A.M.
I don’t know what triggered such a hard, real apparition or what to make of it, if anything. But now awake and recovered and alert, I can see myself in my mind’s eye as if suspended above the scene, calmly taking in all of it.
*Movie Latin. Everyone speaks in English but we suspend our disbelief and imagine the native language.
* The gold object resembled these.