I’d never had a dream myself. That is to say, I’ve never had a dream while sleeping, nor carried a dream ready to be shattered. The first one, well, when I sleep, things just seem to stop. The world around me, that is to say, the room I live in, stops moving, and, as strange as it sounds, I awake according to human circadian rhythms. And, I’ve never had a dream of my own to be shattered, nor do I have much desire, to be aggrandized to the point where it can be shattered. With that, I firmly say I haven’t had a dream. Though, it might be nice to dream. I wonder how that felt, to dream, and to have that dream crumble. And, I wonder how it might feel picking myself back up, and dreaming all over again. Isn’t that an essential part of being human? To dream? No matter how small or big, everyone should dream, and, even if it shatters, they should be assured that I’ll be there to pick up the shards.
I didn’t know the lay of the city, and so, I let Reed do all the leading. Even when he was walking, he still seemed to be a few seconds away from breaking away. He was just that relaxed. His hands remained in his pockets for the entire time as if they were glued there and, his face showed no sign of emotion. Eventually, he would lead me to a mall, one of the biggest of the city, I presumed.
“Go shopping much?” He asked as we entered.
“Not really, no.” I wonder how that felt, buying things. I should try it sometime.
“Didn’t peg you as much either, guess I was right about one thing at least.” The air of the mall was filled with people, and it was crowded in noise, unbelievably so that I was taken aback for a few moments. This was a treasure cave of shattered dreams, but as it were, I had an appointment with Reed, and so, I had to stick to my word, though, I noted that the next time I visited a city that I find my way to a shopping mall.
“You said you’re a social worker right?” Reed asked as we began weaving our way through the crowds and shops with transparent glass windows displaying an assortment of goods.
“Yeah, I am,” I lied, but, it was pretty close.
“Was that something you always wanted to do?” I thought about his question. I didn’t know much about my upbringing, but, it had happened. That much, I knew for a fact.
“I don’t think that’s accurate. It’s more like a duty, I don’t know if I want it.”
“It’s your duty to be a social worker?”
“The same way it can be your duty to protect the country,” I had learned that one from a veteran in another place. He was quite proud of his heritage, and yet, disheartened by having to fight.
“That’s quite the endeavor, miss social worker.”
“Summer.” He chuckled at my quip.
“Your duty to be a social worker– Social worker aside, doesn’t it get tiring?” Reed was fingering something in his pocket, what I assumed to be his lighter and pack of cigarettes, but, he didn’t make a show to bring them out. I believed the mall had such a policy.
“You know, doing the same thing over and over, it doesn’t get repetitive for you?” I’d never thought of it like that. It’s always been my duty, always been my life. If that was repetitive, then it was tantamount to saying my life was repetitive. I found that statement quite humorous. In that case, every life, everywhere, is repetitive. Doesn’t sound that right.
“I can’t see it every becoming repetitive. It’s just something I do.”
“That’s an awfully optimistic way of looking at it.”
“Is it?” He chuckled, and turned a corner. The crowds were incredible.
“Yeah, I mean, say my job was to push papers down a mill every day–”
“Push papers down a mill?” The concept eluded me.
“A paper shredder.”
“A paper shredder?” This as well.
“Okay, let’s say I work at a desk all day.”
“Work at a desk?” Like mine?
“Let’s say my job was to collect everyone’s mail and deliver it to them, every single day, doing the same thing.”
“After a while, I’d eventually find myself in a loop. You know, of doing the same thing over and over, and I’d feel tired from the repetition.”
“Because you’d be bored?”
“Exactly. Most jobs are like that, right?” I couldn’t relate, but I could see his point.
“Working with people is a tad bit different, I admit,” he continued, “but, you start seeing patterns, don’t you?”
“I’m not out here to make any assumptions, but, we eventually hit a dearth of issues, don’t we?” I couldn’t quite agree with him, but, as we continued to weave our way through the crowds of people, the words I wanted to speak became lost. Reed seemed to be a natural at avoiding others, not scoffing or stopping for anyone and the way he made his way through the mall seemed like an intricate dance.
“I don’t know. It’s not like I’ve met every since person in the world,” I answered.
