Her: Election 2008
You only like him because him good-looking. Junior is both right and wrong; no one can say the face on the screen isn’t devastatingly handsome but there is so much more to love about “the young senator from Chicago”.
We are in the bleachers, near what qualifies as the nosebleed seats of Columbia University’s football field, watching a speech being given by one of the school’s most famous alumni, and that is counting all the Nobel Prize winners who have passed through the corrugated iron gates on 116thand Broadway. It looks like every New York student is here for the speech but I also don’t know that everyone here is a student. I might just be projecting myself onto everyone else again. Regardless, we’re all here to listen to Barack Obama, feeling privileged that he’s made his alma mater one of the stops on the campaign trail and that our press pass got us in, albeit as far from the stage as one can be and still say that you were at the event. Who knows, this might be a day we talk about later and say that we heard him speak before he became president. It’s that anticipation and dread that is fueling our argument, although I’ve been trying to distract myself and Junior.
We’re too far away to take pictures that would be of any use for the article so I’m content turning around and posing for selfies with what is little more than a blurry image on the projector hundreds of feet away from me. But so many others around us are doing the same thing. It makes sense since everyone here is a staunch supporter. Everyone except Junior.
Oh, so you admit it that Barack Obama is handsome?
Me neva say that. Me only a say that you think him good-looking. And that not enough to vote for him. As a matter of fact, that’s all the more reason to question his credibility. You remember the best looking presidential candidate in American history was…
Yeah, I know, that guy. What’s his name again? But I don’t wait on an answer.I took Psych 101 too and it’s probably true that pretty people get privileges but good looks doesn’t mean lack of good intention or ability to follow up. Go through the history books and I am sure you will find more good looking, smart people than ugly ones. Besides, Obama is just like you – son of an immigrant, editor of his college newspaper, tall, dark and handsome. Why wouldn’t you support someone who’s just like you?
Like me? Junior’s nostril flares open like a red hibiscus flower at sunrise. I’ve never seen this repressed ire before and I ease forward on the metal bleacher seat so I can watch him for what else might change. I am not sure what surprises me most about this conversation – Junior’s words or his demeanor. We’ve known each other for almost a year, long enough to have debated some pretty controversial topics so this argument can’t be because I said about Mr. Obama being sex symbol and president. That should have been funny. So far, it hasn’t been. But everyone I know seems to want to vote for him. Junior is definitely in the minority, in more ways than one today. The only thing me and Obama have in common is that the two of we a man. I’m not a “son of an immigrant” as you call it. I’m an immigrant, you forget? Me. A ongle me come here and work fi figure things out. Me nuh have no white mother to validate me. Or a father to go find in Africa and write a book about it. You chat like every person with African background a di same.
Clearly, I didn’t mean that you have the exact same story, Junior. That would be ridiculous. I’m beginning to sense that we’re not even talking about Obama anymore.
What is ridiculous is trying to lump everyone into a pile and make them like everybody else. I don’t care if I’m the only African man not voting for Obama. He points to the “I’m With Her” button pinned on the lapel of his light jeans jacket.
You do realize you can’t even vote, right?
Junior’s look is scathing, like he is trying to read more into my comment than what I said. He doesn’t meet my eyes but stares intently on the side of my face, like the code is hidden under one of the layers of my skin and if he focuses long enough, it will be clear like the watermark that shows on money when you shine a fluorescent light on it.
There’s more to voting than making a mark on a ballot. There’s also speaking up and writing about the issues that your pretty boy hasn’t said anything about yet.
My pretty boy, I ask.Okay, cool. I’ll take him.
I settle back into the seat, stretching my knees around the backpack on the floor and leaning into what I hope is the cooling of the argument, and the broadness of his shoulder.
You forget that good looks mean nothing when it come to competency. I didn’t think you were that shallow, Tracey.
Whatever. You picked me because of my good looks, I say in my huskiest voice, running my tongue across my bottom lip before I meet Junior’s eyes, batting my eyelids in what I hope is a perfect Jessica Rabbit imitation, daring him to refute the claim.
Yeah, and look how that turned out.His nostrils have returned to their normal size so I punch his arm when he says that. I don’t know if Jessica Rabbit ever hit Roger when she launched her femme fatale bit but I doubt she would have had to. I might hit Junior’s jean clad bicep harder than I should but I am still a little mad and that cheap, thick blue denim from whatever hip-hop-style store Junior gets his clothes from, I doubt he can feel anything through it anyway but I had to express myself. We both grew up with Jamaican parents so I know he understands.
That is definitely not what happened. He shakes his head. I picked you because you said you could write, which is what you’re supposed to be doing here, not lusting after some overhyped man on a big screen.
Which screen? I lunge forward again, this time leaning against some invisible restraint, and move my head side to side as fast as if I was watching tennis balls being lobbed on a court, licking back saliva like one of Pavlov’s dogs.Which screen? Where is he?
Don’t get your panties in a bunch, Tracey, Junior says and pulls me back onto his chest I can feel his laugh vibrate through his chest.
Oh so now you want to talk about my underwear, I say, but we’re both laughing now, Mr. Obama forgotten, at least for now. I’ll watch the speech again later when I get home.
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Copyright (C) 2017 by Karen Wright
The above is an excerpt from an ongoing creative writing project which will probably be heavily edited in the future. Please do not copy or otherwise share this content.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Thanks Tara Patrick who bought me a drink to fuel this latest edit. Click to visit her on Instagram. I will feature new sponsors here on the blog too.
A few months ago, I started a new novel and shared some of these chapters on this blog. I am finally finishing up this project so I decided to start again at the top and release them to you. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will share the entire draft here on this page. Come back to read the rest of the story.