It’s a dream, of course: the Customs stop where you declare your goods, your self, your intentions, your history, your citizenship, your blood and bone. What are your intentions, what you seek, where you seek it, whence you come and why.
Vera looks out the window for the exit to Utopia; where do you change for that bus?
It’s real, of course. She has the canvas shopping bags with her, and the book she took out of the library; she’s propping More’s Utopia on top of three pounds of dry lentils and rice, and they had chocolate bars on sale so she bought two of those, and there’s a quarter-pound of catnip, which will provide Crabcakes with a good several months’ entertainment. Outside, the waves pound and swell throwing spray against the windows of the bus. You don’t open the windows when you’re riding the bus across the North Atlantic Highway. There’s the motorized roar and the background roar of the sea. There’s the greyed-out horizon, and the signs for the upcoming exits, Iceland coming up in a few hours and beyond that Denmark and Norway.
It’s a dream, of course, because in real life there is no highway across the empty waters, over and past the sea-roads trodden by Vikings, by slavers and by pirates who called themselves explorers. There is no road that passes over the ghost road of the Middle Passage, there is no exit for the West Indies or for Ireland.
It’s real, because the book says there is such a place. The bus slows, as the clouds clear and an improbably blue sky breaks overhead, a baroque Mediterranean heaven.
The Utopian consul steps on board to look at her papers and to ask her the purpose of her visit.
What is the answer to that question?
Because I was curious. Because I’ve been dreaming this place for years, and I think I may well hold dual citizenship. The passport is stamped in my heart, the hopes I’ve entertained for years, the motto from the Great Seal of that imaginary republic: “It doesn’t have to be like this.” For contingency will absolve us, the notion that other paths run parallel to ours, possible worlds that we might enter if only we acted differently.
The Angel of History, blown backward toward the future by the wind from heaven, turns her stone face to Vera and nods. The dark-haired woman from her recurring dream steps forward, in electric blue tunic and dark-blue drawstring trousers, her loose top belted with a tool belt. She has carpenters’ tools in there, and bonesetters’ gear.
“In Utopia,” she says, “people still fall and break things: sometimes even their hearts, but it’s bones that break, not worlds. It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s the best we can manage.”
Unlike this shoddy dystopia from which I’d like to defect, which some pretend is the best of all possible worlds. You know the joke, of course.
The Utopian consul says, “You’re one of ours.”