The city and the night

“They tell this tale of its foundation: men of various nations had an identical dream. They saw a woman running at night through an unknown city; she was seen from behind, with long hair, and she was naked. They dreamed of pursuing her. As they twisted and turned, each of them lost her. After the dream they set out in search of that city; they never found it, but they found one another; they decided to build a city like the one in the dream.” Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.

***

In the space between my blanket and my body, you hold me. I am enveloped inside my swag. I feel you so close. We’re out in the wilderness, draped in a covering of stars- from the right to the left; they are suspended over us, like the ceiling of a magical dome. I feel the cold air swirl around me, which brings me closer to you. We are far away from the sounds of the city, the lights- those familiar pieces that made me feel so secure. In the depths of the wilderness, my imagination can easily get the better of me. But you hem me in. I am covered, and you hold me now.

***

I rose from my bed and I ran through the city streets looking for you. I went through each and every square, down each dingy lane. As I ran, walked, panted and ran, I was looking for you. And as I looked for you, I left traces of my clothing. Thinking, this would be how I’d find you, I gave out signs of myself. I left the clothes in a trail, like Hansel and Gretel with their breadcrumbs, hoping they would lead me home. Somewhere in my mind, I knew that wasn’t right. Still, I saw that other people had done the same thing when they were looking for people. It was the modern form of a “Lost” sign, those posters they used to pin to trees and city bulletins saying “Searching” or “Have you seen?” I ran through the streets, my long hair against my back. I thought off cutting it off, but I couldn’t let go of everything. So I gave away those clothes, hints of myself, scattered through the city, making a trail that might eventually lead me home.

***

Wrapped like a baby, in a blanket far away. I do not cry like a baby, but I rest. The weeping all happens outside this space. I am peaceful, so quiet, so still. Far away I hear howling. Somehow it lulls me to rest. I imagine the howling is a jackal, though I’ve never heard one before. I’ve only heard their howling in books. I look up at the moon. A light, you put in the sky so that I could see, so that I could find you in the dark. Why does the jackal howl at the moon? Does the jackal use the moon to communicate? Are the lights in the night sky used as semaphore signals for them to speak to one another? Does the light of the moon disturb its sleep, frustrating the jackal? Does the jackal howl because it is so far from the moon? Was the jackal created the same day as the moon, and mourn its long separation?

***

I wasn’t quite sure where home was, it was either- the place I’d left, fully clothed, looking for you. Or it was a place I was trying to come back around to, a place that looked like where I was born. I wanted to bring you there, to show you my mother’s home. I was born in a house, my mother’s house. Did you ever know that? Often I imagined what it was like to be there at my birth. Sometimes, I even imagined you there. Just in the next room, playing with your toys, or looking out the window. I imagined that I joined you in the next room as I grew up, and we’d build cities together with our blocks. Maybe that’s how it happened. You loved building the cities and I loved playing the families and making them move and rebuild and live together there.

***

My eyes are open in the dark night, and we are so far from any city. I close my eyes and we are outside of time. In my imagination, we are visiting all the cities we have created, there are several. They are huge cosmopolites and metropolis, not blocks. They are made of you and me and our imaginations and we travel between them, in time. There are so many cities. Invisible cities, mirrored cities, lake cities, coloured cities. I could not run through the city and not think of you, of all we had created. But you showed me new space, open landscape. And while we’re here, I’m beginning to understand. You had to keep creating, and imagining. This space gives you a canvas for that. And the hope of rebuilding gives me reason to, someday step out of this sleeping bag. But for now, I am happy to be here and I don’t want to move. The jackal howls at the moon but we are so close. I want to stay, wrapped here forever under a blanket of stars. While you hold me now.

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