“This is life, kid, sometimes that dream is right in front of you, you can touch it, feel its shapes and contours, taste it, damnit, and then it vanishes,” I said to him the first time we got drunk.
On my balcony we stood, the bottle of whiskey changing hands, an old Russian rock ‘n roller howling softly from inside my more than modest apartment, his words, streaked with the glitches of an ancient compact disk player, bleeding out around us into the night. “We’re leaving, we’re leaving, a cleaner time will come,” he sang back then, when the 20th century gave way to the 21st, and I, taking another generous swig, marveled at how wrong he ended up being. We never left and things only got uglier.
“You’re a sour old bastard, Heckler,” the Kid grinned lightly, well past any professor-student formalities, “Try preaching your pessimism to them, see if it takes.”
Below us, on the complex patio, the pool teemed with activity. It was graduation season and the students from the surrounding campuses convulsed in celebration. They drank and kissed and swam, the holograms from their wrist-projectors lighting up the water, casting webs of imagery around them. The surface swirled with dolphins, sharks and clown fish, spinning in a complex dance of youth. The algorithms that governed the new projectors were a thing of beauty, automated mostly, reading the wearer’s synapse impulses and displaying any number of pre-selected images, controlled, once again, by the wearer’s slightest mood shifts, aware of other holo fields, programmed for various interactions.
I watched the blonde at the far end of the pool, a lithe creature of sleek hair and perfect form, cast forth a tangle of octopus tentacles, coiling seductively, as she drifted on her own, away from the general throng. It didn’t take long for someone to pick up the game – a sculpted young man, probably a fresh graduate from the Breakwater Business Academy, launched his gleaming hammerheads playfully into her tentacle embrace and soon the two, man and girl, were against each other, her bikini and his trunks floating away. It was a celebration of pure and carnal life and it made me sick.
“Used to have to write poems for that kind of thing,” I gurgled into the bottle.
Not one of them, all of them below us, in their twenty-odd years, with all their degrees and accolades, had ever written a single word. A single word.
“What, if they can’t form their thoughts into words on paper, does that make them lesser people?” the Kid was humouring me, I knew, throwing an old dog a bone of debate.
“Yes, it does,” I said defiantly, my face warm, “They dream and imagine, yes, but can only express it in borrowed imagery and then they begin to dream and want borrowed visions. A fucking loop. Where is the humanity in that? Words defined us, kid. Back then.”
“You’re drunk,” the Kid observed as I nodded and drank more, “And beginning to lose coherency. Dreams? Vanishing dreams? Ha. In an era of mirages, you betray your age, Heckler. But if a dream is what you want, I’ll give you one.”
He smiled at me then, took out his sketch cards, grew silent for the three minutes that his pencil flew over the paper, and drew me my dream, just as I had always seen it. It didn’t disappear, that dream on an earmarked card, years later, it came true.