Saturday, October 31, 2020

20 years

 I've been repeatedly saying that time moves strangely during the pandemic, but in truth, time is always this strange distorted creature. I woke this morning thinking that it will have been 20 years tomorrow exactly that I climbed on a bus and came into Chicago for my interview at the library.  I remember I was hung over, not from alcohol, but from spending the night before watching horror movies and eating too much sugar with my dad & sister. (my mother still in her anti-horror years was  watching something else in the bedroom.)  That morning, we spent ambling through the Michigan Ave shops and getting lunch, but later I found myself standing in front of Columbia and wondering if it was worth it.  Would I even get the job?  Was it even worth uprooting my life? I was woefully underpaid and stressed out at the elementary library, but it had grown familiar and  stable.   It paid so little, I couldn't see every having the funds to get a place of my own.  And yet, I think I was some sort of happy there...and I enjoyed running story hours and making displays and bulletin boards.  Though I'd been repeating that moving away from Chicago the previous year had been a mistake, had it?  Could I just go on there?  Easily, under less than perfect circumstances, but comfortable ones.  The future was darker and more in shadow, but nevertheless I walked in to the interview with very little expectation I'd be hired, and yet, 10 days later, I was. Within a few weeks I was definitely convinced I'd made the right decision and have been ever since. 

What followed was a hurried and chaotic move to another city with very little money  I'd saved a little, but was able to borrow the rest from my parents to get me set up until my first paycheck.  I moved the weekend after Thanksgiving and started that next Monday in a virtually empty apartment.  I had a futon on the floor, a hand-me-down recliner, a small tv and a couple of week's later, a Christmas tree.  In the spring, i'd slowly start filling it with bookshelves and a thrifted couch and my prized green mid-century cabinets.  I've never been flush with money, even less so then, and was making just over twenty grand in the beginning, but it was more than the job before. And while I occasionally overdrafted my bank account, I managed to feed and clothe myself those first couple of years.   

All during those first couple months,  the Bush/Gore election was still up in the air.  Which seemed like the craziest thing, but in hindsight, it was a drop in the bucket compared to the chaos we are facing now.  My perception of national stability was a given.  I'd seen the Dems and Republicans battle it out, but my childhood and college years were pretty stable, even with the first Gulf War thrown in there. Scandal maybe--the Monica Lewinski nonsense, a crude knowledge of Watergate that occured around the time I was born.  There were small things to fear in the corner of our minds, but they were anomalies--Waco, Oklahoma City, the Unibomber.  A year or so later 9-11 would happen and we'd lose a certain American bubble of safety we never really got back.  All of it seems mild compared to now. 

What will happen Tuesday?  I really don't know.  I remember in 2008, they closed much of downtown election night, including the campus.  Obama if he won, was going to hold his celebration in Grant Park and they wanted it to be safe.  The night before, leaving out at 10pm, I saw more cops than I every had patrolling (that is, until this summer and fall.)  They took away the garbage cans and all the mailboxes.  I listed to election coverage while making holiday ornaments for the Etsy shop on the north side. It was peaceful celebration, but a triumphant one. Everyone on the bus the next day was bright eyed and happy. In 2012, the re-claiming was uneventful, so much so that I don't even remember that evening in particular. Four years later I would watch as what seemed a joke and inconcievable happened until I just couldn't watch it anymore.  That night on the way home, a man shouted something crude about my ass as I crossed the street. and the wind blew up my skirt. I knew it was gonna be a long four years. 

I know what I hope will happen.  That Biden will win in a landslide, and while he's sort of serviceable and uninspiring in general, Harris or another woman will take the reigns in four years.  I hope they'll lead the current interloper out in handcuffs if he won't go.  There will be all sorts of nonsense and voter supression--it's a given, but I hope, in the end, common sense and democracy prevails. 

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