The Potomac - Poetry and Politics
December 2006 - THE POTOMAC

A Dream
   Paul Crenshaw

     "It was weird," he said. "I was me, but I wasn't me. And it was the president, but not the president."
     "What do you mean?"
     He sat up in bed and lit a cigarette. Outside, a car passed along the road, headlights sweeping their wall. "I mean." He stopped, trying to find the right words. "I mean, I had this gun. I knew I wasn't going to do anything, but I had this gun. At least, I think I had a gun. And there were no Secret Service anywhere. Just him, walking down the street. Only it wasn't really him, you know, and I wasn't really me."
     "Who were you?"
     "I don't know." He dragged hard on his cigarette. "Some guy who carries a gun, I guess."
     "Who was he, then?"
     He didn't answer. Another car went by. The tip of his cigarette quivered slightly, she saw. She put a hand on his back, rubbing up and down gently.
     His cigarette had a long ash. He maneuvered it carefully to the ashtray beside the bed. He shook his head. "I don't know. It was just weird. I think. . ."
     "What." There was something in his voice. He turned to look at her in the dark room.
     "I think I was going to. . .do. . .something." His voice was a whisper.
     "It was just a dream," she said. "You would never do. . .anything like that. Not to anyone."
     "I know that," he said. "And you know that. But. . ."
     She rubbed his back harder. He put out his cigarette. "But what?"
     "I don't know. You hear stuff all the time. Remember McCarthy?"
     She tried for a smile. She could tell he was really upset. "My mother wasn't even born then."
     "You know what I mean."
     "Honey." She leaned forward and kissed him. She knew he worried about things too much. "It was just a dream. Go back to sleep."
     "I'm not sure I can. It was real. I walked right up to him. There was no one to stop me. I looked around. I was more scared of getting caught than anything else, I guess."
     She could almost smell the fear coming off him. "Did you do it?"
     He shook his head. "I don't think so. It kind of skipped. The dream, I mean. It kind of skipped. But then I was running. Someone was chasing me. A lot of people."
     "But if you didn't do anything. . ."
     He went on like he hadn't heard her. His cigarette was down to the butt. "I remember getting home, back here. You were gone, and I had this feeling they already had you. I locked all the doors. I hid in the closet, just waiting. It seemed like I waited a long time. I kept expecting them to kick the door in, or a stun grenade or tear gas to fly in the window. Or maybe just men in black suits and sunglasses to knock on the door and ask me to come with them."
     He took a last drag off his cigarette, then lit another from the butt. He took two drags off the second one and then stubbed it out and lit another. "I mean, I could feel that something was going to happen. I was scared, almost sick to my stomach. Terrified."
     "But you didn't do anything," she said. Her voice was whiny, almost pleading.
     He shook his head. "I don't think it matters whether I did anything or not." He laughed, harshly. "I don't even have a gun," he said, but it didn't seem he was talking to her, but rather to some unknown listener. Something in his voice scared her. She could almost feel the waiting, the expectation. His voice sounded so real, almost disembodied in the dark room, only the bright tip of his cigarette lighting his face. She half expected something to happen. She looked at the door, but, of course, it was closed. There was nothing on the other side. It was just a dream.
     "It was just a dream," she said. Her voice shook a little, but it was fading, the fear.
     He shook his head, not in a no, but like he was shaking off a punch. "Yeah," he said. "You're right." He kissed her on the bridge of her nose. They lay back down, snuggling close, leaning on each other for safety, security. She went to sleep, but he stayed awake for a long time, smoking one cigarette after another, waiting for the knock he was almost certain would come sometime during the night.

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