I was, at first, scuttling along the rooftops, out of the City of Motel 6’s and into the suburbs, as I’d expected and basically prepared myself to do. It was rough going.

 

Then it got easier, evened out. I was still up on the rooftops but they seemed lower now, and flatter, and there got to be trees and what felt and looked (though it was night and there were no longer any Motel 6 signs to light the way) like dirt, and some rushing-away bunnies. I lost track of this all still being on the rooftops and came to think of myself as back on the ground. Until a field of houses on a plain way below caught my attention.

 

I crept over to the edge and looked off. At first I thought they were glow-in-the-dark but, after a second of looking, I saw that they were translucent, glowing plasticky green from within. They looked less than solid, i.e. gummy, made of rubber or some sugar or glue compound. Inside, what at first looked like pits turned out to be hulking, monstrous bodies, slowing stretching masks over their heads and standing in the green glow, ready to go out and do their night-work.

 

Except they didn’t. For as long as I looked, they remained arrested in the process of pulling their masks on, even though they weren’t moving that slowly and I watched for a long time. Somehow, it was as if their masks were both on and not on at the same time, being pulled constantly lower on their heads, though they never crossed over to encroach on their necks and shoulders.

 

When I’d had enough of this scene, I retreated from the edge and kept going in the general direction I’d been going in — “West,” I’d come to call it, like a trusty terrier trotting along beside me. The terrain evened out again, and I was back in the dirt and leaping bunnies and benches, many of which had people sitting on them.

 

I sat down on the first empty bench I came to and drew my arms around me, surprised, as I often am, at how much colder the night can get as it goes along, even after the sun’s been out for hours. Trying to warm up and catch my breath, I yawn and lean back and am soon out.

 

In the other place, I’m a reporter or professional biographer, given the coveted assignment of writing the new, or only, authorized biography of some towering 20th c. figure, like Francis Bacon or Nikola Tesla, if not TS Eliot. Months of dream-time go by, during which I squander each and every interview opportunity, drunkenly refusing to show up even at scheduled appointments, resolutely doing nothing as the months roll on. I stroll along the London riverfront and mope around in fish shops, reading the paper, watching the clock, or not watching it, watching the ice in my drinks melt. I stumble into potholes and stand there for hours, my foot stuck and twisted down in the street, watching the grannies come and go from the pastry shops at teatime.

 

Then, on the night before the biography’s due (I seem to have promised that it’s coming along just fine, and, this being a dream, no one’s asked for proof), I break into this towering 20th c figure’s house when he’s fast asleep. No one, neither guards nor servants nor overnight guests, appears to be around, unless they’ve all slept too soundly to hear (I often conjure extraneous sleepers in dreams).

 

I march into his room and rip him out of bed and wrap my hands around his neck and shriek, “Tell me the truth! Tell me the fucking truth about your life and work!!”

 

When he goes slack I let him go, back into the bed where he’d been, and then I wake up, on the bench.

 

“Okay,” I think, “may as well keep moving.”

 

So I keep moving, toward the filtering-in of dawn. I wonder if all those masked dudes back in the translucent houses ever got a move on, or if they spent the whole night tugging at their masks and now they’ll have to wait until dark to try again.

 

In the higher dawn, probably 5:45am or so, I encounter a man bathing in a grotesque puddle a ways off the main thoroughfare. He’s placidly luxuriating in it, covered in slime, more melancholy than erotic, watching what I can tell are doom-ridden clouds overhead, in a sky only he can see. He bubbles down in it and then comes back up, licking his lips with a sad smile. I let him be, for me, this morning, Bruno Schulz, the closest I’m likely to come today.

 

Finally, nearing the outskirts of Dodge City, I find an encampment of broken-down autos configured to smack of The Depression. Radios are set up, people are cooking over small flames, eating from cans, all of that.

 

I come in among them, hungry, and sit on a block of wood, waiting to be handed some beans or a hock of bread, which I am. I eat and relax, then look around and notice how old everyone is. Like really, really old. The oldest I’ve seen in this life.

 

They’re good-looking though, more than I’d noticed at first, and more than I can quite explain. They look like the Hollywood stars of many eras, all lumped together, and, here and now, all equally old. Without anyone’s saying anything (they seem mute aside from grumbles and swallows), I can tell what’s going on here: these must be the old versions of the stars, the oldest of the old, held way out here, in abeyance, prevented from coming in to where the stars themselves live, preen, and work, and switching places with them, when the time is right (which, for many of them, was decades ago).

 

I wonder how long they’ve been kept out here, and then I wonder if the compound’s guarded. When I get up to leave, it turns out to be. Some army looking guy with an assault rifle takes me behind a trailer, where another one of them is, and we talk it out. I tell them the truth about Bruno Schulz, and they let me go.

 

“Okay,” I think again, judging it to be 9 am. “Back to Dodge City? Or more life on the road?”

 

I give myself until next Thursday to decide.

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