Last night, I dreamt that I was in Fort Smith for a family reunion. I went to my grandmother’s old house, expecting to see all of my cousins but, when I stepped through the front door and met everyone in the living room, I quickly realized that I didn’t recognize any of the many people who were waiting for me. They all knew me and they all kept talking about how they had grown up with me and they all kept calling me “cousin,” but I didn’t recognize a single one of them.
As weird as that was, my main concern was getting a chance to walk around Fort Smith and see all of the big, old houses that I remembered lining the streets of my grandmother’s neighborhood. However, whenever I started to step out the front door, one of my supposed cousins would grab my arm and start asking me about my life. How was I doing? Had I voted? Had I gotten vaccinated? Was I still writing? Since I didn’t feel like I really knew any of these people, I didn’t want to talk to them but I had to keep on smiling politely and answering their questions. But, no matter how polite I tried to be, everyone seemed to be getting annoyed with me. Every time I answer a question, they would give me a dirty look.
Finally, I did manage to duck out the front door. I walked around the neighborhood but I discovered that all of the old houses that I remembered from my childhood visits were gone. They had been replaced by gas stations and factories and liquor stores. My grandmother’s neighborhood had basically turned into a bombed-out slum.
Feeling depressed, I went back to the house. While I was walking around the neighborhood, most of my supposed cousins had left. There was now only two people left in the house. One was a dark-haired woman who I knew was named Alicia and who I assumed was related to me. The other was her much older boyfriend, Seth. (Alicia was in her late 20s while Seth appeared to be in his 50s.) As opposed to the people who were previously in the house, I knew Alicia.
Alicia, Seth, and I went into the dining room and sat down at my grandmother’s old dining table. Someone had prepared a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches for us. However, before I could even start eating, Seth suddenly started arguing with me about corporate tax rates. I told both Seth and Alicia that I had absolutely no interest in corporate tax rates and that I just wanted to see Ft. Smith for “one last time before they tore it down.” Seth, however, would not stop badgering me about why he thought corporations needed to be taxed at a higher rate. Alicia kept nodding.
Finally, I said that I was tired of the conversation. Seth replied that not everyone had the luxury of choosing which conversations they had to have. He also started giving me a hard time for being on vacation while so many people couldn’t even afford to leave their homes. Feeling angry but not wanting to upset Alicia, I stood up and, again, I left the house.
I walked around Ft. Smith, which was no longer the small and pleasant town that I remembered from my youyh. Instead, it was this weird, dirty, almost Blade Runner-like metropolis, full of flashy neon and decrepit buildings. As I walked around it started to rain.
Eventually, I ended up in Ft. Smith’s downtown, which was now made up of pawn shops, bail bondsmen, gun shops, and a rather sleazy looking carnival. I considered going to the carnival but then I saw a huge group of people heading into what appeared to be a hotel. I decided to follow them and, as I stepped into the hotel lobby, I saw a banner that read, “Welcome National Progressives!”
The lobby was extremely crowded but I still managed to find an empty chair in a corner. I sat down and then I noticed a newspaper on the floor. I picked it up and saw that the front page story was about Seth. Apparently, before going into politics, he had been a suspect in the murder of his wife and children. Realizing that I needed to let Alicia know about this, I stood up and started to head out of the lobby.
However, just as I reached the lobby doors, Alicia suddenly walked up behind me and hugged me. She told me that she was sorry that she had taken Seth’s side in the fight. She told me that she didn’t realize that Seth and I had “been arguing about the census yesterday.” I showed her the newspaper article about Seth killing his family.
Alicia shrugged. “People make mistakes.”
And that’s when I woke up.
Context for this dream: My paternal grandmother did live in Ft. Smith when I was growing up and we would visit every summer. Even though my grandmother is no longer with us, I think about those summers often. This is not the first time that I’ve dreamed about returning to that house. In real life, I am close to some of my cousins and it does bother me that, due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, I haven’t really gotten a chance to see them in over a year. As for Alicia and Seth, I don’t know who they are. Apparently, I created them for my dream.