I have weird dreams. This is one of them. With a little waking interpretation added to fill in the ever increasing blanks.
Sometimes when I sleep-if the conditions are right, I suppose–I dream of a town. I don’t recognize this town, but they say things you dream are things you’ve seen at some point (at least they’ve said that of faces) so I assume this town is perhaps just an amalgamation of places I’ve seen in real life and otherwise.
This is a dream I vaguely recognize as having had before and it’s contents are already fading fast in my memory, so I’ll try to stay as true and clear to its contents as possible. I might pepper in some of my waking ideas, perhaps.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle, it’s large and idling at an intersection of a back street and a Main Street. The lanes are cobbled and wet. In front of me stumbles a woman. I know her to be an addict of some sort, on normal days she’ll trade “favors” for whatever high she can get her shaking fingers around.
This day, however, she stumbles up to a bench, where sits one of the many she’d do a favor for, a bum and fellow addict who always seems to have something someone “needs”. She happily slurs, “Not today,” and tells him she can get what she needs. Somehow she’d earned a small income tax return (it’s probably bigger than mine, still, I think) and she already had plans. The bum pays her little mind, besides smiling congratulatory at her, and so she stumbles on, toward a seedy bar where she can find her next high to buy, instead of spending it on her three kids, whom she lost custody of a long time ago. I suppose this is probably why.
I guess the bum is unimportant to the rest of the story, we see him no more after this. He’s just a symbol of the many things this town “has to offer”. I turn away from him and look to my right. Standing in a corner office, I can see a woman, her son sitting in one of the few waiting chairs. It’s the lobby of a small jailhouse–it is a very small town–and the mother and her son are waiting. Her face has a look of mild annoyance and a little hope, his quiet anxious anticipation.
She’d saved what she could from minimum wage paychecks, what little she got back on her income tax return, and her son has contributed his life savings–his small allowance and meager earnings from doing neighborhood chores–all to establish the funds to bail her husband and his father out of jail, again.
They sit waiting for him to be released, mom has her arms crossed over her chest, purse considerably lighter on her shoulder. She taps her foot unconsciously on the floor as her son shakes his knees. Everyone is impatient and uncomfortable in these places. He’s grown up a lot over the last six months, hitting puberty and becoming a man it seems in such a short time. A bigger man, it seems, than the one they await, as the officer at the desk returns to inform them. Mom’s last straw breaks and she’s shouting, “I knew I shouldn’t have come! I knew we’ve wasted our time!” She cannot stop thinking of all the things she could have done with the money. The refrigerator was shot, the roof was leaking, her car needed new breaks, her son needed new clothes. Her son stands, he’s overshot her in height, and he holds her, and comforts her. He’s more of a man than his father will ever be, she thinks.
I watch as the man they waited for slips out the other side of the office, and onto the street from double doors that the mother and son can’t see. He walks without a second thought, also toward a seedy bar we’ve mentioned before. In the street he passes, without notice, a familiar beast.
The cat is missing an eye (in my dream it was much more gruesome), and it meows up at the man. This cat, it seems, was once the man’s, perhaps when the man was a much younger, much more responsible boy. But not much more responsible, if the cat was lost and never found. I suppose the boy didn’t care, as he doesn’t now. But the cat does. It looks up at the man as he walks by, meows, and watches after the man, his smell much older but still familiar. The cat, an animal of lower intelligence than most humans, wants for love again, wants for a warm place to sleep. But the cat is smart enough to know the man will never turn around, pick the cat up once more, and take it home. So it looks away, meows again quietly, and walks in the opposite direction.
Love is a funny thing. It’s a lovely thing but also a sad thing, an angry, hard unforgiving thing. It makes you happy, and sad, ache and dream. It breaks you and makes you.
Perhaps the stumbling woman loves her kids. But not enough.
The woman and her son love the man who walked away, they’d have to to keep taking him back with open arms. But perhaps they love themselves enough to not do it again. More than likely, he’ll ask for one more chance again. He’ll tell them he loves them, crying out for another second chance. And he will likely get it. He will, too, waste it and them. People sometimes change. Sometimes the change takes. Usually it doesn’t.
One would like to hope the cat will be rescued off the streets, find a forever home, and be loved and warm once more. Perhaps. Animals love unconditionally, even after abuse they can learn to love again. Cats aren’t cynical like people, as far as we know.
The bum, though, is still just a bum. He made bad choices, survives off the kindness of strangers and the pills he steals from their pockets. Not all bums are bad, some want a better life, a future. This bum doesn’t care. He’s just a bum. That’s all he’ll ever be.