“Still, this world is full of limits, right? I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d eventually hear every case there is. Wouldn’t that be something? You’d have a precedent for everything. Isn’t that what law is all about? Precedent? I’d see it working here as well. Don’t you?” Reed brought about an interesting point, but, we were two different beings all together. And so, I couldn’t come to fully agree with him. I couldn’t predict what someone’s shattered dream would bring, nor, could I even have precedent for any one shattered dream. Every dream was unique, its own because it was produced, and, that’s what made doing my duty so different every day. I may not have went to every person, learned every story, but, I was never bored of these dreams. How could I be? I shook my head, but, I knew he couldn’t see.
“And besides,” he continued, “all things must come to an end, even if your job isn’t repetitive, even if you like your job, even if you have everything you’ve ever wanted. It’ll end someday.”
“I can at least agree with that,” he laughed and shrugged.
“That’s something no one can ever deny, I hope.”
“And,” he continued as he turned another corner, the crowd slowly beginning to thin.
“I guess, if there is such an ending wrapped in destiny for all of us, I’d at least want my job not to be repetitive. I’d fight not to believe that there are limits in this world.”
“It’d make the ending all the less sad?”
“It’s be a bit more sad, but at least the journey would have been worth it, right?”
“I see what you mean.”
“Funny how these things work. I can say it so easily now, but it isn’t easy doing it out there, in the real world, right?”
“Not unless you try.”
“Trust me, I’ve tried.” He was probably talking about his shattered dream, or so, I thought.
“Many people have tried, actually. Though, I can’t speak for all of them,” he added as he coughed, and then turned another corner. The crowds thinned, but, in the distance, among the chatter and rhythm of feet, were a sweet melody being distributed across the stores and glass and, eventually, to the air around us.
“It’s a hard world out there Summer, though I think you know all about it, you work with people, right? What better representation of the world than to look at its people. Though, with your mannerisms, I’d beg to differ. Funny how that works.”
“There are sad people out there, but, among them, is undeniably a sleuth of people who are content with their lives. And then, there are people who, after becoming indescribably sad–” those who’ve had their dreams shattered, “become happy, and hopeful for the future. And there are also people who just want to talk sometime.”
“There are all kinds of people in this world, then,” Reed added, “but only one kind of ending we share.”
“I’m an optimist, and, you’re, somehow, a pessimist.”
“Somehow?” The sounds of rhythm were growing louder. It was the sound of music, the sound of the piano, the sound of the sky.
“Well, with the way you handle yourself, I’d peg you more as a… Well, more of a, neutralist.”
“You don’t… You know, you don’t really have–” Reed turned, for the first time, and tilted his head in confusion.
“I guess you don’t look the part to really care for these things, is what I’m trying to say.” Then, he nodded.
“Surprisingly, I get that a lot.” We continued to walk, until we saw a crowd converge around a stage. Upon the stage was a grand piano, and a backdrop of music notes. On the seat was a woman who looked much younger than Reed, but not young enough that she’d need her parents to go to a mall.
“This isn’t some big concert or anything,” Reed began, “but someone I know is playing today. They’ve got signups for a week in advance for these things, and usually these charity concerts don’t attract much attention, but, today’s a pretty good day, right? Funny how these things work.” The crowd certainly was big, and, the people that consisted of it all seemed entranced by the playing. It wasn’t that I could hear music, but, I couldn’t discern what was objectively good or not. Instead, the sounds reminded me of different aspects of the world. Some sounds felt like the sky, and others, the ocean.
“So you did have something to do today.” He chuckled.
“Yeah, well, you were the one who reminded me.”
“Reminded you?” Before he answered, as the pianist’s switched, he began to beam with energy. I didn’t think his face could contract the muscles it did. He was smiling, genuinely, and he pointed at the woman on stage.
“There she is! That’s my little sister. She wants to be a pianist, so, this is a big day for her.” Her sister looked nothing like the brother in front of me. In fact, she was so well kept, in such a nice dress, that I wondered if he wasn’t lying to me. But I knew he wasn’t, their eyes were too similar.
“Has she been playing long?” Suddenly, I was curious.
“Five years now, actually. She’s grown so fast in so little. Funny story, I was the one who started playing piano, but I dropped out pretty quickly. She picked up my pieces, and, look where she is now. Funny how these things work.” I couldn’t understand the music she played. But, it reminded me of the moon, and, of summer, and, of winter.
“Isn’t it lovely?”
“It reminds me of the moon,” I started, “and of the seasons.” He chuckled.
