I Dreamed A Dream in Walmart

 Like many folks, Covid 19 has left me feeling a bit Miserable. Not all the time, not every day. It comes at me in unexpected ways. Today I was heading inside Walmart when I passed my next door neighbor on her way out. We shouted greetings typical of people in -22C weather and wearing masks. She left and I turned to the fellow walking behind me.

“That was my neighbor. I never see her anymore. I spot her coming and going, but it’s sure not like it used to be. We used to visit back and forth and…” This went on for some time. 

This man was a stranger to me, although these days, who can know for sure? He pushed his cart quickly as I followed him down the dairy aisle. I lost him when he took a left turn at the eggs, but spotted a couple nearby. Again, strangers. 

“I think he was trying to get away,” I said. “Ha ha!” Nobody laughed except me. They looked frightened. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you were shopping together.” I strove for a light tone but sounded a bit unbalanced. (In our community, you can’t shop with family. The guards running Devil’s Island could learn from the People in Charge of our Misery. Full disclosure: I know it’s for our own good.) Sigh.

The experience reminded me of the musical, Les Miserable. On that very spot in Walmart, I wanted to sing the song, I Dreamed a Dream, but change the words to the following:

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed

Okay, no need to change the words, then. They’re frighteningly accurate. 

Next I headed to the Co-op,  spotting two people I know. We stood distanced but chatting. “When will it end?” “How much longer?” “September?” Again, very Les Mis type conversations. My mind moved to another part of the musical. One Day More, I thought. That’s how we have to live. Remember to breath, and don’t clean your whole kitchen. Leave some. You should spread the chores out. 

When I got home, I listened to the Les Mis album and thought about coping mechanisms. For many, art plays a big role. Painting, writing, macramé, finishing furniture and repainting rooms. I imagine there’s a lot of whittling going on in the world. And, there are people like my niece’s husband, James, who manufactures strange weapons just for fun. 

My brain segued to the storming of the US Capitol a few weeks ago. I wondered if some of those involved weren’t actually Proud boys or white nationalists, but people like me who miss choir and musicals. While acting out a scene from Les Mis, I picture them shouting to each other, “Choir on zoom, Wednesday night at seven. Remember our online performance of Rent!”

This is my dream. Perhaps a wish too far, but I like to believe that not all taking part had thought it through. Pretending you’re in a musical is no more far fetched than thinking:

a.  your government is conspiring against you

b.  the pandemic is a fake

c. the vaccine will turn you into a zombie. 

If only the guards on duty had held up their hands and said, ‘Wait for the music! Okay, everyone on the count of four, “Do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men, it is the music of a people…” You get the picture. 

“Okay,” the rest of us would laugh in relief. “They were acting out the barricade scene from Les Mis!” And everyone would applaud, and they would tidy up their mess and leave, already singing, ‘Five hundred, twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes!” And the world would clap. “Those boys should be proud. They really can sing!”

Ah, brain segues. Not always rational. But I dreamed a dream.. Wait, it’s over? Okay.

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

2 thoughts on “I Dreamed A Dream in Walmart

  1. So it must run in the family to have unsolicited conversations with strangers and carry on our way. My dad Lionel is the master at this and all his kids have learnt the art!)
    Cousin Claire


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