Underwater, Playing at Being Graceful

I have this recurring nightmare that I’m lost in the city
where I used to live. It’s like that city but it isn’t really that city. The café
only serves drinks that don’t make sense—upside down pineapple smoothies that
come in empty glasses and only as you’re taking sips of nothing do you taste
the cool and the sweet and that sharp numbing tang. And Radical Raspberry Raves
which make you see the world in Red and White and no one ever looks beautiful
but they still always look like they’re just the right one for you.

And this city has a street that opens into the sky sometimes
and sometimes it’s the sea and once it was just nothing but the dark, the dark
at the edge of my sight, that one kind of dark that used to keep me up at night
because I thought if I went to sleep in it then everything would change while I
was sleeping and when I woke up no one would know me anymore.

Sometimes, in the nightmare, you’re here. You’re always
walking away from me, around corners, up the stairs, going through doorways. I
always think that if I could just catch up to you, just once, for a second,
then I’d tell you something that I’ve never told you and it would make you stop
moving. I never catch up to you though. In my dreams I’m slow. In my dreams I
walk like I’m underwater. In my dreams I never call out to you because my mouth
is filled up with sand. Or I do say your name and it comes out as bird song or
as water falling or as a prayer in another language that you never did learn
though you kept promising to.

And in the nightmare I’m always talking to people who want
to sell me maps. Every store I go in sells them and they all are different and
every shopkeeper wants me to buy one from them. I ask where they lead but they
only lead where the one who buys them wants to go. I say that I don’t know
which one will do the best job of leading me. The people always ask where I
want to go most. I stare at them and stare and sometimes I answer. And
sometimes I shrug. And mostly I do nothing but stare.

I often wake up out of this nightmare and draw maps. There are
streets and stores and places that I’ve never been to.

Now I have two hundred maps and none of them lead me
anywhere.

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