As a mediator between the World of the Living, and the shattered dreams that pervaded the Earth, I have a duty to everyday go out of my room and collect shattered dreams. Sometimes on odd days, I would sit down, and partake in something that wouldn’t exactly garner a shattered dream, but would satisfy a strange urge that would erupt from me. I didn’t know if I would call it curiosity. Perhaps it was only that, just plain curiosity, the need for me to want to know the humans I served. Was that so wrong of me to think? I don’t know. I called it a hobby. Maybe it was just a hobby to me. Talking to others. What a strange hobby, right? Was it strange? I don’t know, I’m not human.
“You know, people don’t usually go up to strangers to talk,” Reed said as he got up from his bench and began playing with his cigarette, balancing it between his fingers.
“It’s not something most people would expect,” he continued, “most people would leave strangers alone, they would want absolutely nothing to do with them. And yet, here we are. Funny how these things work.” Reed wanted to belong. That was his shattered dream.
“Well, what do you usually do?” I asked. He lowered himself in front of a small flower bed, crushing his cigarette beneath his feet and began brushing one of the petals.
“This,” he said with a firm conviction, “I usually do this–” he chuckled, “not the most interesting thing to be doing, I know. Sorry to disappoint.” He then got up and shrugged. He wanted for everyone to know about him. In his dream, he was smiling among friends, smiling among those who were affected by whatever it was he did. People praised him, found his work to be inspiring. He was, without a doubt, someone in this world whose name would stir attention. And in his dream, he was uncontrollably happy. He was clean cut, someone of appearance. That person now, seemed not to have changed clothes in a week’s time, had a gruff voice, and, enjoyed going to the city’s park to look at flowers. I wasn’t judging, but it was a far cry from his dream.
“It’s a quiet life, I respect that.” He chuckled at my quip. The air around us was swirling in nature, the nature of the city.
“It’s a change of pace for sure, don’t know if it suits me. But, I guess it’s nice.”
“If it doesn’t suit you, you could change it.”
“Change my way of life?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out another cigarette. He pointed it my way, “Want one?” I shook my head. Not that I could contract a human disease or be prone to cancers, but, I had no desire to smoke, among most things.
“I wish I could. But, this is all you’re ever going to know. From here on out, I’m just going to live my life as that one dude who likes going to the park. Nothing more nothing less. Funny how these things work. What about you?”
“What about me?” He gave me a curious look.
“I’m sure you’re life isn’t all about stalking people–”
“Not stalking.” He shrugged backwards with both his arms up and his cigarette unlit in his mouth.
“Whatever you say,” he added, “but, you know what I mean.” I did, but, I didn’t know how to answer. That was my life, essentially.
“I guess I figure people out.”
“You figure people out?” It wasn’t too much of a lie. In fact, it was something this world is known for. Social workers, right? Something like that. I rode with that lie.
“I’m a social worker,” I added, “I do counseling.” Then, Reed’s eyes shot open, and he began nodding his head in succession.
“A social worker? Like a counselor? Like a psychologist, is it? Oh yeah? Who sent you? Was it mom? Dad? Maybe it was my old boss, did he think I was going insane? Did he think I was going insane after I took some time off? Am I insane?” He might very well be, I began to think that.
“So what is it? Summer, was it? Is that even your real name? Is that your M.O? You like doing this huh?” He began pacing in circles, his cigarette still unlit, his voice rising.
“Come on out, the amazing social worker who saved this poor sap’s life after giving him advice so he wouldn’t put a bullet between his eyes, give him a round of applause people.” He then leaned over, his cigarette nearly falling off, but still somehow dangling in his mouth. His breath was full of nicotine and caffeine.
“Well what is it? You come all this way and have your cover blown and you’re just going to sit there and look pretty?” He called me pretty. That was a compliment, right?
“Yeah, talk to strangers much? What world do you think I live in!?” He then retracted, his breath stabilizing, and, his cigarette still unlit. He took a few deep breaths, and lowered his face. I wasn’t very much attuned to his behavior, but I understood that he had just finished a diatribe fueled by a misunderstanding. It wasn’t that I couldn’t get mad myself, or sad, or happy, just that I could calmly take his abuse as I knew that his claims were quite baseless. But, I still felt guilty, and a part of me still felt bad for his yelling.
