Mr. Sandman . . .

The night before the night before last night, I had the strangest dream:

A middle-aged black woman who once survived an attempted murder goes to a dog convention. The murder attempt had been several slits across her throat, and she still bears ugly twisted scars that she hides under a flowered scarf. At the dog convention, she hands out stickers of a cartoon Boston terrier. She wants to make people smile. She does not have a dog.

Cut to her moving into a new apartment. It’s squalid, but the architecture is interesting. The elevator opens into her living room, and she likes that. No one is supposed to be able to make the elevator door open in her living room unless he or she has a key. But the building is old, disintegrating; things don’t work the way they should. Upstairs is a convenience store, and the customers find their way into her apartment at night, while she’s sleeping. At that very moment, as she hears the strangers moving around in her home, she swears that she will make something of herself. “I’m going to run for office,” she whispers.

A year later, our heroine is on the city council. Her grimy building is being cleaned and renovated. A construction crane looms outside, lifting scaffolds and other supplies up to workers on the roof. The woman leans out the window and smiles, proud of what she has accomplished. At that very moment, something being lifted past her window on the construction crane catches the scarf she uses to hide her grotesque scars. The woman is pulled out the window. She clutches the construction equipment for dear life, but years of hard living have worn her down. She loses her grip and falls to the pavement below.

And that woman, my little celery stalks? That sweet, determined, middle-aged black woman with the twisted scars across her throat? That woman was me.

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