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I'm dreaming of the sea these days, and sometimes of gardens that seem impossibly lush to me, even after the deep, fern-filled woods of the Iron Range and the the brilliant gardens full of marigold and moss-rose and brambled black raspberries I grew up with. Brighter than the orchids, turning their faces up in the Arboretum, and a thousand other things that these flowers are not.

There's jungle, there, birds of paradise turning out flame-tongued petals around pointed knives of vivid indigo. In among them, birds riot, a soft, humid haze falls, and vines spill over from thick, tall trees. Beyond them, the ocean is roaring, in and out, in and out, shouting and murmuring and whispering. My lips are covered with the salt of them, my nose is filled with the scent of them, and when I wake, my cheeks are stiff with weeping. I cannot tell if it's happiness or despair.

Sometimes, it is night, and the fog has rolled in, and the flowers are blooming. Sometimes it is morning, and Venus is rising over the grey and blue of the waves. Sometimes I am walking the beach. Sometimes, there is a city that insinuates fingers of concrete and rebar into my garden. Sometimes, the vines and moss spill over onto the sidewalks, slowly reclaiming the unnatural growth into the natural. Ivory vanilla flowers scents the air, their pods rattling together in a warm seaside breeze.

There are steps here, you know. They wind down in a spiral along a hill, around a great cement pillar covered with clumps of overhanging marigolds and columbine, paved in round, polished stones. Glass floats, still intact, poke up amongst them.

But when I wake up, all I can smell are the dirty clothes left over from 96 hours of restless, not-sleep, the electric smell of the routers and computers humming away in my room, the air conditioning of the apartment building. I shamble around servers and piled books and a toolchest, I trip into the bathroom over bags still packed from my July trip. I shuffle into jeans, t-shirt, workboots.

My nights are illuminated, florescent lights: the servers wink at me grimly, the routers hum along. The air handlers are howling. Shadows lurk in the exposed iron girders. The air handlers scream all night, despondent, the pager is a counterpoint, a shrieking, clownlike noise. I have been here for hours, I will be here for hours more. It is either too hot or too cold, too revved up on caffeine, not revved enough, and always dehydrated.

I dream of green, but when I'm awake, the lawns are manicured perfect, trees planted in ranks, and when I take detours for five minutes, the sight of condos brings me to tears. I, who am used to broken-down Victorians, clunky apartment buildings made from 1900s hotels, skyscrapers, churches for God's sake, rickety storefronts, a difference between one home in the next. The gardens here are expanses of regimented petunia, sculpted bushes, marigolds made orderly. Ginkgo trees lovingly tended.

I want the scent of decaying greens.

I want to smell moss, want to smell the decomposing grace of the forest floor, feel leaves and mud under my boots, want the smell of the ocean, the rush of the icemelt, the roar of the Columbia, tea on my lips, want to be on the range in the hills of the Tri-Cities with a rifle on my knee and my friends at my sides. I want the sunlight golden on my face, and so, I dream of it at dawn, at evening, at noon, turning my face up from this unreal garden to bathe in the buttery light until human voices wake me.

And in the howling of the cooling systems, in the roar of the server fans, I drown.