by Crystal Simone Smith
Years ago, I worked at the local university. My co-worker, Bonnie, we’ll call her, was one of the few conservatives in our very liberal environment of government-funded social research. Obama was running for his first term and I was not shy in my enthusiasm. I sort of wore it like a splashy fat-carat diamond pendant. I talked up his speeches and trips to local rallies I attended. I posted his “Change” poster on my office door and laid freebie buttons along my desk for visitors to take. Bonnie was professional, she never let it bother her. We were workers, co-workers, and unlike myself, she had thirty years in which meant she could cash out her retirement soon. She only spoke of the race once after McCain announced Palin as his running mate. She felt “a fairness was spread over the whole thing.” Obama wasn’t running against two old, rich white men, just one, and a mother of five. That prompted me to tape a smaller spoof of the “Change” poster to my door below Obama’s; Palin’s “Dope” poster. Bonnie never acknowledged it. On election day, she ducked her head in my office before leaving. “Don’t forget to vote.” She smiled, I smiled and it was a joke but, it felt like she had sat the weight of all the inequality in the world at my feet. A win was not promised, simply hoped for. I needn’t say now what happen later that night. The next morning, before unlocking my office, I ducked my head in her cubicle. “Looks like we have a new president,” I said with not a pinch of humility. “Well, I voted for McCain.” Her southern drawl seemed thicker. “My boys voted for Obama, ” she went on to say. I wanted to hold my tongue, but I felt freer, even cheeky. “Now see, it’s a good thing you properly educated them here at this university.” She went off to smoke.
Crystal Simone Smith is the author of Routes Home (Finishing Line Press) and Running Music (Longleaf Press). Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Callaloo, Nimrod, Barrow Street, Obsidian II: Literature in the African Diaspora, African American Review, and Mobius: The Journal of Social Change. She is an alumna of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop and the Yale Summer Writers Conference. She is currently the Managing Editor of Backbone Press.