Justin Skolnick lives and works in Portland.

City of Dreams

Posted on in Portland, Oregon

The street race ends and the air absorbs my sedan, its dematerializing seat lifting me to my feet. I sweep the dust from my pants. The skies begin to clear.

This is San Francisco. It feels like San Francisco.

To my right I see an old brick-faced apartment block. No sooner than I cross the threshold does the building’s secret life appear. For what else could this be beside a mansion for bicostal literati — a commune, a collective, a common resting place. They seem so wise, their faces placid. Their smiles invite me in, monocoastal though I am. And here I see in fact we see ourselves in one another: here we are together.

I mount a platform to a net of wooden tiles shaped like scallops, a mesh which, whether hoisted with the knees or flung from the chest, unfurls into a staircase, fanned out to take me anywhere that I might want to go. The tiles are keys to play in sequence, the ceiling a dark and optically unresolved dome: each new ascent unlocks a portal to a point in space and time.

Yet, drawn back by a light just past my visual field, I step back, tack left, and descend by utility steps into the garden party of a writer known to me by name. There are no words for us to say. She rests her head upon my shoulder and I lay mine on hers, consoling one another for griefs no readership will ever learn.

Outside, the ground is thrusting up its blooms. A river flows beyond a limestone embankment. A parade passes by. I begin to sense this isn’t San Francisco after all.

No, it’s someplace else. I’ve been here before.

It dawns on me it’s safe to wake and leave this place. I know where it is and where to find it next. For now there’s time for other things, I can come back later, I have no need to stay.