© 2017 City of Broken Dreams
Even with the recent milder weather, there’s still a bite to the air. It’s that fucking north wind—it never lets you forget where you really are. I try to position myself with my back to it, pulling up the collar of my jacket, trying to prevent its icy sting from slipping down the front of my shirt like the reptilian fingers of some coldblooded whore. But somehow, despite facing directly south, that damn wind still finds a way of cutting right through me—like a stiletto made out of pure glacial ice.
It takes me a few times, but I’m finally able to find the right angle to successfully spark up my third-to-last cigarette. Fucking hell—I’m not even a goddamn smoker, but the thought of soon not being able to intermittently break up my mundane existence by stepping outside to inhale diaphanous clouds of poisonous smoke sends a ripple of anxiety right through me.
Now savor it—the head rush, the vertiginous carcinogenic wake, the reality of a long and drawn-out, slow leisurely suicide.
My body shivers, and I’m not sure if it’s the cold, an autonomic response to the nicotine, or if its something else entirely—something symptomatic, maybe a subliminal and esoteric message from somewhere deep down in my subconscious that I have yet to decipher. But that’s the thing about living in this place: it’s full of ambiguity and mystery—most of it hidden and enshrouded in some dark, clandestine corner of the city, just waiting for the most inopportune time to rear its unpredictably monstrous head. Consequently, you just never fucking know what’s really what in this damn town.
So sure, maybe I’m cold. But maybe I’m not. Maybe the shiver that snakes down the length of my spine isn’t the result of a sudden chill, but rather, the consequence of suddenly realizing that I don’t know what the hell I’m even doing here. And I don’t just mean in the physical sense, either—which is in fact the case.
It’s true. As absurd and perplexing of a notion as it may be to accept, I don’t have the faintest fucking idea as to how it is that I ended up standing in this back alleyway. It’s as if I just woke up this morning, opened my eyes, and—BAM!—here I stood. But so is the nature of living what passes for a life in this strange and damaged city of dreams. I stopped questioning its aberrant abstract nature and blatantly bizarre behavior a very long time ago. And as any long-term resident learns to accept quite early on, the basic laws of physics don’t always apply here. To navigate its cimmerian streets is to simply resign yourself to the notion that you are nothing but a passive metaphysical passenger adrift in the black sea of dream.
But what am I doing here? Not just here in this alleyway—but here in this godforsaken city in the first place.
They call it the City of Broken Dreams, but I often wonder why they didn’t call it the City of Broken Nightmares. It just seems like when the city dreams—and it sure as hell dreams a lot—the dreams always seem to be more bad than good.
Even now, standing here with the last remnants of my cigarette slowly smoldering between my dry, numb lips, I can feel the city dreaming all around me. It isn’t just one dream, but many; a sickening mélange of a thousand different dreamers and a thousand different dreams, all hanging heavily over the city like a thick toxic smog. And the dreams—well the dreams aren’t very nice.
A miasma of whimpers and moans—some from pleasure, but most from pain.
Awash and overwhelmed by a tidal wave of contradictory sensory stimuli: the scent of jasmine, the taste of blood, the sound of laughter, the sensation of skin flogged from flesh, the image of beautiful blue eyes made blind.
[Couldn’t be alone]
A certain kind of sadness permeates the membrane and diffuses within the dreamer’s continuum. Not the kind of sadness associated with loss, but the sadness of never having had in the first place. The sadness of longing.
Falling. Cumming. Crying. Holding on
[Couldn’t be alone]
Juxtapositions that (obviously) defy time and space. [a five-year-old boy, the soccer field behind Arthur E. Wright Middle School] He’s just a little kid. He watches as his father chases after a haphazardly fleeing kite. The boy had carelessly let go of the kite string. [a 47-year-old man, Room 402, the Bellagio] The smell of a woman’s wet cunt (not his wife’s) intoxicates him. “I could eat your pussy all night long,” he says. The dark-haired woman squeezes her thighs tightly around his head like a vice made from flesh.
