Red Dragon : Dreams Are For Children

“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?”


Red Dragon : Words She Spoke To Me

I remember her words.
Even now.
Eighteen months
After she spoke them
To me.
I remember them.

I remember
The frustration in her voice.
I remember
The fear that I could hear.
I remember
The silent violence
That she hid so well.

I’d asked her
What she wanted.

“I just want my life back.”

Such a simple sentence.
And so deceptive.
I misunderstood them.
Or more accurately.
I thought I understood them.

I did not.
She was very ill
At the time
She said those words
To me.

And I made the mistake
Of thinking
She spoke literally.
About wanting to be done
With all the medical procedures
She was going through.
So that she could get back
To not being worried
Any more.
About her illness.
And how it was hurting her.

I was wrong.
I misunderstood.
That what she said
Went further
Than the words she spoke.

“I want my life back.”

Such a simple thing to say.
That leaves so much
Left unsaid.

I learned,
Over time,
That while she wanted
All the problems
Her illness had brought
Into her life
To go away.

She wanted things
To be exactly
Like they’d been
Before she’d become sick
In the first place.

Where everything
Was the way
She’d wanted it.

And I learned
What that really meant.
What she really wanted
When she spoke those words
To me.

I learned she wanted
Like it had been.
That she wanted everyone
To behave the way
They always had.
That she wanted
Everyone to stop worrying
About her.
That she wanted
To be back in control
Of her life.
So that everything that happened
Every day
Was exactly
What she’d planned.

That to her,
This was what she wanted
In life.

Now, I know
There’s nothing wrong
With what she wanted.
I’ve found out
It’s what almost
Everyone wants.

I don’t.

She wanted to go back
Into the world she knew.
Into the world she’d had
Before she’d gotten sick.
Before she’d wound up feeling
Like she had no control
Of what happened to her
Every day.

She wanted to go back
To where she knew
That she was safe.

And that’s something that’s become
Very sad to me.
Very sad indeed.
For to me it’s like
A pretty fairy
With beautiful butterfly wings
Landed on the ground
And cut her own wings off.
So that she could fit
Inside a little box.

So that life had boundaries.
And rules.
And regulations.

Where everything was known.
And nothing surprising
Ever happened

It’s so very much the same
As the people I saw
In a dream that I had once.
Of a huge cavern.
In the total dark.
With people standing still.
Afraid to move
From where they were.

For those people
Couldn’t see
Where they were going.
So they stayed put.
Where they were familiar
With everything around themselves.
Where they could pretend
That they were safe.

Until something from outside
The little space they lived in
Came inside that space,
And struck at them.

And not one of them
Ever saw it coming.
Not one of them
Knew what to do
When such a thing
Struck them.

And I realized
She had never understood
What to do,
How to react
To having gotten sick.
And to the changes
That would bring
Into her life.

“I want my life back.”
That was what she said to me.

And now I know
That she’s still there.
Standing in one space.
In that cold, dark cavern.
Where an evil dragon lives.
Because she thinks
She’s safe.

And because she can’t see
What’s around her.
She won’t move.
She’ll stay where she is.
Until the dragon
Once again
Sinks it’s teeth in her.

I wish that she could understand.
That she could see the things
That I see
Every day.

For I got up one day.
And I walked out
Of that cold dark place.
Into the light of day.

And now I know
The truth.
About how things are.
And the game
The Red Dragon plays.

I’d try to explain it to you.
But you wouldn’t understand.
Because I’ve found
That too many people
In this world
I never made
Are just like her.

That they choose
To stay within
Their own little space.
Where they think
They’re safe.

If only they could understand
The truth.

“I want my life back.”
That was what she said.
I hope she’s happy
In her little space.
In that cold,

And I hope
That the Red Dragon
Leaves her alone.
At least for a while.
Although I know it won’t.

And that’s just very sad
To me.

