Holding My Breath

A U.S. Election-eve Dream – 2020

On Monday, November 2nd, like many Americans and others around the world,  I went to bed thinking about the presidential election. That night I dreamed that I came upon a glimmering boat dock. The long pier-like structure stretched into the distance, but without a boat in sight. Its metallic construction blended in with the water, reflecting the grey sky above. The horizon was impossible to discern and the dock, although also grey, shimmered above the water – the only identifiable shape in the greyness surrounding me. As I passed through the gate separating the dock from land, I was struck by the stability of the structure, without the usual swaying movement and the buoyancy of the water. As I walked further down the dock, I noticed a single boat moored in the distance. I continued walking toward the boat and noticed that the dock was no longer floating on top of the water but was instead descending into the clear grey water. I moved effortlessly – deeper and deeper into the water as I walked closer and closer to the boat. It was a small wooden craft, maybe a fishing boat with a motor and a cockpit. It was silent and looked deserted. I was completely underwater when I finally reached the boat – frantic, confused and panicked – holding my breath as I tried to find someone, anyone onboard who could explain this uncharted territory and frightening situation to me. Finally, the captain appeared. He peered out of a window on the starboard side of the cockpit. He spoke calmly, breathing normally although deep under water. I struggled for air, as he said to me, “It’ll take us six minutes to get to the surface… you’ll just have to hold your breath.”

About the author: Mara Welsh Mahmood is the Interim Executive Director of University-Community Links (UC Links), a network of university and community partners, working together to develop and sustain innovative after-school programs. Mara has studied and written about learning within and across multiple contexts including K-12, higher education, after-school, as well as out-of-school learning in São Paulo, Brazil. She is a co-author of the forthcoming book, A Cultural Historical Approach to Social Displacement and University-Community Engagement: Emerging Research and Opportunities (IGI Global, in press).

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