I shake the dreams off me like a wet dog shakes water off from its coat. And when I do, I notice that my damn dick is hard. Because that’s what happens when men wake up from sleep; it’s called nocturnal penile tumescence—also known as morning wood or a morning glory. The thing is, I didn’t just wake up from sleep, did I? No—I was just standing here, finishing off my third-to-last cigarette, trying to mind my own damn business. But the dreams—they infest me, they infect me. I don’t even need to be asleep and the dreams still come
to for me, they cum inside me. Truth be told, I don’t think I even sleep anymore. No, I don’t sleep, I just dream, dream, dream. And now I’m suddenly standing in the middle of a dirty alley with a fucking boner in my pants like some kind of goddamn pervert.
So why do I do it?
a) Allow myself to be treated this way.
b) Fall victim to the dreamer’s desperate dreams.
c) Continue to stay in a city that is so clearly is trying to push me into the giant maw of madness.
[d) All of the above.]
I’ve known people to leave. I’ve had friends who have actually moved away. They all had their reasons, of course. School. Work. Wanderlust. At least that’s what they said, anyway. But I never believed them. I don’t think they even believed it themselves. Because it wasn’t the truth.
The real reason that anyone ever leaves is simple enough: they are trying to escape from the dreams. Or at the very least, to try and outrun them. And I can’t say that I blame them. Having been born in this city, I know all to well the experience of having a constant barrage of images, ideas, emotions, and sensations continually skull-fucking your psyche against your will. It’s basically like being psychically gang raped by the dark forces of the cosmos. I mean, who wouldn’t want to try to escape such wanton psychogenic abuse and degradation?
But the people who leave—are they ever truly able to find solace from whatever it was that they were so desperately trying to get away from?
The truth is, I don’t know the answer to that. The reality of the situation is that I never heard from any of those people ever again. So I can’t really ask them. Sure, I suppose distance can make the heart grow fonder. But sometimes—most of the time—distance just makes people disappear.
If I were an optimist, a romantic, I could perhaps envision these people—these refugees of Broken Dreams—starting their lives anew, living somewhere free and far away from the dark, terrible dreams that once hunted and haunted them as dark dreams always do. And maybe they are even been able to find happiness wherever it is that they went—working the perfect job; being loved by a beautiful, caring woman; living in the most luxurious of homes, with the whitest of picket fences. Perhaps the notion of living a good, happy life somewhere outside these hermetic city walls isn’t as elusive and illusory of a concept as I’ve always believed.
But the thing is, I’m not an optimist. In fact, I’m not just a realist, either. Life in this city has changed me, mutated me—altered my metaphysical composition in such a way that I am no longer enchanted or lulled into ignorant bliss by images of romantic and fanciful simulacra. And despite being constantly besieged by the fantastical and ephemeral nature of the dreamer’s continuum, I have somehow, perhaps paradoxically, been infected by the all too sobering disease of the reality of existence.
In other words: yeah, I’m kind of a fucking asshole. However, I happen to be a very practical kind of asshole. And
unfortunately, being the practical kind of asshole that I am, I have come to the hard-boiled and very unromantic realization that there is no such thing as escape, when it comes to these city’s walls.
After all, if the dreamer moves to a different bed, to a different house, to a different city, or even to a different country, does that dreamer still not dream the same dreams as before?
The answer is yes. Yes, they surely do. But something tells me that you kind of already knew that.
And this is why I stay. Not because I really want to, but because I know that there really isn’t anywhere else to go. The city doesn’t hold me captive, but perhaps in a sick, twisted, and fucked up kind of way, I’m inexorably captivated by it. And so the city is where I stay.
Like I said before, I was born in this fucking abomination of a town. And it probably goes without saying that I will die here too. Sure, I may end up sleeping in a different bed, living in a different house, moving to a different city, or even trying to flee to a different country. But no matter where I lay down to rest at night, no matter where my head eventually falls, it will always fall somewhere in the City of Broken Dreams.
“The Dreamer’s Interlude” contains lyrics from “Archangel” written and produced by Burial. Courtesy of Hyperdub.