This nightmare is not specifically about my brother in Iraq though every nightmare is about my brother in Iraq. It occurs in Cowboy’s, a very real, wood-paneled dance club, brimming with un-ironic Wranglers and G.I.’s gifting shots, even though it’s Ladies’ Night and our drinks are free. In Colorado Springs, where many a young man sports shorn head, disposable income, easy reminders of mortality, every night is a frantic sort-of Ladies’ Night.
I am here in this nightmare because of Donald Trump or Donald Trump is here because of me. I asked my mother who she might vote for, in real, waking life, I asked—and the conversation deteriorated like a body in high desert heat. I called her a bigot. She rightfully hung up on me. I arrive at Cowboy’s in a forest green, sequined gown, to watch Donald Trump address the people of where I grew up.
A handsome enlisted man is wearing a digitized-camo tux, and he compliments my dress so I tell him I must speak with Trump, it’s an emergency. He says this is impossible, so I add my brother was a soldier. He says he is sorry, I must get in line to ask a question of Donald, just like everyone else, and so I am forced to be vulgar and blatant, he was killed in Iraq, I say—he was killed in Iraq. The G.I. apologizes and stands at attention. He is approximately six feet, seven inches tall. He rushes me to the stage, at the center of the dance floor.
Couples two-step around the slight grandstand, and Donald Trump wears a white cowboy hat the size of a garbage can lid. The handsome G.I. is named Ted, I know this to be true, and he lifts me, his hands secure beneath my armpits. I rise with a ballerina grace I am only capable of in nightmares about my brother. I float to Donald Trump, make like I am going to shake his hand—he is unfettered as always, as though he’s been waiting for my arrival—and as he extends his short-fingered, pinky-ringed mitt, I say, “My brother did not die for this.”
Donald Trump smiles as though he does not hear me. His teeth are terribly gorgeous, so perfect I may cry. He gladly passes his microphone to me because he is an idiot. I turn to the giddy crowd, my friends from high school line dancing, their veteran parents in rhythm beside them.
My mother would never vote for Trump, though she said she might vote for Trump. And there is no easy explanation for this; any defensive response on her behalf would be patronizing, indicative of the very thing that’s made her undone. The politicians are to blame. The people who vote or do not vote are to blame. War is to blame. The system is to blame. Every one of us, to blame. Her son is dead, and there is no one to blame, to hurt the way she will forever hurt.
“MY BROTHER DID NOT DIE FOR THIS,” I holler at the crowd. Cowboy’s is a place for hollering. The people keep dancing because my subconscious mind is unimaginative, obvious at best. “MY BROTHER DID NOT DIE FOR DONALD TRUMP.” The only person who hears me is Ted, the beautiful G.I. in the camouflaged tux. He looks alarmed, and crosses the stage to remove me. I try one last time. “WHAT DID MY BROTHER DIE FOR.” It’s not a question anymore—it’s been a statement for years now. Ted picks me up with both arms and carries me offstage. Donald waves goodbye like an old friend. It was unfair to ask my mother who she might vote for. It is unfair to ask any political thing of my mother, who, herself, has always been an incredible dancer, in any arena—though, since his death, she does not quite move the same.
I struggle with Ted as he pulls me to the exit of Cowboy’s, grasping for the lapels of his war-or-ballroom-ready attire. “You are better than this, Ted, you are,” I say. Our eyes sparkle with tears. “We can only dance,” he says, and I understand this is nightmare now, or perhaps just a dream. I find it all rather peaceably embarrassing, and I choose sleep over waking. Ted stoops down and we glide away, together.