It is the day after the election. I decide to go out for a late-afternoon drink at the local bar. I had slept a total of under two hours of sleep the night before. I wasn’t truly devastated or floored by the election results; I sort of knew this was coming, for months. I saw the signs. So this was like just ripping off the Band-Aid, after dreading it for months. Of course, there was a festering infected pus-filled wound under that bandage, one that would need to be looked at, carefully explored, disinfected, and redressed. But it was finally off. It was a strange sense of relief mixed with a thudding, monolithic sense of the reality ahead of us.
A person I knew from the neighborhood sat next to me at the bar. He looked and acted like he had literally been drinking non-stop since the previous night. You know somebody who has drank so much he seems like he’s about to go bugfuck crazy? Like, that level of intoxication, sans the sightless gift of being unconscious? That was my acquaintance. I barely knew him, really. But here he was.
He was always a skinny chap, but he looked far far skinnier than I ever remembered him being.
“What can we do to make a difference,” he asked in a desperate, throaty slur. He had two drinks in front of him on the counter: a beer and a shot of whiskey, next to an iPhone in a Minecraft-inspired plastic case. His white faux-fur jacket was bunched up on the floor, mangled between the legs of his stool. “I mean…what can we do as a COMMUNITY?”
I rattled off something about perhaps starting a blog—
“No, FUCK blogs! Fuck the Internet. I mean: what can we do in the COMMUNITY?”
I answered that what he was doing right now—talking to another person—was a good start. And that he could talk to others, start a group, maybe have meetings in one of the local—
“You know, everybody is saying that white non-college educated men are to blame for this. But I’M a white non-college educated male, and I didn’t do this. I voted for Hillary. But you know…everybody acts like this is MY fault! And it hurts me, man! It hurts…”
He then went into his background, in a poor area of the South. How his single mother had to raise four children without Federal assistance, and that they didn’t even have running water.
He held out his hands.
“Feel these hands!” I gingerly did so. “These are a working man’s hands! I’ve been working since I was 12 years old…”
They had a subtly raised outer layer of frosty-looking callused texture, bulbous at the joints.
“I wanted Hillary to win, “he continued, “for my mom! I wanted her to feel good about having a woman president…” I let go of his hands. He picked up the shot glass. My wine glass was empty by this point. “But what I want to know is, what can we do to make a difference?”
I went through every suggestion in my repertoire: weekly meetings. A newsletter. Perhaps a reading series.
“So everybody would bring a poem or a chapter of something to read, and…”
“But—what can we do to make a difference?”
I looked at my empty glass, and considered buying another drink. No. No need.
I had beer at home.