After the inaugural, we walked for what seemed like ages. I still couldn’t feel my feet, so we made our way from the Mall to the Waterfront metro stop, which Google maps tells me is about two miles. It felt like it. Have you ever walked two miles with absolutely no feeling below the ankle but a jarring, numbed up sense of absence? I find I can’t recommend it.
We made our way to my sister’s office, my phone officially giving up the ghost along the way. Huddled there for a few hours to regroup, we found when we were getting ready to leave that my chemical warmers, hitherto having been given up for dead, were piping hot. Lesson learned: buy them early and start them up hours before leaving the house.
After a great Thai dinner and putting my cousin on the bus back to New York, we made our way back to a tense house. I half-decided, half-realized that the situation necessitated, that it would be best to spend the rest of my time in Washington in the city proper. The problem was that the city was not exactly a sparsely populated place the night of the inauguration and all the balls, parties, and out of town visitors that that implied.
I felt, laden with my carryon suitcase and brimming big blue IKEA bag, like the donkey that the family of Christ might have ridden: no room at the inn. I left in a hurry, meaning I was still wearing the great dress, tights, coat and jacket I’d rocked to the inauguration – but instead of my scruffy smart vintage cowboy boots, the outfit was capped with SERIOUS snowboots that made me look like I was a runaway from the lunar landing.
Schlepping along attired exactly like a bag lady, I made my way towards the welcome of my friend Lauren. We’ve known each other since middle school, and like many friends I made during that time, although our paths have diverged and we only see each other once every few years, our senses of humor are still mysteriously in sync and my comfort with them never falters.
Arriving at Mount Pleasant’s Gastropub in all my sketchy glory (I seriously looked like I was off to go sell knockoff handbags on a plaid blanket by the waterfront), I met and chatted with Lauren and her lovely friends Julie and Patricia, and mostly managed to forget the fact that I was a domestic refugee.
I have a certain anxiety about traveling, possibly because I don’t have a lot of money, but I think it comes from a lot more than that. There is a fundamental insecurity in not really knowing much about the bed you will sleep in the next night or the next night or the next, about the environment in a home that’s not your own or the likelihood that you may or may not be imposing on someone else’s kindness, hospitality and, ultimately, patience.
The frequent discouraging factor in mini-excursions or nights out on the town – how am I going to get home? – takes on a vivid extra urgency when I don’t even really understand what home currently is. And so it was that instead of going out and painting the town red (or blue, as the case might have been) on the night of inauguration, we squeezed three (and, briefly, four) girls into a full sized bed for girl talk and conversation.
Lauren has three birds, and the need to reinforce the darkness was stronger for their presence. So we crowded in and spoke in whispers about travel, music, love, satisfaction and dreams of the future and time. I thought I would need a crazy night out with bars and strange people and some kind of physical catharsis to mark the change in eras, the change in me: dancing until I couldn’t stand up straight, or my own reenactment of the Unconditional Surrender of 1945. But in the end, the changed world was represented no less fully, no less tangibly, by the world we wove of soft voices, painting landscapes that shimmered and glistened in the air above our heads.
I felt the world resettling itself around me like a blanket of safety, and when I stopped to consider the fact that I could feel this safe anywhere in the world but my own rabbit’s den, I realized that the changes I’ve seen recently go beyond a new party, a new administration, a new president, a new year. The catharsis I was looking for has already begun, and it’s inside me. I’m anxious and eager and curious to see what happens next, to peer into mid-morning on the dawning of this fresh and bright new age.