Coming home

For my first outing since I came home the other day, I wore my Obama chitenge, a waist to ankle wrap of fabric with little American flags surrounding our President’s smiling face and Swahili words saying something to the effect of Congratulations and God Bless You Barack Obama. It is a big hit in Africa, where I got it, and where anything with our President’s face on it is a big hit. It’s a big hit amongst my people anywhere, my people being anyone I am, or could become, friends with.  Being home, where I came to vote and where my vote counts, perhaps I wanted to feel that I had potential friends all around me.

“I like your skirt,” a woman said warmly, on her way into the toilet stall to my left in the ladies room at Mounts Botanical Gardens. “It’s a tablecloth, right?”

“Thank you,” I said, and turned so she could admire the whole thing, my President’s face being mostly on the right, “It’s my President.”

She made a mean face, which wasn’t hard for her, as all her features were gathered in the middle, surrounded by down-pulling lines to begin with.

“Not mine,” she said. We both swept into our stalls.

“Actually he is, if you’re an American,” I said, once the door was safely locked behind me.

“You’re right!” she said, in the nasty way someone concedes a niggling point, when she thinks she’s got a bigger point to make. “For two more days!”

You ignorant shit, I thought, and said, “Actually, it doesn’t work that way. Even if the pathological liar wins, somehow, the next inauguration isn’t until January. But you don’t have to worry about keeping that straight, because it’s not going to happen.”

“Obama’s a pathological liar!” she said.

“And you’re a racist,” I said.

“Me?!” she cried out, in a suddenly squeaky voice that told me without question that she says awful things at home all the time. “That’s ridiculous!”

I flushed the toilet to drown her out.

The next day I went to the Obama office in the next town over, where very young men who looked like they stepped out of a Ralph Lauren ad gave me a clip board with a script, a map, a list of names and addresses, a stack of door hangers, and a companion, another person of gray hair, to drive out to the wasteland on the edge of the town with, and canvass opposite sides of the street.

“It’s reminding me of Deliverance here,” he said, at a sprawling compound that appeared to be a halfway house, where men stumbled blearily around between one-room cottages. And someone had been there the day before, and the day before that, we learned. We pinned our hopes on the next spot on our map, because it had cul-de-sacs and the inviting name of “Emerald Isles.”

It also had signs all over its entry saying  NO TRESPASSING and NO SOLICITING so we left to go to the next spot, a sparsely populated trailer park that, it turned out, had the same signs. We came back.

“I’m not going out again,” my companion told the Ralph Lauren models upon our return. “I’ll make calls if you want, but I’m done going door to door.”

I went back out with the more promising route of the cottages on the six blocks or so surrounding the office, and had a nice time because no one was home, and I could put notices saying where to vote on all the door knobs, and with the exception of one workman who asked if I was “on food stamps,” and if that was why I was supporting Obama, everyone was nice.

Then this morning my mother roared up the street at about 50 miles per hour in her car, before slamming on the brakes in front of my place and leaning on the horn, for me to take her to vote. She had already told me five or six times over the weekend that she thought it was nice that I was working for Obama, but how was she going to get to the polls and stand in line and vote. And I had already told her five or six times that the two activities weren’t mutually exclusive and that we could actually have our cake and eat it too — with whatever chance that I might ease the way for one possible additional Obama vote only augmenting our own Obama votes. Then of course the strong possibility — heightened by old-lady-level anxiety stirred by 500+ days of a tax-hiding sociopath campaigning against our president — that I would lose control of the car and Never Make it to the Polls helped fill the void of what to talk about as we made our way to the Lantana Recreation Cewnter.

And there we met two neighbors, who we like, but who my mother steered away from with speed unprecedented in at least the last dozen years, as she charged with her walker into the building. I explained she was very nervous to my neighbors, one of whom answered tactfully, “So are we,” but in a slightly off to the side way that indicated she was trying to say, nervous about a completely different thing. So I hurried away too, so I wouldn’t have to hate them for the whole rest of time, and went in and voted.

And now we’re waiting, and I’m wondering if it’s going to be like this, having to worry, and argue and be grateful for tiny little comforts like not arguing, all the time now.


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