A City Only I’ve Visited

A City at Dusk

There’s a place that I’ve been to, a city that I may be the only person to have ever visited. This city exists and recurs only in my dreams. I visit it perhaps once every few months. I know when I’m there, and I know that I’m dreaming. I can take myself back to places that I’ve been before.

For the purposes of trying to describe this place (which stands in for any city that I dream I’m in), I’m going to orient it so that the sea is to the west. The city is in two parts, a mainland and an island that appears to be man-made. They are connected by two or three bridges, I’m not sure.

The north-most bridge, I’ve crossed many times in different dreams. It is very near the north shore of the island. The southern-most bridge is not as close to the southern shore, and there may be another bridge between the two but much closer to the southern-most bridge. The gap between the island never varies noticeably, always staying about 100 feet (30 metres?). There are never any boats in this water. Nor birds.

The island, if I had to put dimensions on it, isn’t very big – perhaps a few kilometres per side. But it isn’t exactly a square. The northern side is longer than the southern side (all sides are very straight).  On the west shore, from the north there is large parking lot and port where ocean-going cargo ships dock (but there aren’t any cargo containers on the dock – just an empty parking lot. When this port area ends, the land makes a 90 degree turn back east, for a short distance, before heading south in a straight line again.

South of the docks, there is a beach. It’s downhill from the north-south road that runs along the western shore. The hill is sandy, the beach has grass most of the way to the water, with a few palm trees. You can drive your car down from the road onto the grass to park and picnic. I remember seeing people swim there once (The beach has only made one appearance in a dream, the docks much more often).

Again from the docks, which are the north-west corner of this island, you can head straight east on a major thoroughfare. This is the only place that I’ve seen high rises on the island. They’re all in that older New York architecture style. City hall is on the north side of this road – i went there once in a an early dream).

The city on the mainland does not go any further north than the northern shore of the island. There is a navigable channel that runs along the north side of the island and goes under a bridge and upriver along the mainland. The far shore of this river is tall grass. I’ve taken a small boat along this river, but not out to sea. Along the north shore, just inside of the grass, are wooden poles sticking out of the water, grimy, bent a little. I’m not sure if they’re there to mark the channel or to act as tying spots for small boats.

If you take the highway north out of the city across the bridge, the farmland is green – grazing land, I think. I’ve approached the city form the north on the highway, many times. Often, I exit the road to the right, taking me onto the north shore of the island. Once I stayed on the road and went left. There was a large, circular glass tower, stocky for all its height, with smaller glass towers around it’s base. It kind of reminded me of the Renaissance Center in Detroit, but was stockier, and the towers were in a different configuration. I don?t remember ever going into it.

The south end of the island is more mysterious to me. I have the sense that there’s a naval base there, but I can’t visualize it now.

South of the island, on the mainland, the area is a lot more residential, but old. The houses are small, closely packed and give the impression of being both poor and culturally vibrant. It doesn’t feel dangerous or threatening in any way. In my dreams, I’ve gone to restaurants in this area more than once.

In my last visit to this mysterious city, I was in this south end. But it was different. The main road is above the houses, about the height of the roofs.  It’s not a freeway, there’s a sidewalk and shops, but when you look behind the shops, you realize that there’s quite the drop off to the next block of houses (the geography reminds me of an area in Itaewan, Seoul, South Korea, but the architecture doesn’t match, and I’m not a foreigner in this place).

The purpose of my visit this time (they’re always mundane) is that I was going to the bustling, crowded train station to meet someone, I don’t know who.

But this dream was different because it didn’t start or end in the city. This time, “my wife” (I didn’t so much see as feel her presence and relationship) and I were apparently staying with friends (her friends not mine, I sensed). The house, the feel of the air, the drifting pollen in sunlight all had a sense of antebellum south to it – faded paint on wooden doors with lead glass windows patterned through the top half, faded pink tiles in the bathroom, doors everywhere room-to-room. I was in the house and at loose ends, so I stepped out, and went to Paris?

I ended up in this city of mine, certainly not Paris, and I was not at loose ends, I had a purpose. But I never met whoever was supposed to be on the train. I never even went into the train station – there was a large crowd outside, commuters coming and going. I came back to the house. When “my wife” and her friends asked me where I’d been, I said, ‘Paris.’

They all looked at me like I was a crazy person to be humoured.

Then I woke up.

If and as I remember more of this place (or visit again), I’ll note it here. If you’ve had experiences like this, please comment below.

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