There was a hill that we went to often. It was a few blocks west of where that first apartment was. There was a funny old train that traveled from the base of the hill to the top. The history of why it was there was imprinted on a plaque at the top and buried in books in the library another few blocks away. Tourists and the whimsical could ride it for a quarter each way. It was the shortest rail line operating in the world. It was so out of place, painted a bright red against the fading buildings, the grey of all the concrete, the exhaust which pumped out of cars by the pound hourly.
But the hill. We found it that first week while we explored and looked for work simultaneously. We entered what seemed like every shop asking if they were looking for help. It was tough. There did not seem to be any work for us. On our second day of searching, we walked farther west than usual. The uphill incline was somewhat of a deterrent, but not for long.
The grass grew thick on our hill. Chain-link fencing surrounded the perimeter of its base, with a gated cement staircase that lead us to the top. A few benches were scattered there that looked eastward, onto the buildings. Trees dropped their last pink flowers of the year on us as we sat on those benches. There was so much to see, both near and far.
Tall, worn out buildings with the names rubbed off by acid rain, time, and neglect. Billboards shouting slogans into the streets. We saw more cars than people pass us by. Some buildings had fresh paint and were bright colors. They called attention to their newness, their freshness, but there was a false cheer about them that repelled me. They made me feel as though someone would believe that they truly cared about the building, the city, because they threw a coat of paint on. I wondered what it was like inside. I wondered whether the people inside cared about more than their profits. I wondered whether they saw the empty lots and imagined trees or parks. I wondered whether they knew anyone who lived a few blocks east of where they were located. I wondered whether they thought of anything more than how much money they would make and whether they needed to upgrade their security systems.
This world is a place where people are more interested in treating symptoms than tending to prevention. The hopeless would say that it is impossible to truly get to the root and to stop a thing–a problem, and that all that one can do is react and hope for the best for the future.
Those buildings with their fresh paint and withered insides and new security cameras installed at their doors made me feel wary. Were they so afraid? And if they were, why?
I knew that they were afraid of people who were like us and not like us. Broke and living on the edge of poverty, in need of funds, perhaps a little desperate. People whose skin was a few shades darker than ours. Men who were unkempt and seemed like they might do nearly anything for a few dollars.
They didn’t see how they created those men. How greed teaches how to abandon, to forget, to become blind to the suffering. To become cold.
When I sat on that bench on that hill with Eve, I looked into the buildings and the horizon and wished for a difference. Any kind of difference that would make the colors seem less sinister, less like they were a warning to those in need. I wished for a way for us to survive in this city. I wished for the survival, the evolution, of this city.
There was nowhere the grass was softer than that hill. And when the flower petals fluttered down, and the leaves fell from the trees, there was a cleanness about that place. This city during its version of winter seemed clean. There was emptiness and quiet, or at least, the feeling of quiet, though traffic continued and life continued. There was something slower about it.
We sat on that hill together and imagined what our lives might be like in a year, or two years, or three. We pondered what the city would look like in a year, or two, or three. From the very first week, we went to that hill and spoke our dreams.
Eve was unafraid of revealing her dreams, no matter how far-fetched or romantic or idealistic they might be. There was a power to speaking them, she said. There was a power in giving voice to that which sits in our hearts. To release our dreams from the confines of our own singular bodies and minds and to allow them to float on the wind. She said she hoped that someone else’s ear would catch it, and they would share the dream with her, and it would become ever larger, the desire for fruition to become ever stronger, for the vision to grow closer to reality.
Whose dreams did we catch that brought us here? We knew that the urge to go, to wander, to drift was not new. We knew that we were far from the first who wanted to discover something in this city. What wind carried that desire from these streets into our town, so far from here? Did we catch it on a television broadcast? Was there a whisper in a movie we saw? Did we read it in a book?
We sat on the wood and wrought-iron bench and dreamed our dreams aloud, the clouds drifting overhead, autumn floating down around us. The chill was not strong, but it was enough for us to wear our coats, to keep our hands in our pockets when we were not holding onto each other.
That hill listened to so many of our dreams. I wonder whether the trees took them into their roots, spread some of them into their branches and their leaves. I wonder what dreams had fluttered down with the fallen leaves, been crunched underfoot and become a part of the earth again, seeped down into the groundwater, avoiding the underground rail and heading to the water table. Traveling through the underground lakes and finding their way to a thirsty someone’s glass. I imagined that people would start finding themselves compelled to discover this city. That people would find themselves with the urge to come to it as Eve had. That people would begin to consider the broadness of possibilities open to them.
I dreamed many dreams on that hill, but I did not speak them all to Eve. I did not give them to the hill. I smiled and listened to Eve’s imagination. I held her and joined her in her visions. My dreams were of being there with her.
We found work in a small cafe that was preparing to open, surprisingly, not far from our hotel. We worked in the evenings and so had time to walk and to dream in the streets of this city. We had time to sit on the hill in broad daylight. We had time for dreaming.
I wished for others to have as much room for dreaming as we had. I wished for others to remember their dreams as Eve did. I wished for us to go beyond wishing and for us to move toward that which is true and nourishing.
Eve and I had begun to find our way, but our dreams stretched further than the next tomorrow. So we went to that hill, and sat, and communed with our dreams.