A few nights ago I had a vivid dream which has stayed with me. These are the details:
I am an up and coming amateur wrestler, and I have been given the chance to wrestle a champion. I am seated on a sofa in a living room. The decor is 1950s kitsch including on the soft pink wall before me an oversized, framed, signed photograph of Senator Joseph McCarthy. He is pictured with a cold stare, an upturned nose, and a pair of tense, closed lips that call to my mind Caesar about to cross the Rubicon. My knees are gently resting on the side of a coffee table. There is an ashtray with smoldering cigarettes on the exact middle of the coffee table, and smoke rising up from the ashtray casts the room in a soft haze. I do not smoke, and I am turned off by the smell. I am careful to hide my genuine emotions, though, as I do not want to upset the opportunity that landed upon my lap.
There are two middle aged men in the living room with me. One is a bald guy in a white shirt and trousers. He is a beefy, sweaty man who looks a lot like “Mr. Clean.” He has his shirt arms rolled up to reveal stocky, hairy arms that have been in their share of barroom brawls over the years. The rose in his cheeks tells me he has spent the evening hovering too close to the small bar across the room. His companion is a thin, stooped man with a pointed face, birdlike nose, and pinched mouth. He too wears a white shirt with trousers. He paces around the living room nervously with a cigarette. He dabs the ashes from his smokes directly onto the soft pink carpet.
The two men are urging me not to take on the champion. They offer up a host of excuses including “the timing is all wrong,” “the guy will kill you in the ring,” and “the Communists will take advantage of this.” I plaster an affable grin upon my face and wave down every one of their objections. When it is clear that they are not going to dissuade me, they tell me at the very least I should get an okay first from my wife. I tell them that is out of the question. I am not going to worry her. She has a fragile disposition, and the added stress will sicken her.
There is a wrestling ring on the other side of the living room. I stand up, and I enter into the powder room to freshen up for the bout. I see in the mirror that I am dressed already in my amateur wrestling outfit. I turn on the sink and splash handfuls of water onto my face. I am nervous but aim to hide it. This is my chance, and I am not going to let nerves interfere with the moment.
Returning to the living room, I see that the champion is already in the ring. He is a Soviet Russian with the round face and the pudgy physique of a young Nikita Khrushchev. He is hairy and brusque, and his callused hands look like they have been pushing a plow out in the country for decades. Unlike the real Khrushchev, his eyes are slightly Asiatic and call to mind Vladimir Putin. The eyes are calculating and sinister. He looks like a country oaf, until you settle in on his eyes. The eyes make clear that he is much more intelligent than his hardscrabble farmer physique at first suggests.
I step into the ring. We nod respectfully at one another, lock arms, and start to wrestle. It is a long and gruesome battle that sprinkles blood and sweat all over the canvas. Both of us at different times nearly slips on the blood. Eventually, I get the champion on his back and into a submission hold. He relents before passing out from pain and exhaustion. As I stand over him, catching my breath, and hiding the pain in my ribs, I stare at the Senator Joseph McCarthy picture across the room. McCarthy’s pupils move very slightly, and as a result he is now staring back at me.
I step out of the ring. I expect the two middle aged men to congratulate me. Instead, the beefy “Mr. Clean” guy folds his arms over his chest and looks down in shame. I sense he is not ashamed at himself for having tried to dissuade me from this fight, but rather he is ashamed at me for having gone ahead with it. The thin man is more clearly annoyed. He berates me while puffing on his cigarette. I never should have gone ahead with this fight without first telling my wife, the thin man insists. This fight never should have happened.
I plaster on my affable grin and retake my seat on the sofa. The wrestling ring is gone. So is the Soviet Russian champion. I look up at the Senator Joseph McCarthy picture before me. The two middle aged men repeat their points as to why I should not take advantage of the opportunity that landed upon my lap. I am in a dream loop. The dream is about to proceed again just as it had when I awaken.