Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I couldn't believe it. It took a while to sink in. At the party, I stood in stunned awe with my colleagues as the returns came in--Should we get out the champagne?, someone asked, dubious, wondrous. Already? We poured the champagne, wide-eyed and grinning, and toasted and cheered and teared up at the sight of Obama, the people. Still, I felt like I had suspended but not shaken my disbelief.

How could the moment have already arrived? This moment?

My friend and I got on our bikes, the night was cold and clear, and I couldn't quite believe that I was biking home and Obama would be president, that we had actually won. No vote theft, no fraud, no lawsuits, no upsets--a clear, undeniable win.

We heard, then saw fireworks flashing above the trees. "I think it's in Tappan Square," Bernard said. "Should we go check it out?" Of course we did. As we neared, we heard drums thumping and a steadily increasing roar. There, underneath the sporadic glittering explosions, a full-on bacchanalia was underway: a marching band, swarming throngs of people dancing and hugging and screaming and whooping, kids climbing the rafters of the bandstand, gleeful streakers, and, something I never thought I'd hear on this campus, chants of U-S-A! and O-BA-MA! The euphoria was mass, the joyful noise deafening and continuous.

My camera and my phone had both died so I had no way to document the moment, but I was grateful for this. All I needed to do was be in it. The moment demanded no less.

Eventually, having hugged and cheered and shared amazement with everyone I knew there, I took leave of the escalating nudity and shenanigans. Back home I read the online newspapers from around the world until three a.m. I closed the laptop and got up to take out my contacts and on the way, reaching into a dark room to turn on the light, I leaned my forehead against the doorframe and closed my eyes and burst into tears.

I sobbed and sobbed.

I said aloud, Black president. I had to repeat it. Black president.

I'll admit, I talked to myself. I had to say it aloud again and again as it sunk in deeper and deeper. Really? Is this really my country? I could not stop crying. I don't think I have ever felt so surely that America did something so right.

I know there are impossible expectations, but now my cynicism is completely dismantled. All I feel is love and relief and a kind of heartbroken-ness, in a good way--just cracked open, feeling it all, and good with that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We shouted to our neighbors on rooftops in Portland. Our tears were mixed with rain - I doubt anyone will forget where they were when they found out Barack Obama had become president.