Monday, October 27, 2008


t is watching "recount" in the other room. i went in and watched a few minutes, but it just made me sad. we can't go back. there were a few weeks back in late 2000 when we had a chance to do it right. and watching a movie about how our democracy failed us just hurts too much. we aren't any different than the other flawed countries around the world whose ballots are falsified, interpreted, intimidated into producing results.

it was another time back when i lived in that tiny little dorm room, watching election results on that tuesday night. i flipped off the t.v. around 11:30, that tiny little set with the built-in vcr. i went to bed thinking i would wake up in the morning with a new president. then, when i woke up and it still wasn't decided, i thought to myself, "huh. i wonder who it'll be," thinking by night i'd have an answer. a couple weeks later, i was vaguely annoyed but my mind had moved on to other, more pressing concerns. not till so much later did i come to understand the tragedy of those weeks. there was so much i just didn't understand back then. i was walking around in a fog.

thinking back to that time, it really is like looking back into a fog. i can't see anything clearly because at the time i wandered around only half aware of my surroundings. i only half understand it now, all the things i did to protect myself back then. i was afraid of pain. i tried simply to feel as little hurt as possible. i was angry a lot, at all the things i couldn't control. i was angry at all the wrong things.

when september 11 happened, i wandered around campus with my camera around my neck, looking for shots of people reacting to the pain. not once have i ever recalled feeling sad. shocked, and a little frightened when i first woke up that morning sometime around 9:30, to the smoking towers and panicked voices of my alarm-clock radio. but never sad.

it was two and a half years later, in a little movie theater in san cristobal de las casas, mexico, that i first cried for what happened that day. there was a movie playing in the arts theater in town, where i had been staying for a few days during my trip through central america. eleven filmmakers from eleven countries doing eleven short pieces on september 11. one of them, a filmmaker from brazil, i think, had a piece with no picture. just a white screen. and clips of sound. sound from the newscasts, sound from the people screaming on the streets, sound from the final phone calls and messages left to loved ones on answering machines. it was a theater the size of my bedroom, but full. i was sitting there in the dark, alone, with tears silently rolling down my face. and then i gasped, a sob that welled up unexpectedly, which i caught almost as soon as it came out. i kept myself quiet for the rest of the film. but it was a moment i will never forget. i felt more american in that theater than i had ever felt in my life. and maybe one day i can articulate better what that meant to me.

it's just weird, how quickly time passes. how short eight years have been, and how incredibly long. eight years ago, i was still dating m. eight years ago, i was lost to myself. and yesterday, t and i spent the whole afternoon hanging out with m and his wife, who was also my friend eight years ago, and their kid who is adorable. and it continues to amaze me that we have ended up where we are, all of us. like puzzle pieces in just the right places. i feel grateful.

but it makes me sad still, thinking about then, and all that's happened, and how much we have been through. it took a lot of pain to get to where we are today. that's what i'm thinking of tonight, and i'm wondering how many other americans are feeling like me. i can't wait for november 4th. maybe it will be as cathartic as this country needs it to be. it won't take us back, let us fix what we messed up. but this time, when i cast my vote, i think i'll probably cry. and it will be good.

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