When I was a kid, I used to look out across Lake Superior and

think I was looking off the end of the world. It was like the

big oar boats were out there gliding along the rim, balanced

precariously between life and death, nothing and everything;

travelers on the edge of Oblivion.

The spirit of the lake gets into you. She can be calm and

caring, or beautiful and terrifying. She is haunted. Always

has been. So many lost souls rested on the bottom of the lake

twisted up in the bones of the dead ships like the ​Edmund

Fitzgerald​. So many others pulled under for drunken stupidity

and bad luck. The undertow scared me horribly; it was like I

might be swept into it with any wrong move, all it took was just

a false step. I convinced myself that's why I never learned to

swim. Secretly, I thought the undertow was just the excuse they

gave when the lonely ghosts of the lake pulled someone else down

to join them.

I used to have a recurring dream when I was a child. In the

dream, I was a younger Ojibwe sitting in a canoe with one of my

elders. I never knew how it happened, but I always ended up in

the water and then I was falling endlessly through it. Before I

could panic, though, the point of view would change to third

person and I would just watch my body fall, silhouetted, through

endless waters. Over a decade later, I witnessed the image of

the "falling man" from the World Trade Center. They looked


When I close my eyes, the lake still rages in my mind even

from 400 miles away. It gets into you and just never lets go,

holding like a vice to the subconscious dreams and aspirations

of the affected. It's the only place I feel entirely at home;

the only place I can breathe easy and feel no stones in my

stomach. Maybe because I know it so well. At least I know if I

give it the chance, it will kill me and I know that, if I let

it, it will haunt me right down to my deepest thought.

But this is a city story, though the haunting remains. Not

of the ghost kind, but of the kind that lives behind your eyes.

The city is much more frightening. It replaces the rush and

roar with the cacophony of car alarms, the shriek of sirens, and

the ghosts of gunshots that have torn across the sky. Where the

lake promises to kill you if you don't respect it, the city

plays coy. It promises to provide you with protection against

your fellow citizens. It claims you are safe behind your

deadbolt door, then breaks the glass from your car window. It

violates you slowly and leers all the time like the perverted

uncle in ​Tommy​. The city will kill you eventually, but it will

be a slow death. Slow and hard so you feel every cell die and

every breath become more shallow, more labored.

In the film ​Blade Runner​, Rutger Hauer plays a Replicant

nearing the end of his short life. When he is dying, he gives

Harrison Ford's character this beautiful speech as the rain

pours on this futuristic city.

"All those moments will be lost in time..." ​He says. ​"Like

tears in the rain."

And so are we lost in the city. We, who quietly drown and

then are forgotten.

I know very little about what happens in the city even as I

live in it, but I know a story or two. The story I want to tell

is one of them and I only hope I get all the details right. I

sincerely do. After all, stories are made to prevent us from

getting lost in the city; to keep our voices above the swell of

the urban waves that seek only to drown us.

­Daniel Gonyea­Alexander, December 2012

Next Chapter: Chapter 1