Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Election night four years ago I spent by myself. I was living in corporate housing in the bland Seattle suburb of Bellevue, there solely for the purpose of getting treatment from Dr. X. Apart from the staff at Dr. X’s office, I knew no one. My mother had been splitting her time between Bellevue and Washington DC. When she was here, she walked over the local democratic campaign headquarters to campaign for Senator Patty Murray and Kerry.

When I felt well enough, I went over with her and made calls in the phone bank room. I remember the ink from the print outs of names and numbers had a chemical smell that made me feel sick, but I kept calling anyway.

A few days before the election, my mom flew back to DC. I went to the campaign headquarters on Election Day and did what I could, but the focus that day was canvassing and putting up yard signs, two things I was too weak to do.

Finally towards the end of the day most of the volunteers headed to Seattle for the final party, but again, this was too much for me. I went back to my apartment. As the election results came in, I called home to talk to my family. But in time, with the race still too close to call, they went to bed. It was well past midnight on the East Coast.

I told myself I should get to bed also, that it I would be exhausted if I stayed up too late. I brushed my teeth and took another quick peak at the TV, then watched a few minutes more, and a few minutes more to see if new results came in. Suddenly it was happening: Kerry was giving his concession speech. I stared as disbelief turned to horror. I shouted, “No! No! No!” at him, but he didn’t hear me.

Misery craves company, and there is no misery like watching John Kerry concede to four more years of W. I wanted desperately to talk to someone, but everyone I knew was on the East Coast and asleep

Every bit as difficult as the physical hardship of chronic illness is the emotional hardship. No matter how hard you compensate for it, if you are too sick to do basic things, such as work, stand up, get around on your own two feet, you will experience stretches of absolute isolation. By the last election there had been many lonely hours I’d already endured, but that night was the loneliest.


“Thanks so much, we already voted,” I called out cheerfully to the three sets of canvassers who came to our door yesterday. I had become one of Armistead Maupin’s “We People.”

The Poet and I had four invitations to election night parties, and decided on the two closest to us. We spent the evening surrounded by friends. I was in a state of nervousness-on-the-edge-of-happiness until eight pm, when we heard a huge shout go up as we walked in the door of the second party. I rushed to find Ghusun and we jumped up and down in each others’ arms.

I cried a little and called back home to my family: they were still awake and jubilant.

For the first time in my life I felt truly proud to be an American. (I can say it, Michelle, even if you can’t). We have a small American flag-- it's left over from The Poet's citizenship party and I keep it in the closet. As soon as we got home I pulled it out and waved it.

At this moment I am happiest of all for my country, for what this means to all of us, and for what this means to the world. But this morning as I woke up and I remembered that night four years ago, I had another moment of being happy, for myself.

In these past four years I have gathered around me gorgeous people. Primarily a man with a generous heart, and after that so many friends I can’t keep up with them all the way I want to. They all have helped me get better. I can walk anywhere I like now and take care of myself on my own. Just walking through the grocery store on my own two feet yesterday is something I do not take for granted.

Right now it feels like everything is going up and up. It will not stay that way, not because I am pessimistic, but because that is the way of things. Recently my father said to me, “You need to be prepared for Murphy’s Law: things will go wrong. And you also need to know that it will be OK when they do.” He was talking about buying an old house, but it applies other places.

He hardly needed to tell me that things go wrong. I know that. And now I know that yes, given a little time, it’s often OK when they do.

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