“Do you have any dreams?” I asked. Tom looked at me like I was speaking Swahili, or some other language that he had never learned. Instead of plain American English. So, I asked again, “Do you have any dreams?”
He looked exasperated. And then he started his answer. “Yes! Everybody does. I have lots of dreams.”
So I interrupted him, and asked him point-blank, “What are they? Tell me some of them.”
It was like I’d said something that was absurdly stupid. He just shook his head, “You mean, you don’t know them?”
“Oh, I know what you call your dreams,” it was my turn to talk. To explain to him what I was really asking. Even though I knew he’d never understand. But, since I’d started the exchange of information, I figured I may as well follow through, and make an attempt to explain myself.
“You have the same dreams as ding near everyone. Don’t you?” That was my opening line. I continued. “You dream of things. A big vacation. A big pay raise. A new car. A boat. A motorcycle. That big computer that plays games really well. Your own iPad, iPod, iPhone and iMac. You want me to keep going?”
“Yes, by all means do?”
So I did. After all, he’d asked me to. “You dream of a bigger house. That 80“ TV. Being able to eat out any time you want to. Being able to buy something, just because. Like a new game for your computer. Or another app for your phone. Or another book you’ll never read.”
It was then that I stopped. “I’m right, aren’t I? These are the things you dream of. These are what your call your dreams.” He looked at me as if I was an alien from another planet. So, I figured I’d keep going. Why the hell not?
“You dream of being respected. Of being known for how good you are in your job. Of getting the recognition you deserve.” I smiled. “And I bet you have even more dreams than that. Maybe you dream of escaping from your married life, that you’ve had for years. And don’t like any more. Maybe you dream of how safe you are in your work, where you can escape from your home life every day.” I smiled at that. Because I was describing him, and damn near everyone we both knew.
“I’m betting you work here just to get paid. You don’t actually like the work. And you dream of retirement.” I wasn’t going to laugh. I was actually serious. Trying very hard to explain the question I had asked at the star our discussion.
“What do all these things have in common? Do you know?”
“No. I don’t.”
I’d known he was going to say that. I’d known he wouldn’t understand. I’d known I’d have to ask more questions. To explain. And I already knew that even then, he wouldn’t understand. Of course, I couldn’t tell him that. Any more than I could just shut up, and let everything go away. All I could do was hope that something I was going to say would stick in his soul. His heart. And that some day it would take hold. And begin to grow. On it’s own. Which would wake him up someday.
“Did you notice that they’re all things? Physical things? Like a car. A house. A job. More money. More recognition. More things. Always more things.”
“So, I have dreams of things? So what? There’s nothing wrong with that.” He had already made his mind up that I was being silly once again. And that I didn’t understand the way the world was. The way it still is.
“No. There’s nothing wrong with that. You’re just being like everyone else.” I knew saying that would put me out there on a limb. On the edge of the cliff. Outside his comfort zone. Outside the box he lived in. And I understood that being outside the box meant he would not understand at all. I was outside his safety zone. In things that simply didn’t exist to him.
“Whatever happened to the dreams you had when you were young? About changing the world? About saving the world? About doing something you wanted to do for work? About not being just like your parents? About being different? About writing. Or drawing. Or singing.” I could tell by looking at him that he didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.
“When was the last time you danced in your own home, when no one could watch you? When was the last time you put on a shirt you wanted to wear, instead of wearing business casual, or something like that?” I was on a roll. “When was the last time you did not shave, even on a Saturday?” Yep. I was on a roll. “I bet you wear a coat and tie to church every Sunday, don’t you?”
Tom just looked at me. And he shook his head. “You do know that dreams like that are for children, don’t you?”
I looked at him. and I shook my head. “No. I don’t. And I’m asking you why.” I sighed. “Tom. Why is it dreams are for children? Can you tell me that?”