"Can I interest ya in anyfing, friend?"
The little guy approaching me had the largest grin on his small features; his eyes, nose and ears faded out of focus, just leaving this big friendly smile hanging in space. Like the Cheshire Cat from "Alice In Wonderland", but I didn't think such a thing existed out of a book. This gentleman brought up the possibility that perhaps Lewis Carroll had taken his ideas from life!
With a conspiratorial smile; "I'm sure I have somefing ya'd like, friend. I've got somefing for everyone. Ya look a little blue, ya need somefing to cheer ya up?"
OK, I wasn't as sparkly as I could have been, true, but it wasn't THAT bad. I looked at the little man suspiciously. "Are you some sort of drug dealer? I'm not into that scene, thanks," I retorted to his persistence.
"No, no, no, friend! You got it ALL wrong! I ain't no drug dealer! What I got won't fry your brain or nuffin. Not illegal, not going to hurt you one bit! Good stuff, you'll like it, better'n drugs, friend. Ain't never had a unsatisfied customer yet. Tellya what. I'll give ya a free, no-obligation-to-buy sample - can't do better'n that, can I, friend? Ya interested?"
Drawing breath to answer, the little salesman (possible drug dealer) went back into his spiel. I guess the question was rhetorical. "I'm not one of dose hard sellers, I'm not pushy. Hey, I don't even NEED to sell these liddle bewdies, they SELL THEMSELVES!"
(If he wasn't a hard-selling, pushy salesman, he was an extremely good actor.)
He proffered a blue glass vial from under his trenchcoat. (He reminded me of those shady guys in the darker areas of the city with their "guaranteed authentic" designer gold wristwatches ...) Unstopping the small bottle, holding out the open end towards me, he theatrically mimed a sniff while not relinquishing the vial from his tight grip.
I wondered what I was getting into - having suspicious guys getting me to sniff something from strange bottles on the side of the street - but I was curious, perhaps far too curious for my own good. I've always had a need to risk myself slightly, take up the gauntlet of adventure.
Inhaling carefully (stupidly?) from this grinning peddlar's goods I was unprepared for what came next. An explosion of love blossomed in my soul. I felt true romance, deep and real love burning through me. I knew what it was, I had been lucky enough to experience it, however fleetingly.
This couldn't be any drug. No drug could be as real as that. I craved more; he was right, it was better than any drug that could be imagined.
Abruptly this beautiful experience was over. He'd slammed the vial's stopper shut with a snap. I crashed pretty heavily. I felt how icy the world was without that warm glow of love pulsing within me. After I'd recovered somewhat I had a few burning questions of this dream merchant. "What the hell was that?" Where did you get it?"
His smile, (ever-present, of course) turned crooked. "Whatya think it was?"
There was only one answer to that. "Well, love. Pure, real love. As if someone distilled it into an essence, concentrated it and put it in that bottle."
I didn't think his smile could get any wider, but it did. "Got it in one, friend! Got it in one. Dat's exactly what it is. How I got it, well, dat's a trade secret, ya know. I want ya as a customer, not competition!" His bark of a laugh demonstrated his levity.
I was still curious. "OK, spare me the mechanics of your secret process, but where do you get love from?"
His eyes turned flat at my latest inquiry, although his grin was unmovable. "Glad ya asked dat question." (I knew he wasn't, he was lying through his large, horse-like teeth.) "We get love from people just like yourself. I'm a trader of sorts."
(Oh, really? I hadn't noticed.)
"Now, let's talk bizness. Ya know what I got, I KNOW dat you want it, what would ya pay? Fine, top-of-the-range love, the GOOD STUFF. Pricey, but can't be beat, ya gotta agree, friend."
I was getting a strange vibe from this guy. How the hell was he trading in love? How was in physically possible? How could you yank love out of someone? And why would anyone sell a feeling so wonderful?
"Look, I don't know whether such love is in my price range, last check I wasn't independently wealthy ..." I patted my pockets meaningfully.
His grin didn't alter. That damn constant smiling was starting to irk the hell out of me. "No problem. Perhaps ya in the market for somefing else? You into action? Got some prime excitement here for ya. Seat-of-the-pants, hair-raising stuff. Make sure ya take it in SMALL doses, kay? What about fear? Ya like scary movies? Got pure unadulterated terror here for ya, chilling in a MAJOR way, know what I mean? Ya liked the love, everyone does, how about affection? Not as potent, 'course, but cheaper and some say it's JUST as good!"
I hated admitting it to this total stranger, but he wouldn't quit bugging me otherwise. "Look, man, I'm broke. I haven't got a red cent. I can't buy anything from you. Your products are very cool, but I can't afford anything."
Again, his grin didn't even TWITCH! What was WITH this guy? The quintessential salesman, persistent in the extreme, hanging onto a possible customer like a shark clenching onto prey.
