I had the most disturbing dream last night. I woke up feeling unsettled and I couldn’t go back to sleep. I lay there replaying the dream and it really didn’t take much to figure out the symbolism.
In my dream world, I hadn’t registered to vote when I moved south. I had to travel back to New York to cast my vote. When I got there it was dark and the polling place was in a warehouse in a very industrial area (rather than the very nice high school where it was located in reality). There was a long line of people waiting to be checked in. I took my place in line and looked around.
The actual voting machines were on a platform at the top of a long black iron spiral staircase. When the curtains reopened after the voters had cast their ballots, some were embraced by poll workers and lead to a celebration area with Obama posters, balloons, comfy couches, refreshments and a huge, movie-theater-sized television showing election coverage on MSNBC. Other voters were lead to one or another of a series of doors behind the voting machines. Some came out, went back in the voting booth, and when the curtain re-opened, they were lead over to the celebration area. Others never came out at all.
Finally it was my turn at the check-in table. The woman asked for my name and address. I gave it to her. She found me in the book and smiled. “Democrat, I see.” The question made me uncomfortable. “Yes,” I replied. “I’m still a registered Democrat.” “Good,” she replied and told me to wave my hand under a black light and then press my thumb on an electronic device. I did so, and asked her why that was necessary. She reassuringly explained that the system would retain my thumbprint along with my name as a way of ensuring that I didn’t vote twice. I felt a little more confident until she whispered, “Of course, you’d only have to do that the first time.”
The first time? My confusion must have showed because she nodded over at another table, where a man was checking in. The man at with the registration book found the man’s name, smiled at him, asked him to wave his hand under the black light and then nodded for him to go ahead to the staircase to join the voting line. “So I can vote again?” I asked quietly. “Well, I didn’t say that officially,” she whispered. “But we have to make sure this turns out the right way.”
She chose from two stamps and placed an invisible mark on the back of my hand, then told me to go join the line. I slowly made my way up the spiral staircase. As I got to the top I was greeted by a man dressed all in black. He asked for my ID so I handed him my driver’s license. He nodded off to the side and started walking, so I followed him.
“This isn’t a New York driver’s license,” he said.
“I know. I never changed my voter registration after I moved, so I had to come back here to vote.”
He instructed me to wave my hand under the black light, which I did. An Obama symbol glowed on my skin. The man smiled and said “No problem. And make sure you go through the line a few more times tonight so we can be sure this turns out the right way.”
Before I could respond he lead me over to a voting machine and walked away. I grasped the handle and pulled the curtain closed. As I looked up at my choices, I noticed that Barak Obama’s lever was automatically down. I tried to move it back up so I could choose John McCain, but it wouldn’t budge. I tried pushing McCain’s lever, thinking it would force Obama’s back up. I couldn’t choose McCain. It wouldn’t go down. I stuck my head out from between the curtains and motioned for a poll worker to come over.
“There’s something wrong with this machine,” I explained to the black-clad woman. “I can’t move the levers in the Presidential race.”
“Just a moment,” she said calmly. “Let me get someone.”
She walked away and I pulled my head back into the voting booth. I eyed the candidates up for election, and recognized many of the names. I flipped the levers for the ones I knew, and picked women for the ones I didn’t. After a moment an arm reached in between the curtains and pulled me out. It was the man in black. The woman grabbed me and pulled me away as the man went into the booth. I heard the handle being pulled back and saw the curtains open right before the door shut in my face.
We were in a closet-like space with a red light like the ones you might find in a darkroom. She pushed me to the floor and perched on a stool, looking down at me with a blank expression and anger in her eyes. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
“I was just trying to vote,” I said.
“No, what were you doing trying to vote for McCain? You were cleared as a Democrat.”
“Just because I’m registered as a Democrat doesn’t mean I have to vote for Obama.”
“What are you talking about? It’s your duty to vote for him. You have to help make sure this turns out right.”
“But it’s none of anybody’s business who I vote for. This is still the USA.”
“You need to let go of all that. Electing Obama is the only thing that matters. Now I’ll give you one more chance to do your duty.”
She grabbed my arm roughly and pulled me off the floor, shoving me out the door. I knew I couldn’t vote for Obama and if I tried to vote McCain I’d be one of the people who never came back out of that little room. I took off running and found a door at the end of the celebration area. I had to go down a long iron staircase outside of the building and I could hear the footsteps behind me. I ran down the alley towards the street and then just kept running, ducking down sidestreets and through open alleys. The last alleyway I ran through ended up in the courtyard of an apartment building, and there was no way out but the way I came.
I started knocking on back doors to the ground floor apartments, until one finally opened. It was one of my current co-workers, who also happens to be a native New Yorker. I ran into her apartment and ducked into the closet. She pulled the door open and said, “Julie! What the hell is going on?”
I told her I had gone to vote and that now people were chasing me. She stepped inside the closet, pulled the chain to the lightbulb overhead and closed the door. “You tried to vote for McCain, didn’t you?”
I felt trapped. “Yes,” I admitted.
“Look, I sympathize with you. But you gotta understand what’s going on out there. I wanted McCain, too, but when I realized they had the machines rigged, I knew what was happening. Sometimes it’s just easier to go along. You can stay here, but if they come for you I can’t put my family at risk.”
Just then I heard pounding on the door and my heart started beating so fast that I woke up.
I was completely agitated and it took me a few moments to calm down and understand that I had only been dreaming. I guess what disturbed me so much was the idea that this felt more like a premonition than a dream. “Geez,” I thought. “Talk about the Dream Police.”
I needed to write about it. I needed to get the Dream Police out of my head.