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” I said, “I really did just want to talk, to someone. It didn’t have to be you, it could have been anyone else. It just so happened to be you, but, I’m not here because someone sent me here. Quite the opposite.” Humans were quick to make judgments, quick to make conclusions, and quick to jump the gun. And so, I could forgive him, but, it wasn’t my forgiveness that mattered. He looked up, and turned towards me. His eyes bore into me again, like in the coffee shop, they were completely focused on me, an unwavering will. I think, I began to understand him a little more with his eyes.
“It sounds strange,” I continued, as he looked at me, “I understand. But, there are people here that aren’t out to get you like that. I really did just pass by, and I really was just walking when I saw you. I don’t know how I can convince you otherwise, but, that’s the truth.” It was the truth for what Reed was concerned with, but, I couldn’t guess how he would interpret that. I didn’t have any bad intentions. I wasn’t trying to pull one over on him, or to set him wrong. But, thinking that to myself was useless. This was the real world, and he was a tried adult, someone who’s been through experiences a human would. I wouldn’t blame him for distrusting me. Not at all.
“You were clearly following me from back in the coffee shop,” he started, “and, if you just so happened to want to go to the park as well, then, perhaps you weren’t following me. Didn’t seem so either, you were picking something up from the trash can, seemed like marbles when I turned to look. But, let’s say you just so happened to walk here, find me, and you actually wanted to talk to me. No strings attached. Funny how these things work. If that was the case, why? Why do you do that? To anyone?” I found it odd that I had been the only one sitting, and so, I stood up as well. I walked over to the rock in the middle, which had an engraving of a man’s name etched onto a plate, and, answered.
“Would it be strange to call it a hobby?” In all honesty, I just wanted someone else’s opinion.
“A hobby? Well, that definitely would be the strangest hobby, but…Really?” He seemed to have mellowed out. His anger fading from him, and his cigarette still unlit. He wanted to belong. A dream to belong.
“Just like you want to sit around in a park as your life, I go out and talk to people.”
“Because you’re a social worker?”
“Exactly. Not that strange, now is it?” He laughed.
“The truth is,” he suddenly started as the winds came in, “there’s no way my mom or my dad, or even my boss would have sent anyone after me. No, if they thought I was crazy, well, they’d have done so a lot sooner. Plus, no way they’d know I’m just out here messing about. I just kind of lashed out, you know? Sorry about that. Funny how these things work.” Somewhere in the distance, I began to hear the cars again.
“You know, today just isn’t my day. I’m going to go now, after all that I’m sure you probably aren’t up for chatting with me. I’ve always been just a tad bit aggressive against strangers. Must be the way the world’s raised me.” He rolled his eyes and sighed, “Thanks for talking, at least, whatever that was, it was… Well, it was still nice. Funny how these things work.” His eyes were downcast, the life of him drained. He began walking away, and, it should have ended there. I should have went about my day to collect more shattered dreams, but, I couldn’t. I wasn’t finished with Reed. I knew his shattered dream, but, I wanted him to say it. For some reason, I wanted him to smile for me, to reconcile with what he had just been through. I didn’t want him to reconnect with his past, but, I don’t know, I just couldn’t let him leave like that. His shattered dream, a pendant with an infinite loop, a dream to belong. I really did just want to talk to him, to see to it that his problem came to a proper conclusion. I had no failsafe for my lack of tact. I came to realize this.
“Say, are you free today?” I said as I caught up to Reed. He stopped, then chuckled.
“You sure are persistent. And, I think asking why might not satisfy any sort of answer. You really want to talk?” His cigarette was now lit.
“I mean, unless you have something you need to do,” I started, “I’m just on a break, I can spare the time. You seemed like you were doing fine with the whole talking spiel before. Why not humor me?”
“Considering you haven’t robbed me, stabbed me, or killed me. Considering you’re not out here to insist on getting mental help, and considering you seem unsettlingly honest, I guess I don’t have a choice. ”
“Excellent. Why don’t you lead. Anywhere you want to go.” He chuckled, took his cigarette, and crushed it under his feet.
“Well, it’s not like I have anywhere I want to go. But, there is something happening this afternoon. It’s not that big, but, it’s something at least.” He seemed happy mentioning it, a smile slivered on his face, and his gait seemed to grow irregular.
“I’m fine with anything, try me.” He looked at me and shrugged.
“You really are strange, huh? I guess, I should have learned by now. Any person looking to strike a casual conversation as honestly as you do can’t be someone I can predict. Come on, let’s go. Funny how these things work.” I was daftly interested in his life, slowly, but gradually, I wanted to know more on my own volition. It was happening again, that strange feeling inside me, curiosity? I don’t know, I just wanted to know, and to talk, and to be… Human. Was that so wrong of me?