In the Realm of Reality

 In the Realm of Reality

       I should not have gone out that day. After living in this country for so many years I was not too naïve not to know what could have happened. President was in here for opening of his presidential library in downtown. I knew security would be tight yet I felt an urge to be out on the street.  Tons of people filled the streets to see the president’s motorcade. And because of the ongoing war, I expected to see thousands of anti-war demonstrators. Most likely I would’ve known some of them from the Peace Center where I met them during the months prior to the war. I hoped to see familiar faces and to pass the time. As a Middle Eastern man I didn’t want to be alone in the crowd, it didn’t look good. Since I wasn't there to cheer for the president, I had to justify my presence. I needed an alibi.

       Surprisingly there were no demonstrators and I saw no familiar faces. That seemed odd, considering the unpopularity of the war. Everyone calmly awaited the motorcade. I knew all sorts of security agents would be there in plain clothes. As eager as I was to identify the secret agents in the crowd by the way they acted or dressed, I was too apprehensive to do so. Such ill-timed curiosity would be very suspicious-especially if it came from someone who looked like me.

       After the September 11th tragedy I knew people like me should be careful in public especially in events like this one. On several occasions I noticed people were uncomfortable around me ; and even published several pieces of satire on this same issue.

       Down deep inside, I could not blame people for their racial profiling. But if I was to be discriminated against, I hoped it would be in a McDonald's restaurant or a Wal-Mart store so I could have legal grounds to sue the hell out of them for racial discrimination. My looks could have come to my rescue at least once in the life time!  

       I had a bizarre sentiment of a framed man on the run waiting to get caught just to prove his innocence. As diligently as I tried to act normal, it was impossible. I was so out of place and my anxiety was so transparent. Contrary to my expectations however, I didn't see anyone eyeing me or paying attention to my presence. In the midst of this wonderment, I bumped into someone I knew, Jerry my next door neighbor in the apartment complex where I lived. Surprisingly enough, today he was not in his police uniform. Could he be one of the undercover agents? Was it possible to be a police officer and an undercover agent at the same time? I wondered.

       Seeing a familiar face in the crowd comforted me even if it was this particular police officer; finally I had someone to talk to and make my presence justified. He had not noticed yet me otherwise he would’ve waved at me; we were neighbors for three years now. Anytime I was out by the swimming pool drinking a beer or barbecuing, he approached me and initiated political conversations. He just enjoyed listening to me, I thought. He would make a broad comment and let me do the talking. Seemingly he respected my views and I had a good reason to talk.

       Now he was standing about 20 yards away from me unaware of my presence. I walked toward him to say hello and as I reached him he suddenly pivoted, grabbed my wrist, twisted it behind my back, and in a split second I was handcuffed.  Before I could react to the situation, I turned into a captured suspect. I was paralyzed under the gaze of a huge crowd and couldn't utter a word.  In a matter of minutes, three other plain clothe men approached us. Now I could see how undercover agents look like. I was looking for an alibi as they escorted me to a patrol car.  How could Jerry do this to me? Why?  

       In the police car, the secret service agents asked me a few simple questions and I responded. Then they sincerely apologized for the misidentification and inconvenience and let me go. To my utmost surprise, the entire ordeal did not last more than a few minutes. I had been interrogated much harsher by the airport securities. But why this goddamn Jerry would put me through this? I had to find him and give him a piece of my mind. I walked back to the crowd vindicated and the only thing on my mind was to find this fucking Jerry.  As I reached the same spot I was arrested a few minutes ago, I saw the devil standing there as if nothing had happened.

"What the fuck was that?" I shrieked.

       "I'm sorry man, I really am. Forgive me please. I owe you an apology," he pleaded.

       "Forgive you, for what? For humiliating me in public like that?"

       "When I saw you here today, I could not believe it. It suddenly seemed a premonition coming true. The nightly news, the terrorists sleeping cells, and you being a Middle Eastern and all... "

       "Just because of my damn looks you put me through this shit? Have you no shame? Do you remember the sizzling pieces of lamb kabobs off my grill? The ones I generously offered and you gorged like starving animals?  This is how you repay my friendly gestures?" 

       "But it would have meant a lot to me and my career if you really were a terrorist? It would have changed my entire career; I would get a promotion immediately. I would’ve been a hero..." Jerry reasoned.

       "But you knew me for years you nincompoop."

       "I told you I was hoping you would be one of them. Why someone like you show up here today? What do you expect me to think? That you came here to cheer the president? Come on! I know all your political views. You like to talk."

       As absurd as his logic was, it made sense. This is the reaction I was afraid to experience from people in such events. This treatment validated my fear.

       "The truth is that I had a dream about this last night. I saw that something horrible was about to happen today and I was the only one who could prevent it. And then you showed up here..." Jerry said.

       "Oh! I see now. You dreamed you would be a hero. Your face would be on Television screens every night. You hoped to get promotion, become a hero and probably write a book and become rich and famous, all at my expense. Damn you Jerry! Tell me something? Did you really see me in your dreams? Did you recognize my face in your dream?"

       "Not really, my dream was disjointed and face was blurry. But I saw a brown skin man with similar complexion as yours trying to assassinate the president. And then I saw you here today. What do you want me to think? I am sorry man but you were the best candidate. Besides, I don't see anyone else like you in this crowd.  You could be my winning lottery ticket." He sincerely admitted.

       "You want to hear something interesting? I had a dream too last night. I dreamed this whole fiasco. I saw that I would get in trouble today of I came here. Everything that happened today I dreamed last night. But I couldn't stop myself from coming here.  I had to see it for myself."

       "Now you see? You are not as innocent as you pretend to be. This entire shenanigan is your fault. So I was not the only dreamer here. I bet you are planning to write this shit, too." Jerry suddenly threw his hands in the air in disbelief.

       "Yes of course.  It was my dream, my fear and I can do whatever I want to do with it."

       "So it's OK for you to dream and not for me."

       "But my dream didn't cause you any trouble? Did it? Your dream could have put me behind bars for years. Don't you see the difference?"

       "Did you really see my face in your dream? Was I the one who arrested you?" Jerry asked.

       "No it was all blurry, I just saw an idiot cop arresting me for no reason and then I ran into you," I chuckled.

       "We both hoped to get something out of this, each in our own way. I don't think you are in a position to blame me for anything. We both acted upon our insidious dreams. I created a damn good for you," Jerry said.

       "You will write this story the way you want. You will twist and turn it however you wish…” he said.

       “Well, before we go any further I let you in on a secrete Jerry. I hope you don’t get angry at me for saying this but it’s only fair for you to know.”

       “What is it?” he asked.

“Jerry, you were not my neighbor, I didn’t actually come to this event today, you didn’t arrest me, and this conversation between the two of us is not really happening. I don’t even know you. I made it all up.”

       “What do you mean you don’t know me?” Jerry was perplexed.

       “You and everything that happened here are fictitious; it’s all for my book. I’m planning to publish my first short story collection soon and still don’t have enough material.  You’re my latest; I made the whole thing up to add a few more pages to my book…”

       Jerry was furious hearing my confession. Now he had every reason to treat me unfairly…  

 Based on a real dream