"Still no problem, friend. Any feelings ya'd like to sell? We can barter for somefing ... perhaps ya want to unload some anger? Punks from middle-class backgrounds swap me contentment for rage, sweet deal for me, ya know? Sadness sells well to da morbid Goth types, know ya a little blue, sell me some of that and I'll see what I can do for ya. Apathy? Generally get dat stuff from Generation Xers and I sell it to poseur types trying to BE Gen Xers! Gotta love it, know what dey say about imitation being da sincerest form of flattery!" The bark/laugh erupts again.
"Whatever ya got, friend, I can find a market for it. C'mon, let's make a DEAL!"
I wasn't fully reeled in yet. "What did the person who traded in that love get from you? Must have been pretty damn special to give up something that beautiful."
The peddler's smile was still strong, but his eyes had a hunted look. "Well, dat was really nice love and all, really sweet, but somefing happened and brought da customer a lotta anguish and depression. Dey lost dat person dey loved so much. I had to take both feelings out, dey were intrinsically linked anyway. Took 'em back home, separated dem and we now have dat glorious elixir dat ya sampled, and enjoyed, I might add. Everybody wins wid my deals, friend."
I felt sick to the stomach. "What happened to that person, the lover who lost their love, the one with the love and agony mixed together? How does that individual feel now?"
He looked even cagier still, I think I saw the smile fade a little. "Well, now they don't feel anything about their love, or da pain dey felt losing dat love. To keep da love would have kept da pain. I did them a favour. Dey're no longer in any pain. Hey, I might be a biznessman, but dat doesn't mean I can't be a nice guy too, does it?"
"Nice? You MONSTER! You steal the most intense moments of people's lives and sell them off to the highest bidder. You have the NERVE to think that you're some friendly public service to the afflicted? You are a thief of the lowest kind. At least the pickpocket only takes your money, he doesn't walk off with your soul." Bursting with rage at this stealer of souls, I bristled with fury, my face twisted savage.
Again the smile didn't slip but I saw fear growing in his eyes. "Tell ya what, I'll give ya a good price on dat anger - premium amount, right here and now ..." I didn't stop my advance. "OK, let's make a deal - I'll swap ya anger for dat love that you liked, hmmm? Can't do ya a better deal dan dat, can I?"
For him to remind me of the Faustian bargain he had made with that now narcotized soul just increased my fury. Picking up his slight form up, I slammed him into the nearest wall.
He was more surprised than hurt; I'm not that strong. A hissing like a pit of serpents welled out from him. He was madly attempting to get his trenchcoat off, stumbling blindly with the thing over his head. I stood well away, unknowing of the exact effect, but not game to try. What would happen to someone inhaling such a myriad storm of emotions? I could see the variegated hues enfolding his struggling form.
At one moment we were both frozen in time: our eyes locked. I saw such pain and terror within the eyes of the dealer, the maelstrom awash within his eyes. All those different emotions chasing one another in that tortured gaze. Such suffering I had never seen ever in any human being, and I knew I was responsible for his torment.
He knew exactly what he was doing as he stepped into the oncoming traffic.
The glare of headlights, the squeal of brakes. The truck was already starting to slow, but not enough. Looking towards the crumpled-up form on the roadside, I saw that I was not the only person rushing to see what had happened to the dealer of dreams.
No one with bones turned at those angles could remain alive. The truckie, truly a bear of a man, was sobbing copiously like a child, great tears streaming down his bearded cheeks. As the police arrived, the ambulance taking away the shrouded figure in white, all onlookers comforted the mortified driver that it wasn't his fault, that he tried to stop and avert this tragedy.
Our testimonies impressed the boys in blue, the truck driven off by one of the bear's mates, giving the sorrowful man a pat on the back in sympathy, ignoring the weeping by his fellow in true masculine fashion.
Everything was cleared up, as if the death had never even happened.
I felt guilty that I had been partially responsible in causing someone's death. I felt angry that such a person had ever fleeced suckers out of irreplaceable fragments of their lives. I felt somewhat relieved that his soul-stealing days were over, however, I felt slightly wistful about the dreams that he offered. I felt a little curious to find out what my life would have been like with the dreams as part of me?
But that was the point. What I felt now was mine, it was me. They were my emotions, felt by me in my situation. No one else would have anything remotely like them.
Bright and joyful, dark and painful. All my feelings were important, they all intertwined. As those poor, duped fools found out with their exquisite love and happiness mixed with equally exquisite suffering and sadness. They had a choice between all or nothing, and they chose the nothing. For me, to experience such love at the price of such pain would have been worth it.
Some people make the strangest choices.
"The Dealer" (c) 2000 Cailean Darkwater (r) (pending), email@example.com