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DSC_3453 (2016 edit) © 2016 City of Broken Dreams

From out of the black and into the dark …

Is it the pain or the dreams that wakes me? It doesn’t matter, the end result is the same: 5 a.m., wide awake, surrounded by the early morning dark. And whether it’s the pain or the dreams that shoulders the blame, they’re both still here with me, now; remnants of my nocturnal underworld lying beside me like a traitorous concubine; cold hard memory cleaving to tepid fragile reality.

The nature of the pain—physical, psychological, emotional—long ago amalgamated into one unified, homogeneous beast; a secular, tormenting chimera. And the dreams—well the dreams behave as dreams are wont to do: ephemeral, ever-changing; the spectral image of a woman flickers and fades, shifting, vacillating between what I had, what I want, what I can never have—blonde hair, green eyes; red hair, blue eyes; raven-black hair, oblivion eyes.

Hold me. Kiss me. Scourge me.

To shake loose either devil, the action/reaction is exactly the same: get free of quicksand bedsheets, get out of bed, get fucking moving—pronto. One last fleeting glance back into the gloam of the room; I bid adieu, I say farewell; I let sleeping ghosts lie—for now (but never for long).

The kitchen beckons, the prospect of coffee the color of the abyss beckons harder.

I become a human coffee making machine: water to boil, four scoops of dark roast into the French press, hot water over coffee grounds, stir, wait four minutes. But four minutes is a long time to wait this early in the morning—especially when you’re waiting on your first cup of coffee. So a small bump of coke to help pass the time; a little jump-start for a comatose mind; a nose-full of sugar to help the caffeine go down. Cocaine and caffeine: the breakfast of a haunted, dysfunctional champion.

A warm, steaming mug cupped between cold, clammy hands. Seated at the dining room table, slowly sipping on an early morning cup of joe—pretending normal. But the self-deception doesn’t last long—it never does. Through the living room, past the venetian blinds, beyond the balcony window: It is out there—the Dark City; still shrouded by the clinging night, but teeming, writhing with its own vile version of life. I can see it, moving in the dark like some grotesque, cyclopean millipede; barreling down the street like a fucking runaway freight train. Yeah, it’s real—not illusion, hallucination, or delusion; not a consequence of a diseased mind, lack of sleep, or drug-tainted blood coursing through my veins. Just because something doesn’t exist on the physical plane, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist at all. The Dark City is real, it exists—I can see it. And I can hear it, too—it incessantly whispers its dirty little secrets into my ear.

My jaw tightens. My hands ball into fists. I steel myself for what the city will have in store for me today. I bask in dread, I perspire unadulterated anxiety.

Superimposed over my view outside the window, I catch a glimpse of something even more troubling, more horrific: I see my reflection on the opaque glass in front of me, an image of my own face staring back at me. No—not so much an image but a shadow: a shadow self, void of any detail; an amorphous black cloud vaguely shaped into a human countenance. I don’t recognize the thing looking back at me. I don’t recognize who or what the fuck I am.

I’m pretty sure I had a name, once. But all I can remember of it now is the letter “J”. I’m a puzzle with all the pieces missing—all of the pieces except for the letter “J”. How did I come to find myself in this strange and shadow-filled place? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. But I don’t think I was born into this world—no, I fell into it. I came from Oblivion; I fumbled forth from out the dark ether of the great unknown. Chaos begat chaos, and then one day, chaos begat me. And this is where I fell. This place—this Dark City without a name and yet with a thousand different names: Los Angeles, Berlin, São Paulo, Johannesburg, Lyon, Port Louis, Tehran, Shanghai, Macon, Winnipeg—it could be anywhere and everywhere.

But just know that this place has nothing to do with geography, with the coordinates on a map—fuck all notions of longitude and latitude. It has nothing to do with where you were born, where you live, or even where you will die. It has nothing to do with where you’ve been or where you want to go. But it has everything to do with where you are when you fall. It’s about being hopelessly lost and about never being found.

This is where I hurt. This is where I dream. This is where I fall. And if you’re reading this, then it means that you’ve fallen here, too. So here we are: hopelessly lost together.

Lost together in the City of Broken Dreams …