The “movement” had degenerated into spontaneous assaults and the occasional flare-up in the city core. At the time I was living in a high rise with a friend, having moved downtown from the country.
One afternoon we were looking out across the street at the office tower, which was heavily glassed-in on the bottom floor, when a fight broke out on the sidewalk. A fashion store display window got smashed as the violence moved down the street. “Let’s go down to see what’s happening,” I said to my friend.
When we got to the scene, we were swept into the tower by the milling crowd and ended up jammed into the lobby. Two beleaguered policeman in blue shirts with no apparent weapons held the crowd at bay. “No one’s going anywhere,”they ordered. But just then, some individuals in the crowd pushed into the adjoining walkway which led to the inner mall.
I seized the moment to run into the fashion store and the display window area, which had a glass revolving door that spun beside the window that had been broken in the earlier scuffle. The door had been aligned with the broken part of the window to keep people on the street side from entering the store. I pushed on the door, it spun open and I fell onto the glass still on the pavement below outside. Then I picked myself up and merged quickly in the crowd outside. The policeman, who had followed me once he realized I had escaped the throng inside, looked out of the broken window, then gave up the chase.
For some time after, I stood in the safety of the crowd still gathering outside the tower, watching what would happen next. For what seemed days, the remaining imprisoned crowd inside was controlled by added guards, who made sure that none of them got away. In the meantime, my friend’s health had suddenly worsened and he was kept in a bed on the second floor. He had been too slow to respond when I told him to come with me when I had made my escape, but I was determined to spring him now.
I don’t quite remember how I infiltrated the captured group of innocent spectators, but when I got to his bedside, I told him to follow me. Again, I went through the revolving-door window, which still hadn’t been repaired, with him this time. We returned safely to the building across the street, went up in that tower, then looked down below as in the beginning. A small river now curled in the street away from our building down the street due west for several blocks as far as the eye could see.
Down the river floated a number of rafts. On the first distinguishable raft, I saw a gaunt, bony-looking man wearing a black three-pointed colonial hat. Beyond that, an agitated crowd of humanity clung for life to another raft, far off, closer to the horizon.
On the film that was the scene I had been watching, I took a marking pen and imperfectly scrawled in red words below each of the two previous images: “the original American dream”, then “the new American dream”. The millionaire businessman-government official who controlled the city came and stood beside me, and smiled his gloated agreement with the first image and its caption. “Yes, that’s me. That’s who I really am. Does it get any better than that?” he asked rhetorically.
But he became clearly upset as I tried to scratch the second caption onto the same unfolding piece of film which also held the second image. His hand tried to interfere with my writing hand as I struggled to finish recording the caption. To his embarrassed dismay, I persevered until–at last–I had finished my writing…
As I said earlier, our dreams measure our relative success and failures. The same holds true within the dream logic of night sleep. These struggles, no matter how odd or obscure, define us ultimately–who we are, what matters to us, and the roles we are called on to perform, sometimes 24/7! (I am a writer and am fated to express whatever personal visions or social truths that ‘write themselves’.)