Thursday, November 09, 2006

On hearing the election results from WDUQ

First it was the background cheering and clapping, and then came the news report, “Last night the Democrats took the House….” Immediately, my heart leapt behind my ribcage, and a sob rose in my throat. Surprised, I started to push it back down, but I remembered I was alone, so I let myself cry. (I hate watching this same impulse in my mother—the way she is ashamed of crying in front of us. But then, we were so mean to her in our teenage years.)

Crying: It wasn’t from sadness, nor simply shock. It was more like a surge of motion inside me after a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. When it left, it reminded me of the moment it had landed, like having a sense memory of how long it had been with me (this weight) as opposed to living with it while forgetting that it was there at all. This weight; a depression of sorts, a sadness without tears, a desolation without words.

(One way I know that the inner fog has lifted is I can hear music again; one day, it’s all drudge and distraction and mucking through, the next day I’m craving music, remembering who my favorite voices are, humming at the bus stop. Another way I know is I start seeing in terms of patterns or colors, like photographs arranging themselves in front of me. Last winter it was coming up from underground, where the subway becomes the elevated, and looking up from my reading to see a dusky blue coloring every building in Queens Plaza the same hue, and being convinced for one moment that we were underwater. Later that night I looked above and the apartment windows on a street were a beautiful pattern jumping to my eye long before I recognized them for what they were.)

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not in love with the modern-day Democratic Party, with its centrism and gladhanding and corporate pandering. But when Americans voted in a bullying regime far to the right of that in 2004, I was crushed. We were crushed. Our spirits were completely crushed. You couldn’t hear an utterance on the New York subways. They were practically empty. They were silent of voices. One image I retain of that Bleak Wednesday is of a lone passenger (as the 6 train pulled into Astor Place in late morning), folded over on herself at the belly.

The night before Election Day, 2004, I was working late at the bookstore on the corner of Third Avenue and Ninth Street. Suddenly, a large black man covered in Kerry stickers opened the door and shouted inside in a booming vibrato, “YOU GOTTA VOTE, PEOPLE! THIS IS IT, NOW!” and then left as quickly as he came.

It was his voice of hope and courage and willingness to work WITH what we had, or even against it, together, that had left me for two years.


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