Tales From The Red Dragon : Ron’s Screwed Up Day

“Ron, what’s wrong with you today?” I had to ask. I mean, Ron just wasn’t his usual self that day. He’d been screwed up all day. He’d been late to work. Ron was never late. He’d accidentally deleted half of a document he was working on. And it wasn’t backed up. He sent an e-mail to the wrong person. Twice. He hung up the phone on someone when he tried to transfer a call. I could keep listing things that had just gone wrong that day. But what would be the point. Ron knew he was having a bad day.

“Everything!” Ron’s answer echoed through the room. “Everything’s wrong!”

“Ron!” I looked at him as I spoke. “Hey. Slow down. Slow down. Start at the beginning.”

Ron seemed to sink into his chair. He seemed to get smaller. As if he was deflating. He just shook his head. “Man, I knew this was going to be a rough day. I knew it.”

I pulled a chair up to his desk, and sat down facing him. “So, how did you know?”

He shook his head. “Started when the alarm did not go off. Because the power went out last night. That stook the clock out. And it restarted when the power came back on.”

I smiled, politely. And then I said, “It happens. You know that. It’s rare. But it does happen. I take it you didn’t set your phone as a back up?”

“Nope. The phone’s battery was too low. I had to hook it to the charger this morning. Couldn’t do that last night. She had her phone hooked up to it.” It was a frustrating thing to Ron. I could see how it frustrated him.

“Ron, like I said. Sometimes, it just happens.”

He shook his head. Again. “I know. I know it happens. But that was just one thing. Everything else has been screwed up all day. Everything.”

I prepared to listen to his tale of woe. I knew it was coming. It was part of what I did, you know. Listening to people. Came with the job. Fell under the topic of team management. Holding the team together.

“She was late too. And that meant I had to drop everything and help her. So I got an even later start. But I got her ready. Got her lunch packed for her. Got the car de-iced. Got it turned on.” He looked so upset. As if everything had gone wrong this morning.

“You’re a good guy, Ron. Helping her like you did. You now that.”

“Yeah. I know.” Then he continued on. “But I got an even later start because of that. I didn’t get to fix my breakfast. Only had time for a soda. Then I forgot my lunch, ‘cause I was so rushed. And I got pulled for running a stop light.”

I smiled, kindly, “Got caught, did you? Well. That happens too.”

“I know. But why did it have to happen today when I was running late?” There was no answer for him, of course. So I just kept listening. “Of course I was late getting here.” He looked at his desk. “I missed the morning meeting. Had no idea what was going on as a result. Didn’t know I was supposed to make the phone call to Tom, and get an update from him. So I got hammered for that.”

His frustration was slowly surfacing. Which was a good thing. “Then, I had to run out to McDonald’s for lunch. ‘Cause I didn’t have a lunch with me. And the afternoon’s been awful. Been trying to catch up all day.”

“Ron. It’s OK.” I needed to be calm. To let him know that it was OK to have a bad day now and then. They happen. “It’s just one day. Things’ll go better tomorrow, you now.”

“Yeah. I now.”

I told him to hang in, and that I appreciated his effort every day.

Ron was like everyone else on the program. Fine as long as nothing out of the ordinary happened. Ron didn’t react well to chaos. Or to change. Hell, it’d been awful for him when the company had been bought out in a merger. The job hadn’t even changed. No one moved. Everything stayed exactly like it had been. Only the name of the company changed. And it took Ron weeks to accept that.

He liked to have the same schedule every day. Get to work at the same time. Go to lunch at the same time. Finish his work day at the same time. I figured he probably was the same way at home. Get up at the same time every day. Follow the same routine every morning before work. Get home at the same time every day. Eat dinner at the same time. Watch the same TV shows he watched ever week. Go to bed at the same time.

It was like, if anything changed on one day, it just screwed him up the whole day long. I did have to wonder about him. I did have to hope that his days stayed the same. I wasn’t sure he’d be able to deal with it if things changed on him. Like they had that day.

I gotta admit it was kinda funny, too. To see how Ron came apart at the seems whenever there was an unexpected event in his work day. You know what I mean. Didn’t take much. But it always set him off.