Novel Excerpt and Ordering Information
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You Wake Dreaming
You wake dreaming of layers of moon. Light spilled like water down alleyways, black and white on old buildings, dark trees, like a silent movie. Your lover left you touchless at the edge of sleep and all night you dreamed of kissing, of melting into another’s body, of floating off the earth. Somebody left you forever. You've been alone since the fall. It’s just that this wound is familiar and sometimes constant. It reopens with light.
Light knifes through the gap in the curtains. This could be any hotel, a generic room, browns and greens, dresser and bed. But it’s your room, the one in the apartment building you left, then came back to. You used to live on the third floor, the old brownstone. You had the curved window at the front. Now you live just inside the entrance, the ground floor. You walk out on the street.
On the street it is mid-morning, late June, month of weddings and birthdays. Gemini. The twins. Which is not your sign, but could be. You turn left, toward downtown. You pass a stand and buy a paper. Heat rises from the sidewalk. Cars bounce light and you squint. Colors seem overbright. A man walks a dog, a golden retriever. You want to pet the dog, but it might bite. You have never known a golden retriever to bite, though. But now the dog sees a clump of grass, tall, by a yellow hydrant and pulls his owner by the leash so he (the dog) can sniff the grass. Or maybe the dog is female. With it’s long golden fur you can’t tell. Why should you be staring at a dog’s rear-end anyway?
Anyway, you need coffee. You desperately desire coffee. With a cigarette, too. You realize your cigarettes, filterless 100’s, are back on the dresser in your bedroom. You can clearly see the half empty pack, red cellophane, a bit crumpled, lying on the dresser next to a glass of water and your reading glasses. You pat your pocket. Flat empty. Now how are you going to read that paper you bought without your glasses? The news depresses you anyway. So you toss the paper in the next black wire mesh receptacle. Spiffing up this part of town they are, with little signs, picture-signs everywhere to tell you what to do. Above the trashcan is a sign with a hand releasing a balled up wad of paper. Under that is another sign, a smoking cigarette in a circle with a slash line through it. Does that mean you can’t throw cigarette butts in this trash, or that you should not stand smoking on this corner? Pretty soon the only place smokers will be able to smoke is Siberia and the Sahara. Probably not Sahara because of fire danger. Maybe the Artic Circle.
The Artic Circle. Is that at the top or bottom of earth? Aren’t both poles ice? Geography was not your subject, but it’s maddening not to be able to place the Artic in your mind. You picture the globe and it seems like the Artic should be at the top. You see the line of equator at a slight tilt. The Earth spins on its axis and revolves around the sun. And tilts at the same time. You are a speck on a speck in limitless space. Thinking this make you feel dizzy and frightened, as if the ground is about to shift and throw you over the edge.
The edge of Mrs. McElvaney’s yard is perfectly trimmed, perfectly green. Her lawn is like green velvet. You would like to walk there in bare feet. You have forgotten what it feels like to walk barefoot on cool grass. She must have Pro-Grow come and do her lawn. You’ve heard they spray green dye on the lawns. They mix it with that liquid in their trucks and spray it on like paint. After the lawns have been sprayed you can smell something sickly sweet, almost pleasant, but with an acrid chemical undertone. A chem.-tone. A subtle note. There used to be a band called the Chem-Tones, wasn’t there? Some acid-heads who used to play at the Culture Club. Years ago.
Years ago you had this dream and you never forgot it. You stood at the top of a green grass hill, an angel to your right. The smell of spring earth, crocuses, violets, tender grass, rose warm into the air. You had the feeling of being a child, just at the moment of deciding to roll down the grass. But children don’t decide. They just do things, do what they want. In your dream, you knew the hill was heaven. Not because of the angel, but because you were young again. Now you’ve come to the street you have to cross to get to your favorite coffee shop.
Your favorite coffee shop is called the Cosmic Cup. Stars and moons and planets float blue and green from a white cup on the sign. It is a sandwich board sign they put out in the morning and take back in at three, when they close. Usually Millicent does this. She is a college girl with jet-black hair to her chin, cut blunt. She has very clear pale skin and wears a tiny emerald stud in her nostril. You wait to cross the street, pushing the walk button several times until the little white walking man says to walk, and fake bird chirps tell blind people it’s safe to cross the street.
The street is called Elm Street. You already crossed Maple, Pine, Burch, and Cedar. When the tree names ran out they used presidents going the other way. This is Lincoln and Elm. You live four-and-one-half blocks back on Lincoln. You wished you lived on Linden, which sounds prettier than Lincoln.
Lincoln reminds you, not of the president, but of Lincoln Logs, those brown notched blocks kids used to fit together to build cabins. You had some. You really thought you’d be an architect, mixing Lincoln Logs with other blocks, the colored ones with yellow columns and green squares. Making mansions. And on the beach you’d build elaborate and beautiful castles, pressing wet sand into Dixie cups and tin cans, decorating the façade with shells and broken glass. You would have become an architect, but you never could decide. You became a failed writer instead.