Election '08
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It was a temperate November night in New York City. My friend and I met in a bar in Park Slope. The two TVs were tuned to Jon Stewart and either MSNBC or CNN, I forget which.

Jon Stewart's eyes were even more twinkly than usual. He was mesmerizing, enough to keep my focus even as the other channel had holograms and other special effects, visual reminders of the change coming ever so quickly. This is what the map needs to look like in order for McCain to win. This is what it needs to look like--in contrast--for victory. The smile of (potential) President Obama loomed over our heads, seemingly in on the joke. Full of promise and yes, hope. That elusive thing, made almost tangible in physical form, recreated by pixels and numbers for our viewing pleasure. He was as much idea as man. A concept of a different America, symbolized by flesh. But then so are all such candidates, good or bad.

Stewart's program ended and the "big guys" got their volume turned on. I appreciated that the bar hadn't switched from Comedy Central until Stewart was done; we needed comedy to prep for the intensity of the night. We were witnessing history in real time.

The first time I heard the other patrons cheer, I looked up from my Sierra Nevada, thinking good god, he's done it. He's won the presidency. But before my delight could fully kick in, I would realize that in fact he'd only won an important state. My delight didn't subside, so much as retreat a little bit, telling itself "soon, my child. Soon." My delight talks to itself that way.

But each time that happened, my delight retreated less. Because he was that much closer, and so it was decreasingly a preview and increasingly reality. "He's won??? Oh. OK. The great big wonderful event hasn't happened yet. There's something to look forward to, and this makes it even more likely. This is how you'll feel in an hour. But more so!"

According to that part of my brain, Obama won the presidency four or five times before winning it for real. The climax was all the more intense for my body having multiple opportunities to process it beforehand. It was a weird roller coaster with more peaks than valleys, and the peaks were higher than the valleys were low, and quite frankly the phrase "emotional rollercoaster" doesn't make much sense because in the actual ride, the fall is the thrilling part. But that's hardly Obama's fault.

But when it came down to it, the hum was loud enough--and specific enough, in that indescribable way--that I knew there would be no more false starts. This was it. If he didn't get this state, he could still win. But if he got this state, he'd won, full stop. I could do my research and tell you which state it was, but this is a memory. Wikipedia can fill in the more practical details for you.

So. We're tense, but not so tense we can't breathe. Because we know. We know. We don't know; we hope. We're pretty sure. But we kind of know.

And then we know.

Oh god.

The atheists pray in gratitude. You think I'm hyperbolizing? I'm not.

I wasn't alive for May 8, 1945. But I've heard stories. We've seen the picture of the iconic kiss in Times Square, between sailor and nurse, the symbol of camaraderie among the masses. For one sweet second, New York loved each other. Cheered itself hoarse, dreaming of the better times to surely, shortly come.

That was what Brooklyn was like on that day.

Cars came by, blasting their horns. We gave them thumbs up as they waved to us, at once strangers and friends. Never to see each other again, we were sharing an intimate moment of a better world made real. There was hugging in and outside that bar.

From the nearby apartments music and cheers blasted from open windows, the residents freely sharing their excitement with a grateful neighborhood. There's nothing quite as magical as a city echoing joy. You feel ironically important for being part of something that transcends your individuality, your voice, your vote. You're not insignificant: you're a witness, a participant. A perfect--or beautifully imperfect--harmony needs every note. People smoked cigarettes not out of nervousness but as if they were ingesting champagne in tobacco form. To say there were smiles would be an understatement.

There were also tears. And not only tears of happiness, but those of relief. There was a white guy, about my age, sitting at the bar and shaking with tears. His body language was that of someone who has been suffering a continued trauma, and for whom that trauma is close to concluding. It appeared that not only Bush himself, but the cruelty of the oppressive party, was readying to release him. Our national nightmare was ending, for now.

I want to hug that man, across time and space. He's crying for a different reason. The monster is back. And its smile is grotesque.

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