a breakfast serial

One bite-sized story every morning to uplift, motivate, or provoke thought.

November 4, 2008

< by Amelia >

I spent election night 2008 getting palm sweat all over Michigan’s returns. As a news radio intern, I was entrusted with updating the state’s results as they rolled in, and being in charge of so many numbers kept me in a low-grade panic all night. It was probably some sort of high-stakes hazing reserved specifically for creative writing majors, but nevertheless, I ran like hell down the hall to deliver each update to the anchor for every local break. It was the first presidential election I was old enough to vote in, but I joined the staff in worrying more about getting everything right than the status of my candidate. There may have been cupcakes, but it wasn’t exactly festive.

I wouldn’t go home to celebrate or commiserate with anyone, either. It was my college’s most popular semester for juniors to go abroad, and my best friends were in France, Scotland, and Russia, and my boyfriend was probably still out singing Roy Orbison karaoke in his favorite Budapest gay bar. I’d moved to Ann Arbor for the semester to work two internships, which I loved, but I was too shy to make new friends, even in such a big college town – and I knew I’d be gone soon, anyway. Getting down to business in the newsroom became my first election party, and I spent it grimacing instead of getting down.

But as I got into my (political bumper sticker-free) Beetle in the station’s parking lot — ready for my nightly ritual of drinking a glass of wine and listening to Devendra Banhardt’s sappiest songs before bed, just to prove that youth is wasted on young people — I knew I couldn’t make it off the street. Tipsy U of M students blocked my route home wherever I looked, banging on pots and pans, blowing on trumpets and other battered band instruments, kissing, crying, fist-pumping, and yelling “America!” I abandoned my car in a no-parking zone and slipped in among them.

For the first time in my sad sack of a semester, I made eye contact with these people my age, and everyone looked back at me with beatific grins (and occasionally cans of Miller Lite, which I politely declined). I followed a didgeridoo player dressed as a drum major from the Union to the steps of the library, where young people stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the quad and high-fived their neighbors. As “God Bless America” rang out — at first tentatively, then once again, with feeling — I didn’t feel any less alone than I had all semester, but I clapped my hand over my heart and beamed at everyone anyway. I’d finally seen whom I was counting for.

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