By Cassie Carter
This is a
description of a dream I had around 1989 or 1990. At the time, I was researching my annotated bibliography of Jim Carroll (published in Bulletin of
Bibliography in 1990) and writing my master's thesis on Carroll's diaries. At the time
of this dream, I was living in California and had never been to New York.
I found myself at the tip of Manhattan. A row of old, boarded-up storefronts whose grey
paint had curled from years of neglect, bordered the refuse-strewn street. An odor of
rotting fish and salt air wafted from the wharves; through a gap between two buildings I
could see several decaying cutters somberly rocking against their moorings. A blinding
cloud of gulls exploded into flight. I followed their chaotic spiraling until they
vanished in the long shadows of distant skyscrapers.
I began walking north, kicking at scraps of wood, rusted tin and shards of glass, along
the strand of vacant lots separating me from the skyscrapers. When I reached the first
cross street, I met an old man clad in a faded black robe. Trinity High School had fallen
years ago, he told me, at least a decade past. Before I could question him, the old man
So I continued walking. As I entered the first building-lined street, a woman
approached me from the side. She held a knife to my throat and whispered, "Give me
your money." I showed her I had only five dollars and said, "Please, I'm just
looking for someone; won't you please help me?" She pressed the knife harder against
my neck, then, silently, we walked together toward the skyscrapers.
Shortly, we arrived at the edge of a park, which was much smaller than I had imagined
it to be. "He's not here," my companion remarked. We walked through the deserted
park, and I looked at the blistered benches strewn with newspapers. I picked up one of the
yellowed papers, but threw it into the wind. It landed flat on the sidewalk, its blank,
sunbleached pages spreading open, flapping vacantly.
The opposite end of the park opened onto a wide avenue, with more boarded-up businesses
along the west side, and a long strip of lawn and ivy on the other. I had stopped to peer
into a whitewashed window [I don't know how to undo what's been done. There is an
untraceable knot in my head of false facades I have set up . . . dummy corporations whose
addresses lead to no place but a mail drop in some abandoned storefront, the windows
blanked in whitewash" (FE 120)] when my companion suddenly darted into the ivy.
Startled, I spun around to see a band of five boys running towards me. I too dove into the
ivy. When I finally had courage enough to look, the boys were gone.
We brushed the dirt and leaves off of our clothes and continued northward on the
avenue, until it divided before an oddly shaped skyscraper. Here my professor joined us,
explaining to my companion that my search would be fruitless. It always was, he said. He
and my companion disappeared into the walls of skyscrapers.
For a moment the syringe-like silhouettes of the skyscrapers glowed against daylight's
dying rays. As darkness descended, the city's silence began to surround me like a vast
ocean whose currents were long since stilled. Taxis sat empty and motionless, waiting,
beneath twisted lamp posts; subway entrances gaped, like so many burst abcesses. In
darkness, I became a shark, endlessly prowling the depths of this ocean city: always
searching, never sleeping. Always searching.