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October 2005

Wide Awake And Dreaming

The author sets out to camp in New York's Central Park--and winds up roused by matters of life and death.

Even in a place where the faint glow of the city is a constant backdrop, where the sound of leaves stirring is punctuated by occasional screeching brakes and blaring horns, one has no less access to night’s mysteries and clarities. After a few restless hours, I entered the pleasant lull that resides somewhere between sleeping and waking. My eyes were open, my senses were heightened, my body was relaxed. I’m not much given to mystical claims, but my mind was so focused on Victoria–not the person overwhelmed by pain and misfortune, but the vital, beautiful girl I had known–that I felt she was, in some genuine way, sharing the tent with me, resting a few feet away in her sleeping bag. It was good to be back with my old friend. Together, we listened to the silence of a city that was taking a break from the obligations of daylight. We heard dogs barking and occasional drunken shouts. A camper nearby snored. Shortly before dawn, when the night seemed darkest, there was a surge of bird calls. The din was extraordinary, a sustained chiming that could have competed with cathedral bells. It must have continued for an hour. I wondered how many birds there must be living in those trees, and how many of their names Victoria could identify.

When the sun rose I packed my sleeping bag, broke down the tent, and headed to the subway. It was early on a Sunday morning and I knew I’d have a long wait for the train. But I didn’t mind. I had nowhere in particular to go.

Mark Levine normally sleeps in Brooklyn, New York.

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