Short Story: The Secrets of Dreaming Cities

When did it begin?

I think it was when I was a child being told it is time to go to bed.  From the bedroom the secret sounds of grown ups.  Talking.  Laughing.  Something forbidden blaring from the television.  You'd look for any excuse to know what was happening while you were supposed to sleep.  I want to go to the toilet.  I need a glass of water.  Lingering as long as you can to catch a glimpse of what happened when you weren't around.  What happened while you slept and the city continued to hum?

I lived opposite a high school with a big oval not far from the hustle of the city.  During summer I'd sneak to the front door and look at the kids running around, playing soccer, throwing frisbees, waiting for the dusk to arrive.  I wanted to be out there, running with all the kids.  I wanted to know what happened in the dark. While the people slept I wanted to know how the world continued to turn.  I wanted to know what the world dreamed when the lights were turned out.

From my window I'd watch the night people walk past my home, their silhouettes brought into focus momentarily by the street lights.  These people fascinated me.  Wasn't the dark meant to be feared?  Wasn't the dark where all the scary things lived?  Yet here were these people, these brave souls walking in the dark without a care.  I wanted to know what was out there.  When I had an opportunity to walk amongst these people I took the chance and embraced the night.

Nobody tells you how orange the world is when the sun sets.  Whether it glows with freshly fallen rain or been beaten into submission by the heat, the night reveals all in a subtle orange glow.  At least it does so in the city.  I live in a world tamed by men where the orange lights we have created show us the way back and forth, from destination to destination, all the way home.  I love the night and embrace it each time the sun sets.  It feels like the sun sets more often these days.  

I've always felt more comfortable at night.  I know the shadows hold secrets I don't want to understand.  I know the night can be a source of all that is wrong with the world.  I know you have to be alert to the dangers of the dark or it may consume you.  I love it all the same.  All my life, from my hometown to where I live today, I am beguiled by the night.  I stand on my balcony and watch the comings and goings of strangers as they wander from one place to another.  Who are they?  What do they know?  What do they conspire with the city to hide from the rest of the waking world?  

I imagine who I am at night.  I wonder if I am anything like my idea of who I hope I might be.  In my more romantic moments, when I wander the streets alone, I hope I'm just another dreamer captured in an Edward Hopper painting.  I know I am here for a short time, I'll be gone in the blink of an eye, swallowed by the dark.  I wonder if a small child has spied me walking the streets at night, wondering who I am, where I am going, guessing as they return to bed that they will one day unlock the secrets of dreaming cities.

Copyright Justin Hamilton 2017