By Alexandra Erin
When I close my eyes, I see the silent city.
It is always there, etched into my brain, lurking behind the back of my eyelids, waiting for the lights to go out. I walk its empty streets in my sleep every night, but it’s always there, even when I’m awake.
It’s only when I’m asleep that the ideograms in the store windows and squiggles on the street signs make sense to me, though I never remember what any of them say, only the bare fact that I know.
The roads are all brick-paved, but the street lights and the useless traffic signals are all very modern. Nestled between red brick apartments, brownstone town houses, and glittering glass skyscrapers, there are buildings that look like theaters, storefronts that could be sweet shops or bakeries, though there is never anything inside them, nothing in the window but lettering whose meaning eludes my waking mind. There are no doors, no way in.
Somewhere, beyond the bridge that I can never reach, there are suburbs, and beyond that, rolling plains of wild flowers and green, green grass. I have never seen these things, but I know they are there, just like I know that somewhere, on some street near or far, he will be there.
It’s not my city, but his. He’s the reason I have to keep moving. I don’t know why, when I’m awake. I might be looking for him. He might be looking for me. I don’t know if he knows about me, or what might happen if we meet.
I can see him, though. I see his face laid out with the lines of the city, the criss-crossing grid of major roads and the swirls of cul-de-sacs in the posh subdivisions. The city center is over his eye, his left eye.
It might be that in some way, he is the city or the city is him. I don’t know. That’s a bit metaphysical for my tastes. It’s something to ask him about, maybe, if I ever meet him. If I’m looking for him, and not a way out of the city and away from, and if I’m able to ask him, or even care. I’m not entirely sure I’m the same person, when I’m in the city.
When people ask, I tell them I never remember my dreams. As far as I know, that might even be true.