Looking around the room, she settles into the observer spot. There are noses like hers. Noses that are wider. Noses that are steeper. Babies, black and brown, white and gold. There are older couples looking out for each other, and younger ones bickering about what to do next. Do they have time to get a Starbucks, or will that make them all the later for work? A father takes a picture of his young yarmulke’d son, standing in front of the ballot box, thumbs up: “I voted”.
Turning out they are, these people, our people, the people who live next to us, but that we never see, but for if passing each other in the line to vote. So many people live in this square block of a precinct, and there are only a few that she recognizes. Some of them catch her eye. Some don’t. Though she tries with all of them. At bay is how Abigail would describe how she has been facing this election. But not now. Not today.
At one instance, a wife looks worriedly at her husband’s ballot. For some frustratingly unexplainable reason, his ballot has been spit-back-out. Her head turns from the face of the official standing over the machine to her husband’s: won’t he count? Turns out there’s a side door – manual as it is. Technology failed; human-conceived back up plan saved. Moment passes.
Abigail wakes the morning after. For a split second, as if in mourning, she forgets the night before, the-what- happened before she fretfully put herself to bed, hoping for a moment’s rest. And then it rushes in. Moms at the PTO snack table, outside the polling place at the school where her son could not thrive. They said, “She’s going to win! It will be momentous. Our first woman president,” misinterpreting Abigail’s tears as candidate anxiety.
In fact, she had held herself together in the sea of unknown neighbors, awakened to the anonymity that binds them. She took in all those people, the humanity of Babel, added to it the-not-being-behind-the-PTO-table, supporting the teachers she had believed in so much, and it broke her resolve. Reliving those moments when there was no understanding for the difference of her boy, it all came crashing to tears. What if that privately-suffered, non-working-together-compassion would now sit publically in the leader’s national chair?
Standing in the election party kitchen later that night, Abigail paces. Stomach knotted. How could this be – as blue and red shift ratios? Even later, she and her husband fall asleep holding hands, as if together in an abyss, knowing nothing other than to connect. Imperfect solution, but reassuring.
The thing that stings the most the morning after is that Abigail has always thought herself “tuned in,” open, available to diversity. Like she knew her country. And clearly, she has no idea, living in the bubble of her life. Precinct 12 with all the noses and shades of skin and the PTO breakfast goodies sold, she has no concept of the nation she resides in. Stranger feelings, greater distances, deeper fear about the meaning and make up of this country, she has not known before. Was this what it was like in the real- life pages of history books when things were so bad, and we said, “never again”?
Photo Courtesy of https://c.o0bg.com/rf/image_960w/Boston/2011-2020/2016/11/08/BostonGlobe.com/Metro/Images/350ac8f66f0d45f5993211787eb7f056-350ac8f66f0d45f5993211787eb7f056-0.jpg