I am powerless to free them from their self-made shackles. Perhaps powerless is unfair; reluctant sounds less charitable, but rings truer.
It’s a dream I kept havin’ every Thursday night after Bingo Bonanza at Mortland Presbyterian Hall. Three hours of stampin’ paper sheets with an ink dauber in hopes of a $100 jackpot ends empty-handed as I head to the parking lot. If there’s a God, Mark’s already put the kids to bed and I can wine myself to sleep, I think. I guess that sounds like a crappy life, but it’s all I can handle. Six days a week makin’ loveseats and futons barely pays the rent and it wears me out. Anyway, that’s not the dream.
Once I was out, I’d start dreamin’. I was sittin’ in this chair, and it started to come off the ground. I would float high above my house, the neighbors, even the city. The higher the chair went, the hazier the city looked, like it was covered in a fog, only dirtier. The people all seemed like they were in a trance. They’d move mechanical-like, robotic. If I watched ‘em for longer than a minute, it was like they started repeatin’ the same stuff over and over. They’d all get in their cars at the same time, they’d drive to the same jobs, and the whole ritual looked a well-rehearsed Broadway number.
But the part of the dream that didn’t make no sense was my role in it. I’d always be sittin’ in this gaudy armchair from the 1960’s. The oak-carved legs had too many curves. The upholstery—a faded, pink taffeta—made my skin itchy. The varnished arms felt sticky, like the polish was caked with the skin oils of one too many previous owners. The entire contraption reminded me of some of the pieces I saw once at the LBJ museum, where Lady Byrd’s entire office suite is on display behind ropes of crushed velvet. We even got a few pieces like that at the warehouse, but nobody buys ‘em.
Why was I sittin’ in an ugly chair hoverin’ above a city of robots? The answer would never come, ‘cuz I’d wake up before anything else happened.
I didn’t dare tell anyone at work about it. Me and three other ladies staple the upholstery to the furniture all day and so we talk about just about any ol’ thing that comes to mind. But usually, we’re makin’ fun of somebody else, like them fat loudmouths at Walmart, who wanna ride the wheelchairs, just ‘cuz they’re fat. Anyway, if I told ’em about my dream, they’d tear me to shreds.
I told my dream to Pastor Smith one night, after bingo let out. He’s into dreams and visions and stuff, so I wanted to know what he thought. He pulled out this fat book called a dream dictionary, which I thought was a little weird. I mean, it had a rainbow and a unicorn on the front. Anyway, he started goin’ on about symbols and prophecy and frankly, I got a little lost in it all.
Then he talked about this bible story that kinda stuck with me. Turns out this guy named Joseph had a dream where him and his brothers were bundlin’ wheat. All of a sudden, Joseph’s bundle of wheat rose up above the brothers’ bundles and then the brother’s bundles start bowin’ down to Joseph’s bundle. In other words, he was tellin’ his brothers that he was more important than they were.
Now, I know that whole dream sounds like a buncha hooey, but it messed with my head that night. What if I was havin’ these dreams for a reason? Maybe I was hoverin’ above everyone else ‘cuz I was more important than the rest of ‘em.
What shall we say of a sovereign who passes judgment on her subjects for their lack of nobility?
So anyway, Pastor Smith told me to go sleep on it. I got home and tried to tell Mark about my chat with Pastor, but he wouldn’t take his eyes off the computer long enough say, “How was your night?” Least the kids were settled in for the night. I poured a glass of the red stuff and crawled under the covers with Mr. Remote. I flicked through the channels a spell, till I found a Seinfeld rerun, the one about the Soup Nazi.
Once I fell asleep, somethin’ weird happened. I was still in the chair, and the people were still runnin’ around like robots, and all that. But then I saw this guy who was kinda doin’ his own thing. He came out his front door right after all the others had gotten in their cars and headed to work. He was wearin’ a terrycloth bathrobe of blue, and had on these slippers that looked like cartoon cows. I had never seen this guy before in any of my other dreams, so I was watchin’ him closely. He walked across the street toward this big steel box by the sidewalk. It had some kinda symbol on it that looked like a computer, so I guessed it had somethin’ to do with Internet or whatever. He reached inside the front flap of his robe and pulled out what looked like a DVD. He just stood there lookin’ at it for a long time when I finally noticed, he had this big ol’ smile on his face, like he was about to do somethin’ naughty. He opened the front panel of the box (I thought them things were locked!) and he stuck the DVD in some slot inside.
All of a sudden, all the cars in the city started goin’ in all different directions, and a few of them even ran into each other. All the people came outta the buildings and started walkin’ around doin’ their own things. One woman brought out some donuts from her office and started feedin’ folks right in the middle of the boulevard. Another kid who had always ran his skateboard up and down Maple Street all day long walked through the front door of the public library and never came out. Mostly, it was complete chaos.
So there I am, still sittin’ on the chair, floatin’ over all this madness, and I felt totally weird. Part of me felt like somethin’ cool just happened, but I couldn’t tell you why. It was like these folks all woke up from their trance and were doin’ whatever they wanted. But the other part of me felt really mad. Did that guy in the bathrobe do this? Who told him to start messin’ with things, anyway? I started to panic, and that’s when I realized something very terrible.
I couldn’t get out of my chair. There was some kinda force keepin’ me from gettin’ up and no matter how hard I tried to fight it, it was no use. The chair moved wherever it wanted to go, and I didn’t have any power at all.
That’s when I woke up, covered in sweat. I was so messed up, Mark said I was talkin’ all kinds of gibberish, and he literally had to shake me to snap me out of it. “Lay off the wine, Suz,” he said and rolled back over.
That was the last time I ever had that dream. Pastor Smith asked me about it a couple weeks after our talk and I told him the whole deal. That got him goin’ for over an hour about vision quests or some crap. I spent many months afterward, tryin’ to figure it all out. Was I supposed to try and stop the man in the bathrobe? Why couldn’t I get out of my chair? I guess the part that bugged me the most was why I was so upset that all those people got freed from whatever was makin’ them live like robots.
Anyway, I stopped goin’ to bingo on Thursday, ‘cuz I got tired of Pastor Smith tryin’ to lend me books about dreams and stuff. I also got a different job; a bigger furniture maker moved into town and they had better benefits, so I jumped ship. Mark finally got a job, so now we can finally take trips and stuff. I guess a little freedom from the same old same old ain’t so bad, huh?
What is the true measure of significance? To rise above the sedated mass? To seize lordship over the weak? Or should we find our quality in our ability to set captives free?