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Published: Thu Jul 1 2004
Diego Isaias Hernández Méndez, Destruccion por un remolino del aire Xocomeel del Lago Atitlán / Destruction from a Vortex of the Xocomil Winds around Lake Atitlán (detail), 2014, oil on canvas. Arte Maya Tz’utujil Collection.
Presidential Dreams

ONE: I had this strange dream about George Bush–the dad–right before the ’92 election. George and I were having lunch in this narrow room, kind of like the office of a factory. I was wearing white gloves and a hat with a little veil, your typical lunch-with-the-president ensemble. From our table, we looked down over a warehouse filled with women in white smocks packing boxes, hundreds and hundreds of boxes. I was surprised by the warm feeling I got chatting with George. You can tell when a man is really listening—it must be those Yale manners. I said, “You seem surprisingly decent in person, Mr. President, but I disagree with your policies.” He was chewing veal cutlet at the time, so he didn’t reply.

TWO: I had another dream about Bush the first not too long ago. I was on a city street doing nothing much when one of those long white limos pulled up. Inside were George and Barbara. The car door opened, as if they meant to stop for me. “Come in,” George said, “Barbara and I are on our way to renew our wedding vows.” There wasn’t room on the seat, so I sat on the floor. Then I noticed George had big fishbowls on both of his feet, with plump little goldfish swimming all around. I couldn’t take my eyes away, waiting for that water to spill.

THREE: Bill Clinton? Well, I heard it was almost an epidemic at the beginning, women getting visits from the new president in their slumbers. I always thought Al Gore was the more attractive of the pair, but my husband said, “That’s what you women say in the day time.” Damn if he wasn’t right. In my dream, I was back in college and I was giving Bill a tour of the campus. I took him to my room to show him a typical dorm. There we stood side by side looking down at my bed. Except it wasn’t like any of my beds at college, it was a double bed with one of those nubby cream-colored bedspreads my parents used to have. Bill was looking at me with the kind of gaze that makes you feel like your whole body’s been dipped in warm honey, and I was wondering, you know, if we were going to do it. In my dream I was all shy–Oh, I don’t know, should I do this? Should I?–which is funny because back in those days in real life I used to go to bed with pretty much any guy who asked.

FOUR: Ronald Reagan, yes, I had one dream about him. It happened when I was living in Japan and he came on a state visit and walked on a tatami mat in his shoes—which is pretty much the equivalent of a visiting dignitary taking a leak on the Washington Monument. They kept playing the footage over and over on TV, Reagan’s big foot stepping up…crunch…and everyone moaning and scurrying to get him off. That night I dreamed I walked out of my apartment and there was Reagan in the nook where they kept the washing machines. He was surrounded by bags made of glowing electric blue plastic and I knew, without asking, that the bags were filled with nuclear waste. “Aren’t we going to get sick and die?” I cried, but Reagan just smiled. Then he touched me on the shoulder. And I felt better.

DREAMS I DIDN’T HAVE: I’ve never had a dream about Ford, Carter or Bush II. None of them exactly seems the type to visit women, unbidden, in the night.

FIVE: My first presidential dream. 1968. Nixon had just beaten Humphrey. That morning the teacher told us: We live in a great country. Anyone can grow up to be President. And this picture came into my head of a tall tree, rootless, suspended in air, wearing my shoes. Strange, but it made me happy. Later, at recess I walked past Bobby Levandowsky, digging his hole to China at the far corner of the yard. “Now Bobby’s working on that stupid hole,” I thought, “but someday he might be President!” Then it struck me, like a gust of raw November wind on my bare knees. “Anyone” didn’t mean me, a girl. Not back then. I guess it was then my dreams went underground and took on new forms, more fantastic and more real, the way everything does in the dark.

Donna George Storey is the author of a novel, Amorous Woman (Orion Publishing, 2008), and the translator of Yoshikichi Furui’s novel Child of Darkness (University of Michigan, 1997). She was a teacher of Japanese literature and began writing after becoming a full-time parent. (updated 7/2010)

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