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National Nightmare

Making bread out of bread crumbs in DC

A chaotic, colorful mob—comprised of BLM protestors, KKK members, a confederate flag, and more—rallies against a blue and red banner that reads “Long Live the United States”
Mark Thomas Gibson, Biden's Entry Into Washington 2021 (American Portrait as Landscape). 2021, ink on canvas. 52 1/2 × 92”. Courtesy of the artist and M+B, Los Angeles.

Sometime in October 2020, I woke up from a nightmare. It must have been around five in the morning. I got up to pee in the gloaming and scurried back to bed as if I were being chased. I tried to keep myself awake, knowing that if I fell back to sleep immediately I’d be plunged back in. I needed to shed the dream and dispel its feeling.

I replayed the dream in my head. I was with Jonah, my husband, in our apartment in Washington DC, but it had no roof. We were living in a parallel universe where the dead could choose to come back to life for a while, at any time. We heard a noise and looked up. Two bright orbs were shooting across the sky — two souls returning to Earth. Inside each orb was a Confederate general. I think one might have been the villain with the ear horn from Wild Wild West. It sounds silly, but it felt so real. I couldn’t shake it.

And then I had a paranoid thought I’d never had before: the nightmare had been beamed into my head by someone, or a device, in the apartment building across the street. The complex had large, modern glass windows that provided a perfect view into each identical unit. Only about half of them were populated; the rest stood empty, white walls and new appliances waiting for their high-end renters. I imagined some kind of sound gun, like the ones rumored to have been used in attacks on US officials in Cuba, or the LRADs used against protesters, sending waves from across the street. I imagined the dream, whatever it was, was not my own.

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