BY ANN STONEY | Last night I dreamed I had dinner with Cuomo. He’d just stopped his daily pandemic briefings and I’m already missing them.
Every morning at 11:30 he’d show up in my living room as though I’d invited him for lunch. He’d sit with his entourage 6 feet apart delivering frightening truths and inspiration — each day a drama slowly unfolding as he pleaded for the Coronavirus to end.
In some of his more aggressive moments, he’d bite Trump’s head off. And now he was inside my head at the head of the table, eating pasta and meatballs, or some such Italian dish. The food wasn’t clear, as it no longer is in life. What will we find on the shelves this time? What will they be out of?
When I’m awake, I boil water with ginger and lemon to calm my agitated stomach. My husband plays Sixties music to remind us of another era in which we danced and played — no longer an option except on Zoom.
It seemed Cuomo was taking a much-needed break from the coronavirus, and I was trying to accommodate him, nervous as hell. In my dream, I never actually sat down, as there was no place to sit. The house — wherever it was — was full of crap, crowded with furniture, books and people and whatever else you might need in a pandemic —not unlike one of those small apartments in Queens full of immigrants unable to afford the luxury of social distancing. In my dream, there were people seated at the table; the rest of us scurried about on high alert.
Not that we weren’t appreciative. In my dream, Cuomo was king, Constitution be damned. All the more reason to shy away from conversation. Instead, I paced back and forth from crowded room to crowded room, trying to figure out what I would say to someone who is gracious, kind, warm and tough all at the same time. Who can present razor-edged truths and, in the same breath, opine about New York, his mother and all of humanity, encouraging us to embrace the gift the pandemic has given us — more self-reflection, time with our families, an opportunity to learn the lessons of the earth. And if we don’t, shame on us.
My own shame lived in the chaos around me, my inability to see and think clearly. In my dream, I wandered, unable to focus, fully aware that Cuomo was enjoying his meal. He seemed appreciative of the fact that we’d invited him to dinner in the midst of a pandemic — relaxed and talking amiably with anyone who had the guts to strike up a conversation.
And by the way, I think he was wearing that sexy dark-green National Guard uniform he wore at the press briefing in the Javits Center. Yes, he’s someone with biceps and a broad frame who quotes the Constitution without notes — at one point, he reminded Trump of the 10th Amendment, the powers given to the states by our Founding Fathers — Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington — you know, all the people we wish were alive today to get us out of this mess.
But barring our Founding Fathers, who are probably flipping in their graves, Cuomo will have to do. In my dream, he was doing very well, unconcerned about the clutter when he slipped past me with a big smile on his way to the bathroom. I tried frantically, desperately, to keep him from using that one as it was full of more crap, we hadn’t cleaned the toilet — but it was too late. The governor of New York was now peeing in our filthy bathroom and I was powerless to stop him.
I escaped to another room — at least I had options, and there he was again, seated at a big table, eating just like before, as if to remind me that he was still here despite the chaos in my brain, the filthy bathroom and cluttered rooms; that it was to be expected, given the death this virus has wrought. And to remind me that there was comfort in food, in the room filling up with waiters in white shirts bearing trays of lasagna and bruschetta. Comfort in the half-eaten steak on his plate. I eyed it warily, stood behind him — the closest I’d gotten — wondering if I should risk taking a bite.
Finally, I tried cutting off a small piece, but it was too rare. I couldn’t cut through it, couldn’t bring myself to ask for something better. Lasagna, for me and the governor, even though the trays were less than 6 feet away.
In his briefings, the governor issued hard truths, albeit with inspiration, because that’s where we’re at. In my dream, no one gets any lasagna. Maybe that’s because we haven’t gotten there yet. We’re in the middle of this horrific nightmare with no end in sight. All that’s available is a half-eaten steak too rare to digest.
Perhaps my brain needs to stew a bit more before I can develop an appetite, experience a dream with a satisfying end. In the meantime, I’ll wake from the muddled, chaotic ones and push forward to breakfast in our disinfected kitchen.
It’s only in my head that chaos reigns, that I have no appetite — although when I eat, my stomach rebels, as if it were waging war with the virus itself.
Never mind. Though, in life, when I’m not dreaming, I’m missing Cuomo, watching the news, trying to make sense of it. Petting my cat, walking in the woods and arguing with my husband. Living the things life allows us in this new time and place, wagering every visit to the outside world against the heightened possibility of death.
I’m a gay man, stonewall vet and a veteran of the first and second pride marches in 1969 and 1970, pure political, civil-rights manna and broth. I’ve lost over 1100 brothers and sisters to AIDS, friends, acquaintances, lovers, sex partners, comrades. The AIDS epidemic PTSD’d the life outta me for a while. When i came back up for air around 2007, i was disgusted to see how the pride march had become a pride parade dominated by corporate interests. Citibank, who wouldn’t even spit at us in 1975, were now all of a sudden acting as though they gave that dyke the first brick to throw through a police car window at Stonewall! Last year we organized an alternate march, the Reclaim Pride March–no floats, no corporate presence, no police, no commercial bullshit, only politics and activists’ concerns. It was wildly successful, and incredibly beautiful. We expected perhaps 5,000 people; 48,000 attended! The same Sunday the big corporate march was going on, the same time, but different routes. This year we are marching again, this sunday june 28, 1 p.m. from Foley Square to Washington Square Park. We march in conjunction with Black Lives Matter. The focus is civil rights, racism, police brutality, evil. Please feel free to join us.
A beautiful, stream-of-consciousness dream of what is, what shouldn’t be, what could be. You capture the surreal in the moment of a political persona speaking the truth of the human condition, and with passion. The last line is everything true of life now: “Living the things life allows us in this new time and place, wagering every visit to the outside world against the heightened possibility of death.” Bravo.
Ann Stoney is quite a wonderful writer. More, Ms. Stoney, more!
In this time when nothing seems to surprise anymore and yet nothing seems completely real, I appreciate Ann Stoney’s story that straddles the world of dreams and the aspect of reality that seems like a dream. Bravo.