July 29th, 2019

caillebotte_man at his window

Chance of a Ghost

It's difficult to remember where things are in this place. Most of my life I've had maps in my head telling me what was around me and how I would get to anywhere within miles. Here I am not even sure of the exact direction of north. The puzzling array of streets and buildings are a sketchy mass with more blank areas than identified spots, and the identified spots float like things in a dream, taking on uncertainty from their uncertain surroundings.

There are no hills here, and the streams run not through valleys and arroyos but broad swales barely distinguishable from the land around them. Like the streets they will not remain solidly in my mind, but drift here than there, unmoored from any solid landmarks. I remember buildings, and can see them vaguely with my memory, but most of them are just "out there," somewhere on the flat, featureless prairie. I sit in my room, almost entirely lost.

After not having seen it for more than thirty years the shape of the land around Los Angeles is still clear in my mind. Though Google street views show me that many buildings I knew are gone and even more new buildings have risen, if I were to find myself at some intersection within twenty miles of First and Broadway I'm sure I'd have my bearings very shortly. I would probably recognize most spots in Paradise even though almost every landmark has burned. Were I dropped down in most parts of Chico I might has well be in Des Moines or Jacksonville.

I think this is why when, nodding off in the chair in the back yard, I start awake in the alarming heat with no idea of where I am, and thinking perhaps I am not even real myself. This strange little city is a floating world of its own, fraught with uncertainty and imprecision. Have I always been here? Have I only dreamed some other life? If so, the dream is more real than this reality, and I could easily be convinced that this place and I are now nowhere at all. Reality has been dissolved, the solid melted into air, not a rack left behind.

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