In an alternate lifetime a young boy dreams of romantic things and of the promise his future might bring. The man he sees night after night in those dreams leads a hard life making up for poor choices and ill-fated timing, but the man is strong and honest and true. The man spends his time riding bicycles and feeding ducks at the pond with an old loaf of bread, and after a few nights the boy realizes the man is alone in the dream. No one talks to him unless he speaks first, and that doesn’t ever happen.
The boy wonders where all the hope had gone. Why are the dreams never in color? Why does the man never smile? After several years the man in the dream had grown a long silver beard, and this made children smile during the winter holidays; children who could not yet speak. During these holidays he could be found curled up beneath a Christmas tree as the lights blinked him to sleep, alone in a quiet house.
One time the man smiled in the presence of a girl from his past, and this woke the boy because it was the first person he had ever seen in the dream, but the next night she was gone.
The following morning the boy woke, now a man, and looked into the mirror to find a long silver beard flowing from his chin, realizing he was the boy and the dream was about a man reclaiming his innocence, not about a boy growing up with life ahead of him.
But everything was still grey and he could not smile and he was alone. He could not wait to sleep that night, to dream of being a boy again, but he knew there was no going back.
Nonetheless, he still had dreams.