We couldn’t see a thing.
We got to the rally relatively early, at 6 p.m. or so, and though they’d said the gates wouldn’t open until 8:30 they pretty much had to let people in, or risk snarling traffic all through the Loop. So we got in through the various bottlenecks and then lined up, sardined in with thousands of others, and our view was only as good as the heads in front of us and the height of our heels allowed. I don’t have many pictures to show you.
But I wanted you to hear it. I wanted you to hear the roar.
We stood next to an older lady and her daughter, a Cuban-American woman and her boyfriend, three young men who said “dude” a lot, and during complicated negotiations between Mr. A and myself over who would go fetch who a bottle of water, a total stranger pulled one from her bag and handed it to us. I offered to pay her for it (they were charging $3 and I’d have paid more than that to not have to fight through the crowd twice) but she waved me off.
Two huge screens showed CNN and a girl next to me kept yelling, “Shut up, Wolf, you dicksmack.” Cell signals were capricious at best; it was the world’s biggest game of telephone. Somebody’s phone would work for a minute to get exits from some web site, and he or she would share that info and on down the line it would pass. Two hours in, people started throwing a beach ball around. It was that kind of crowd.
When the polls closed in California, people counted the seconds down, and when the CNN “Breaking News” chyron came up, the yell that came from that crowd was like nothing I’ve ever heard, ever, ever. And I’ve been in some hockey stadiums. It was a yell that came from people’s guts, that came from every advancement denied, every hope dashed, every moment stolen, every bit of joy they’d ever lost in the past eight years and for longer than that, longer. It was a yell that came from someplace deep and hungry, now satisfied.
The Cuban-American woman next to me held my hand tight, and said, “This is for ’68. It took 40 years, but we got here.” And we danced to the music. The three boys behind me said, “Dude, did we actually just win this thing?” We high-fived. Mr. A put his arms around me and sang in my ear. I’m getting over a cold, my feet hurt, my back hurt, I wanted a drink, I wanted to lie down, it was gonna be a monumental inconvenience getting out of there and on the train and walking home. Screw it, though. That roar went up, and there was nowhere else on earth you could have persuaded me, in that moment, to have been.
Or, as my friend J. texted me a second later, “I THINK BARACK OBAMA JUST GOT ME PREGNANT LOL.”
It’s been a long eight years, and George W. Bush has been a miserable, divisive, small, nasty president. John McCain, gracious concession notwithstanding, ran a miserable, divisive, small, nasty campaign. As President-Elect Obama (how crazy is that to say OMG that’s crazy) reminded us his own self, we have some shit to take care of in the coming months and years. But for the first time in a long time, we all held on to each other, and when the moment came, we raised our voices together, in a loud and joyful noise. For the future. For tomorrow, only hours away.
And tonight, tonight, tonight that’s enough.