THE ROSE CITY (1:1:5:44)

Several months ago, I had a dream. I'm in an office room watching a presentation on a big screen. Who exactly is giving the presentation I am not sure, it was simply a white shade in the shape of a human body. The white shade tells me that there was a man who once said that there is nothing in the dark that isn't there when the lights are on, and then he points to a photograph of a man covered in darkness.

"This man, like you, has realized that no one ever truly dies." That's what he says to me, and I try to ask him what he means but I can't talk because of the bandage over my mouth. Regardless, he tells me that what he means is that there is no such thing as birth and death here. That nothing here is real. Now he's talking the bandage off.

The white shade hands me a pistol and tells me to try and kill myself. In the back of my mind I have a severe desire to die, but as I press the pistol against my brain, I can't force myself to pull the trigger. "Remember, this is just a dream." That's what he says to me, but he's not the one with the gun pressed against his head.

"Kill yourself, and you will see that I am telling you the truth." I still can't pull the trigger. After the white shade realizes that I need a bigger push if I'm going to pull this trigger, he starts to talk about the beginning of the universe.

The white shade asks me if I believe it's possible to create something from nothing. I tell him that I do not believe that it's possible. Then he says, "So in order for something to exist, there must have been something before it." Then he goes on to say that I must be one of the people who believes that a higher being or beings created all that we see and know.

The white shade says if you cannot create something from nothing, and we consider this fact, then many will argue the impossible origin of the higher being or beings in the first place. When you think about it, these ideas in conjunction are in error.

"So now we consider that the existence of a higher being or beings is impossible. How can we be here? Did everything and anything we know and see come into place on its own? Maybe nothing is real. Or, maybe everything and anything that we know and see are as real or as fake to us as we think. Maybe if a person simply believes there is a God, then God will simply exist, and if a person doesn't believe there is a God, then God will simply not exist. Maybe it's that simple."

I think about what he says, then I ask the white shade,"Doesn't this mean that there is no fact or fiction? If I believe there is no gravity, will there or will there not be gravity?"

"In this place, there is gravity and there is no gravity. Depending on what you believe, you will witness one or the other."

At this point, in my mind I'm debating and comparing the real world to the dream world and trying to understand what this person is saying. The white shade tells me that I'm on the right track but going in the wrong direction, that I should be thinking about how similar these two worlds truly are.

"Now you need to pick up the gun, and then ask yourself where you will go when you are done with this life, and then you will or will not be able to pull the trigger."

I think about the question before I pick up the gun. I always believed that our bodies and our minds were separate, and that when our bodies died, our minds would live on. That we created our own afterlives. That what we truly believed in the unconscious brain is what would happen after we have passed. Those who believed in Heaven and Hell would go to Heaven or Hell. Those who believed in reincarnation would be reincarnated. Those who believed in a place where there is unlimited candy would go to a place where there was unlimited candy.

So I picked up the gun, and I tried again. This time I pulled the trigger, and I could almost feel the metal in my brain. After it was done, I was still there, in the same office with the same white shade and the same man who was covered in darkness on a big screen. "Don't be afraid." That's what the white shade says to me.

A few seconds later, the white shade begins to explain to me that this man who is covered in darkness in this photograph is a bad person, but that the real problem is that he can't die because of what he knows. He murders, he steals, he rapes. "All that bad guy stuff."

So I ask it what this has to do with me. The white shade says that I have to stop him. "But you just told me that he can't be stopped." The white shade then tells me that I have to convince him that what he is doing is wrong. That he cannot take advantage of a life with no consequences. That I need to show him that "every action has an equal and opposite reaction."

I ask the white shade why it can't try to convince him itself, and it says that it's for a personal reason. The white shade then says that it's not forcing me to do anything, that I have to want to do the right thing of my own free will. I look down and begin to think about what the white shade is saying and realize that there is a piece of paper before me. On it there is a small stamp that says "Welcome to the rose city." Portland.

Right now it's two a.m. and I can't sleep. This happens every once in a while. So instead of sleeping I find myself staring outside my window into a vision wrapped in street lights. A part of me ponders the vast amount of dreams going on right now in the world, or at least on this side of the world. Not three seconds later after the thought is born someone pulls into the parking lot.

After they park, and after one of the street lights cast a white light on the car, I can see the color of the car and I realize that the owner of the car is Lynne. Where do people go at two a.m.? What do they do?

