Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Fastwrite: Election Night

Nov. 9, 2016 -- This month, on the campus where I teach English, we're studying "living sources." Fieldwork, et cetera. Today I asked students to write for 10 minutes in a notebook about something or someone you've overheard in the past 24 hours. "Give your topic a face," Bruce Ballenger urges his curious and not-so-curious researchers. Here's what I got down.
North Portland. November 9, 2016. Corner bakery, big windows. 
The man sitting down the bench from me is on his phone. I can't make out the caller. His mother, maybe. He loves her very much—that much is clear. What's also obvious? This morning, this man is nearing some breaking point.
"You don't understand," says the man. "You're a white, straight American and you can't understand what this means for me. It's a nightmare. For someone who's gay, I mean. I'm gay, remember?" 
The man has curly brown hair and big headphones wrapped around his Adam's apple. Up-down, up-down. 
He's working, he told his sad friend earlier, for a little paper company off Mississippi. They're trying to convert a Craftsman into office space. Free beer, sans wireless. So he's working from the bakery today.
"You don't understand," the man repeats, his whisper beginning to crack. "I'm fine, I'll be fine. But I have friends in North Carolina. I'm worried sick about them. For their safety, I mean. They don't understand.
"And listen, when I get back, I don't want to hear about this. Nothing. Not at Thanksgiving. Not now. They don't understand, and you don't, and I don't either."
And I don't either. But that's what I heard today, I told the class. Who's next?

Update -- Another version of this piece appears in the 2017 issue of Salmon Creek Journal.