|Fifteen Miles Across Los Angeles|
I am trapped in Downtown Los Angeles; I know I'm dreaming, but I can't walk myself up. I can't find the subway; I decide to walk out.
I worked in Downtown LA for twenty-two years; I moved to Northern California four years ago.
I am trapped in Downtown Los Angeles near the financial district. I know I'm dreaming. The Pershing Square Metro Red Line stop isn't available; I decide to walk out. There's a woman walking next to me. I can walk out; It's a dream, I can do anything. It's fifteen miles from downtown to my apartment in North Hollywood located in the San Fernando Valley.
It's a long walk; I decide to fly. I spread my arms, lift my feet and fall face flat on the pavement.
I walk up in a panic, bed sheets up to my chin. I reassure myself the dream isn't real. I'm not stranded in Downtown Los Angeles. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is not an alternative reality.
Or is it?
When I'm 102, will I be able to tell the difference?
Not to worry. The differences are sensory details.
Eye-burning car exhaust. Onions sizzled on aluminum trays heated by propane tanks, mounted in grocery shopping carts. Squeal of Metro bus brakes. Random shout of a wandering man. Burble of suited men discussing the Lakers. Crunch of fractured walk under my shoes. Throp, throp of an LAPD helicopter overhead. Greasy touch of a revolving office building entrance.
I am trapped downtown, but it's not real. I wake up the next morning shaken. I tell myself I don't have to go back there. I look out my bedroom window at soft rolling hills surrounding Mt. Diablo.
I write. My daytime preoccupation is imagining places I've never been and describing them in detail.
When I'm 102 years old, will I be able to tell the difference? How about tonight?
Next time I get stuck downtown, I'll seek out someone with rank body odor. If I recoil, I'll know the difference.