City of Remembered Dreams

Somewhere there lies a city full of strange and beautiful people who refuse to conform to normalcy. It is the place where forgotten dreams go to be found. All the dreams and hopes that we give up out of fear, for practical reasons, or just because we’ve become too old, all of them settle into this once small village, now a thriving metropolis of music and art and magic.

The busboy, who wanted to be a rapper, tossed his dream out the window with a half smoked cigarette around 14th Street when he decided to take his uncle up on that offer to help run his shoe store. The boy had a song in his head, the last vestiges of his dream, and he hummed a little beat, but never wrote it down.

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It was the dream struggling to stay with the boy. The dream had felt itself about to be given up and latched onto the boy’s lower lip. Layer by layer it was peeled away as the skin of his dry lips stuck to the filter of his cigarette, until the dream was nothing more than a hummed melody that would haunt the boy years from now, after he’d grown into a man with a family and a mortgage and a beer gut.

The boy would drink too much, and every now and then, while he smoked himself to death one drag at a time, he’d remember that beat, the last ditch effort of his dream to become real. He’d catch a slightly similar song on the radio and be filled with a remorse that he couldn’t define. He’d try to spin rhymes for his baby daughter, only to have his wife laugh at him for the effort, mocking his dead talent. He would begin drinking heavily to forget how much he hated his job, even after he became owner of the shoe store and was able to pay off his mortgage. He’d even be miserable once he had a mistress on the other side of the city.

He would die with a pen in one hand and a drink in the other, surrounded by bottles and wads of paper, discards of his attempt to bring the beat back and recapture his dream. The cigarette dangling from his lips would catch the mountains of failed rhymes on fire, and burn him alive as he slept in an alcohol induced coma.

It would be called a tragedy, but no one would understand how truly tragic it really was.

But that was years from now. Now, his dream was little more than a tar stained smear and a bit of flesh stuck to the side of a half smoked cigarette being brutally flung from a car in a fit of determined anger. The force from the car created a wind that sucked at the butt, making the embers at the end glow in swirling dancing patterns, catching the eye of a passing hitchhiker. It was young Thomas Smalls, an ironically tall college dropout hitchhiking his way across the continent in search of inspiration.

At least tonight he wouldn’t have to beg for a smoke.

With the expert grace of someone accustomed to catching flaming remnants, the man catches the butt where the filter meets tobacco leaf and takes a drag in one fluid motion. As he inhales the tar and smoke, deep into his lungs, the dream of rap climbs into him. He feels it in the sudden bob of his head as everything around him gives him a beat to work with.

The near constant thump thump of tires over the speed bump mirrors his internal rhythm, and the electric hum and hiss of the blinking neon sign of the club where he would rap his way into bus fare awakens him to a talent for words and rhymes he never knew he had. DJ Small Tom was born, as he puffed the last of the dream deep into his soul.

Newly born, and with a pocket full of tips and cigarettes, Small Tom bought a ticket to the last city he’d ever live, the City of Remembered Dreams.

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