Old Dreams

Competa Tower with MoonChurch Tower, Competa, Spain
We pass them on city streets and, if not rushing madly by, we may drop them a coin but rarely do we wonder how they got there. Even had we time to listen, would we want to know? Most of us begin life with dreams and potential and we learn how to nurture these throughout the years. But there are many paths to hell – drug abuse, mental illness, lack of education, loss of work, family disputes, marital breakdown, poor choices and just plain bad luck —  and Charlie had her feet on most of them.
I met her one evening beneath the church tower where everyone gathered at sunset for drinks, tapas and conversation. The clouds had finally lifted, the weeks of rain had ceased and the waiters buzzed from table to table to fill their orders – gambas pil pill, calamari, a glass of wine or a beer. Charlie joined our table, sitting next to me. Animated and chain smoking, her gravelly voice commanded attention and in learning I was an artist, she told me of art fairs I hadn’t heard of and places I’d never seen. Intense but intelligent she talked the talk of the privileged, of having rubbed shoulders with so and so, of her fabulous career in fashion, of the marketing themes she’d made famous, of her marriage into wealth and of her son, a brilliant and beautiful boy she’d not seen in awhile. If called to describe Charlie in one word, it would be: exhausting. She passed me a glossy business card and I was glad when she waved toward a distant table, grabbed her bag and left. She had places to go and people to see.
A year or two later, shortly after my annual return to Spain, Charlie reappeared in the village. It was cold and wet as winters often are in the mountains and rather than gathering in the plaza after a long day, people filled the little bars and restaurants. Again, Charlie plunked herself next to me. It didn’t matter that I was in conversation with someone else. With big hugs and sloppy kisses she claimed me. She was not looking good and for whatever reason, pity or curiosity, I listened. That is, I tried to listen, but there was no following her. Her nervous energy defined her, always, but this time it was as though she was plugged into a wall socket. Electricity pulsed through her big veins and with the crazed fluttering of a trapped bird, her every gesture – those wild smiles, her darting eyes, those skinny arms piercing the air – frightened me.
Her source of income had been scaled back and she’d taken a small room near the bus stop. She couldn’t afford to live in the city anymore, thus, she’d returned to the  village, a place where she’d forged a history. I didn’t know her well but I knew her well enough to know she was unhappy.   She’d not seen her son in two years or so, but she didn’t blame her ex husband or in-laws for cutting her off. As she spoke, catching remnants here and there, I wondered who she’d really been before, when all was well and the sky was the limit. I could see she’d once been good looking, although now her skin was baked dry to her bones and it was apparent that she was educated, although now her words made little sense. She’d had and realized ambitions, which now she drew from her bag of memories – disjointed tales of success and the grand and wonderful parties that had celebrated them. She’d been in love, at least once, and likely more, and left the arms of a family, a husband and a son, because she just couldn’t deal with their demands … and not because she didn’t want to. She couldn’t.

“She’s got major problems,” I said to a friend.
“Yeah!” he said, “It’s called heroine.”

The last time I saw her it was early spring, sometime in March, and although the sun shone clearly, the air bit and you needed a scarf, even under the sun of mid afternoon. Enjoying the sharp shadows of a brilliant day, I sipped my café con leche in the plaza with a friend who was visiting from Canada. It must have been Sunday for families had gathered with their children and, as always, there were tables of foreigners – people who’d either settled there or had travelled from different parts of Europe to enjoy the hiking. Casting my eyes about the plaza, a scene on the street above caught my eye: an argument, two people,  one of them still and silent while the other, a peculiar person – seemingly a woman, gesticulated wildly, wiry arms  arms stabbing the air. Some weird thing jostled on her head – a gigantic turban,  like a twisted knot of old, worn clothes. She – Charlie –  descended into the plaza and walking through the tables, she passed me and others she knew. A relief, for the moment.
One day soon after, following a long day of work (me in my studio, my friend in his office) we sat in the plaza once again under sunset skies, our shopping bags full with the makings of a meal or two. And then, Charlie – as was her way – appeared out of nowhere and sat herself down. Her turban bounced erratically with her voice. She had nothing, she said, her source of income (from her in laws) had been cut off completely and she was sleeping in doorways or the foyers of banks and other public spaces. Did I have a place to sleep? she asked – she wasn’t asking for a bed, just a bit of floor space. For a moment, I wondered – could I have her in my home and, if I did, what would that mean for the days to come? My friend, K, was palpably uncomfortable with this idea … and I was glad he was, as I was too.  Early that evening we met with others who knew her far better.   They’d declined her space in their houses as well. They’d extended their hands several times, offering to get her registered for financial assistance and finding places she could go for help with her addictions. But Charlie was beyond that. She didn’t want to conform to rules. She didn’t want to be helped. What did she want then?
She wanted her life back. But there was no way she would get anywhere near her life of the past without working toward it.  … Indeed, perhaps, her life of the past bore the seed of her problem.
In thinking about Charlie, I think about Spain and when I think about Spain – among many other things – I think of the gypsies of Malaga. Those gypsy women take great fun in trapping you as you’re walking – hoping to sell you a magic herb, or tell your fortune, all good things you want to hear .
I don’t know how Charlie’s life moved on … but I don’t think the prospects were good.
Anyway, in mulling all this, I realized that we’ve all old dreams that never panned out quite as we may have hoped. Sometimes we exceed our dreams. Other times, it’s more difficult to find our way.
And so, these words spilled. I dedicate this to Charlie and all of us who’ve looked back on our lives and wondered “what went wrong here?” or “how do I accept the loss of someone?” or “how do I get beyond those things that are missing in my life?” ———- I think almost everyone knows loss in one form or another, and that is what the following piece, Old Dreams, is about.