“Yeah, I like that, you a music buff?”
“Not at all.”
“It almost seems too unreal. Seeing her on the stage, with all those eyes on her. I’m so proud, but–” But?
“But,” he repeated, and continued, “a certain part of me is jealous. Is that wrong?”
“You’re jealous? Of her success? Of her ability? Or, of the eyes?” Reed stopped, the music swirled around us. That was it. He knew. And, I saw his shattered dream, so I knew. The music changed, Reed’s sister was on another song.
“It isn’t so wrong,” I continued, “I don’t think it’s wrong at all. We all get jealous.”
“Even if it’s my own family?” I had no concept of family. So, I spoke as is.
“Even if it is. It’s fine. But, you shouldn’t hold grudges with that jealously,” then, I spoke, from what I knew, from all the things I’ve experienced, from all the emotions and curiosity I’ve garnered, “you should use it to push you forward, not to push you back and try to spite someone. Jealously can be a great tool for progress. Jealously, after all, can be interpreted as competition.”
“I’ve never thought of it like that.”
“It’s something to think about. I don’t think it’s right to hold grudges on family–” not that I knew, “nor, should you resent them or feel bad because you want something from family. If they have something you want, just like anyone else, you should fight for it, right? But, at the end of the day, make sure you’re fighting for all the right reasons, and that you’re with all the right people. In the end, your sister, is still your sister, piano star or not, right?” He nodded and chuckled, then sighed. His face was smiling, looking at his sister play, he was smiling uncontrollably. Even if he was jealous, he couldn’t lie.
“Also,” I continued, “about what you said before, about me reminding you?”
“Oh. That, well, I wasn’t actually planning to go, to hear and see her play. No, not at all. Actually, I kind of zoned it out.”
“Zoned it out?” Memory has never been a problem for me. Or, at least, I have no knowledge of it ever being a problem. If I were to continue, I’d hit a paradox.
“She told me a week in advance about her playing, but, the closer it got, the less I wanted to go. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time, I just–I just didn’t want to– I guess I didn’t want to face the truth.” He didn’t need to say anymore, nor did I understand him any better due to the tacit in the air, but, I could garner which day it was that he finally broke. After all, it was the same day his dream had shattered, and that he had come to terms with himself.
“But, you came anyway?”
“Like I said, you reminded me.”
“To give things a chance.” I smiled, I couldn’t help it, and, so did he. Once his sister was done playing, I was sure that Reed was going to leave, but, instead, he remained there, listening and watching every person who came after. I had felt that his story with me was just about over, and so, as I was about to leave, I said, “I better go.”
“Oh? And now you have somewhere you want to go?”
“Unfortunately, I do. Even I have a leverage on my time, but, thanks for talking, Reed.”
“No. Pleasures all mine. Thank you for choosing me on this strange day. And, thanks for putting up with me.”
“You know what you’re going to do after this?”
“Me? Well, I might go back to that park, take another smoke, and, wait until tomorrow.”
“So I have enough time to find something new to do with all this free time.”
“Can’t do that today?”
“Today’s packed. I went to the park, I listened to my sister’s concert, after this, I might even go say hello, hang a bit, then I’ll go back home, maybe take a nap, crack open a book. Today’s a packed day.” I smiled again.
“And,” he added, “I guess I did get to talk to a stranger too. That took a huge chunk of my time.” He smiled.
“But,” he started with a wistful look in his eyes, “I’ll probably still be at that park tomorrow, by myself, just lounging about with no eyes or attention to me. And, I’ll probably be fine with that.”
“Still going to remain a pessimist?” He shrugged, his hands still in his pockets, and, I turned to leave. It wasn’t that we did anything particularly big. I didn’t help him solve his problems, I didn’t mend his broken spirit or pick him back up on his feet. All I did was talk to him because I wanted to talk to him. It just so happened that I knew his shattered dream, and it just so happened that when a dream is shattered, people might be inclined to be a little down. It just so happened, that I was interested in his story, in the way he focused on me in the coffee shop, in the way he wanted someone to notice him as much as he noticed me. I wouldn’t know the outcome of Reed’s story, about whether his new dreams would come to fruition, or if he would come to take back his shattered dream, his dream to belong. But, I’d carry it for him, until he’s ready. That’s my job. That was my day.