I’m lying half-awake, thinking for some reason about the letter D. Does the bulge face right or left? Since it’s the first letter of my own name, you’d think I could remember, but after weighing both options, my sleep-fogged brain decides that a left-facing D looks much more natural. Facing right is what Bs do… right?
In video after video I see faces tense with hatred, spitting all the insults that polite society still permits: Socialist. Communist. Terrorist. Muslim. A man going into a rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania holds up a monkey doll with an Obama sticker wrapped around its head like a minimal turban. It’s Curious George — a strange mascot for those whose native openness to new and different things was stifled, I imagine, decades before. “Gonna bring Obama in with me today so he can hear some TRUTH,” says the man, his swagger, his accent, and the slightly adenoidal quality of his speech familiar to me since childhood.
Big bulge, little bulge. We belly up the bar in real America. What’s on tap? Bud, Bud Light, Miller, Michelob. Is that a can of Guinness down there? I ask. I’ll have that. Conversation falls silent. What’s that taste like, anyway? asks the female bartender, seeing what the men don’t: that I’m perfectly harmless. Well, I don’t know — it tastes like beer, I say, tilting the glass to slow the foaming black waterfall. The way beer was meant to taste, before someone decided it would be cheaper to sell flavored water. Someone says something in a low voice at the end of the bar which provokes a chorus of guffaws. Bitter, I say, as I swagger over to a stool at the other end of the bar. Smooth and bitter.
The American people are angry, the candidate says hopefully. And in truth, his opponent’s unflappable demeanor is really beginning to annoy him. The familiar knot forms in his belly and begins to burn. He rolls his eyes and grimaces. People are angry, he says again, his voice trembling with conviction. Well, that’s certainly true of the people he’s been meeting lately, those idiots from small towns who love their guns way too much and pray to a God who looks like an older version of themselves — a Great White Father. His opponent continues to spout his idealistic claptrap in calm, methodical tones. He blinks furiously. The American people are angry, yes, but don’t call them bitter. Bitterness is for losers, for people who have no way to strike back.
The campaign worker travels all the way from Texas to volunteer in Western Pennsylvania, where people share her outrage at abortion and the homosexual agenda. Somewhere in downtown Pittsburgh, let’s say, a couple of black teenagers spot the McCain/Palin bumper sticker and begin to point and laugh and make rude comments. Her windows are rolled up and her doors are locked, but she’s pretty sure she hears the word Bitch. At the next light she pulls down the sun visor, flips open the mirror, and can barely recognize her face, pinched, livid. Why are black men always so… angry? She pulls into a parking spot beside an all-night automatic teller. Must… sleep… soon… she thinks. She watches in horrified fascination as the point of a fingernail file approaches her cheek.
Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).