I'd have to say about ten minutes have passed by and I'm still looking at this car and Lynne still has not gotten out of it. Did I miss that part. I'm tired, but I don't think I did. Ten more minutes go by and nothing has changed. Lynne is sitting in her car but I have no idea why. Is she asleep? Maybe she's too tired to get out. Maybe she is thinking. Or, maybe it's not her.

Five minutes, and now I'm falling in and out of a daydream. In the daydream Lynne walks pass me and she smiles along the way. I'm getting tired of seeing that damn smile. For a second I want to punch her in the face in hopes of never having to see it again. When I realize I'm daydreaming, after I find myself staring at the same car I've been watching for the past thirty minutes, I ask myself if I'm bitter towards Lynne because I'm jealous of Silvio, or if it's because I'm angry at her for being so stupid. For falling into a trap that is clearly labeled "Trap."

Now the car door finally opens, it's Lynne. She walks towards the building. That slight limp due to a foot that has said goodbye. Before she enters the building, she admires her flowers. For the rest of the night, I'm left thinking about why she could have possibly spent that much time in her car.

After the darkness of the night begins to lift, I hear arguing from my window in another apartment building. It's a little after six a.m. and I can't tell if I had slept or not, the only thing I knew was that I was awake now.

The arguing continues until one of them leaves and then there is finally silence. This is not the first time and I'm certain it will not be the last.

The frustration of not being able to sleep properly, it prompts me to go outside for a walk in an effort to tire myself. It has worked before. As soon as I hit the first sidewalk, that's when I hear it. Real silence. No cars, no birds, no Sun. No people, no wind. Everything is still. I stand there and admire the scene because I cannot believe it's past six a.m. and the world has not yet gone to work. I must be dreaming.

On the walk, along the way, I think about the dream I had several months ago and how I'm still convinced that the white shade was some kind of representation of God. Was God speaking to me?

There are some who will claim to hear the voice of God, or in other instances claim that God interacted with them in some way. It seems to me like, considering the stories from the Old Testament of the Bible, God use to speak to its creation time and time again, but as its creation began to multiply it became very difficult to keep moderate social levels with every single human being, so maybe he stopped trying. Maybe now he only speaks to the people who need to hear his voice. The people that need to know he is still out there somewhere. Of course these sentences may implicate that God is not all-powerful and that it is possible for him to give up.

Without the presence of a higher being or someone to hear our words and answer our questions, life becomes a mystery, and because of this I believe it is possible that even the wisest person can spend their entire life searching for something they will never find while the most foolish person dwells in a lifetime of prosperity. Sooner or later we will all have to learn to fend for ourselves when there is no one there to guide us. We will have to find our own way.

Somewhere in the pages of the composition notebooks there is a story of guidance. Dreams about a society that is now, depending on which side of the line you stand on, completely run by a corrupt government. In the same dreams I am part of a group of outsiders, and somewhere along the way this group searches for a leader. Someone to guide them while they continue to evade the efforts of such an evil civilization. A civilization that barely seems civil.

After such a long time of running, we all begin to see these "civilians" as monsters, and when you come across any of them, it's better to run than to fight because they will certainly not welcome your ideas and beliefs. That's the mistake that Gary made. He thought he could convince them that they should be friends rather then enemies, and their reply was to imprison him simply because of the way he looked. They could not understand our language. I mean they could, but philosophically, our perceptions were not in tune. We may have spoken the same language, but we were two entirely different species.

Because Gary had gone and got himself caught by the civilians, for Stephanie's sake, we had to get him out, and where there is a plan, there has to be a person to mastermind it. As much as I didn't want it, the outsiders looked to me for leadership in hard times because of the things I had done before, and because of this, the rest of Gary's life was in my hands. Metaphorically.

By the time I get back home, the world had begun its day. Cars on the street, people and their dogs on the sidewalks. School buses eating children one by one as their parents watch with that distasteful smile and that redundant wave goodbye.

I wish someone could give me mathematic or scientific formulas to apply to these things that I see so I could figure out why people are always smiling when there are few things to smile about in life. Maybe I don't understand because I don't smile enough myself. Maybe I don't have the right people in my life who can tell me why smiling is so popular or important. People do it all over the world. It's one of the few words that share the same meaning in the perception of a civilian versus the perception of an outsider.

Why do these human tendencies plague me so much. No question mark. I accepted who I am a long time ago, but I'm starting to think that maybe accepting who you are and knowing you are this way simply because you are this way and you might never change may be the first sign that you should not accept yourself. That is, of course, only if you despise the pain you receive for being this way. Some people don't.