Old Dreams

In dusty corners buried deep
old dreams rise
from borrowed sleep
And like all beggars on this street
They raise their palms and cry
          just a dime,
of your precious time
And we’ll kiss your lies goodbye
We’ll pocket all your promises
We’ll drown your broken hearts
We’ll make a little statue
Of all your broken parts
Untie those knots
of passion
You knew weren’t yours
to keep
Pretend they never happened
We’ll put the past to sleep
We’ll fill a bottle full of hopes
never meant to be
We’ll say a pretty little prayer
And throw it out to sea
We’ll call upon the strings of time
To strum a simple tune
And if the night is clouded dark
we’ll pretend …
There is a moon
         Just a dime
of your precious time
Let us see your hand
We’ll identify your sorrows
Forgetting all those plans
We’ll walk you down your lifeline
We’ll wipe away your tears
We’ll tell you all those lovely things
Your future never hears
We’ll say it doesn’t matter
That things were left undone
We’ll pat you on the back
my friend
Never poking fun
Old dreams we are
your best of friends
We never take a chance
We know you like to dance
on clouds
We know you love romance
You know
We’ll catch you when you fall
Because that’s what we do
Your story’s safe with us
old friend
The world revolves ‘round you
It’s true that we are gypsies
We twist the hearts
of minds
You’ve left a trail of bread crumbs
We seek and so we find
All your faded treasures
Smooth upon the shore
We’ll string your secrets
‘round your neck
We’ve seen it all before
From dusty corners buried deep
We rise again
from borrowed sleep
And like all beggars on this street
We raise our palms and cry
just a dime
of your precious time
And we’ll kiss your whys goodbye

About JT Winik

A Canadian visual artist whose figurative paintings are psychological explorations of isolation, interpersonal relationships, gender analysis and female sexuality.
This entry was posted in accomplishments, character anyalysis, creativity, introspection. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Old Dreams

  1. The poem struck a chord JoAnna. Perhaps as it has caught me during a moment when I am, as they say, soul searching. I’m being quite introspective these days, reflecting on ‘old selves’ and past missions… You’ve got me thinking of my own old dreams born of the many younger me’s. Many of these “old dreams” initially present themselves as regrets…

    As I read your poem, I find myself realizing there is a comfort in these old dreams. Dreams left unfulfilled less because of time or inability, but more because newer dreams have replaced them… Like old friends, you don’t want to hurt them by admitting you’ve moved on, but thank them for the impact they’ve had on your life, your growth.

    Your poem reminded me of a visit with an old friend… maybe not a happy visit, but a worthwhile one. I’m no longer the person I was when I had those dreams, or knew that old friend. We both (the old dream and I know this). The old dream acknowledges this, and accepts it’s role, not as a regret, but rather as a friend who, along the way… helped propel me to a newer dream. – Thank you

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s beautiful, Gordon. Well put. Rather than abandoning dreams of the past, you recognize their value, having built new challenges upon their foundation. Thank you for sharing this inspiring perspective!

  2. Caroline Marshall says:

    Thank you for sending this, JT. It was good – unrushed. Caroline


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