I Buy Broken Dreams

A few moments ago, he had thought it was a day too late for everything.  Now the sign loomed up in his face, handwritten and simple, the tails of the y and s falling away in lethargic flourishes.  He swallowed and a tear almost made it out of his eye, but the heavy, wet air made him blink and it was gone.

Could he…should he?

Pulling his fears tighter about him like a much beloved cloak, he stepped forward and pulled aside the curtain in front of the tent.  One last glance at the sign at once stole his confidence and made him push desperately on. I buy broken dreams.

Inside the tent, the air was dry and cold, but before he had a chance to shiver, a woman’s low, melodic voice called to him.  “Marcin Banaszynski!” He took a startled step backwards, wondering how this strange person knew his name. And where was the owner of the voice?

He cast his eyes about, drinking in the purple cloth on the floor, the rich scarlet and silver tapestries hanging on the walls, the golden globe perched upon a dark table, the thick book and pile of scrolls lying next to it.  In a mist-blue velvet chair in the corner sat the woman who had spoken his name.

She was almost beautiful.  He thought she was at first, when he saw her dark hair spilling over her bare, pale shoulders, her eyes wide and blue, her mouth red and full.  But when he looked again, he saw how frighteningly thin she was, how her eyes were full of tears, and how her mouth didn’t look as if it should smile.  Her face made him want to cry.

“Marcin,” she said again, her eyes fixed upon his face.  “I’ve been waiting on you, mio caro.” Her voice was soft and sad and made him want to fall into it and suffocate in its warmth.

“You’ve been waiting?” he asked.  His voice shook. “I don’t– who are you?”

She shook her head.  “You don’t remember me.  I am Elisabetta. I’ve watched you for a long time, and I–” she faltered.  “I am sorry, mio caro. Give them to me and start again, just as you have done before.  I will be fair; I always am.”

Marcin stumbled back, almost pressing against the wall of the tent.  “Give you what?” he stammered.

“Silly boy.”  She laughed and Marcin shuddered.  He didn’t know a laugh could hold so much bitterness and pain and sound so beautiful.  “My sign. Give me your broken dreams.”

“Why would you want someone’s broken dreams?” he asked, catching at some of his common sense.  “They’re useless. They always were,” he added, half to himself.

“Never mind why.”  She lowered his eyes.  “But I will be fair. For a dream that once was beautiful, think what I can give you.  A handful of silver, a chain of gold, newfound passion, pain for the person who hurt you, a voice that knows the song of hope, and even–” she smiled her horrible, beautiful smile – “for a moment, I can make you believe that your dream could still come true.  What will it be, Marcin? Sell me your broken dreams one by one. First, your dream that died just yesterday, perhaps? Tell me again what that one was.” Her eyes on his were hungry, almost predatory.

Marcin started to feel sick.  “No,” he whispered. “I can’t–”

“Oh, but you can, mio caro,” Elisabetta insisted.  “Just tell me and I will give you your heart’s desire.”

He was shaking now.  “I want her alive!” he screamed.  “I want dozens of years with her. I want to have a daughter that looks like her and a son that she says has my eyes!  I want her back. I want her to get to live her life. Give me that!”

She didn’t even flinch.  “You wish to have a moment of belief in that dream again?  I can give you–”

“No!” he yelled.  “Please, please don’t do that.”  He doubled over on himself, trying not to think.  It would hurt too much, much too much, to believe and have to stop believing again.

She stepped towards him, her face a picture of sympathy.  “Then what do you want, mio caro?”

His voice was still shaking when he answered, from rage or pain he couldn’t tell which.  “Just let me forget. Take them all and let me forget. That’s what I want.”

“You’re sure?”  He nodded, not lifting his head.  “It is done. Go now.”

Marcin found himself stumbling out of the dry air back into the humidity of the evening.  His mind was strangely blank and muddled, and there was a strange ache at the back of his head that he couldn’t remember how he had gotten.  All he knew was that he felt a little emptier, a little lonelier, and a little more hopeless.

From the flap of her tent, Elisabetta watched him.  “He does not learn,” she murmured to herself. “He thinks forgetting part of himself will help, but it never does.  Living with pain, perhaps that is better than living without your soul. But no. His second chances will forever be worse than he what he’s running from.”

She went back inside the tent, wrote Marcin’s name in the book upon the table below four other, older copies of his name, and she sighed.  He would be back again, she knew.

3 thoughts on “I Buy Broken Dreams

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