It's after 1:00AM, but crowds are still cheering on the street corner 12 stories below my apartment. I happen to live down the block from a local Democratic headquarters, so the party will probably continue until sunrise. Which is fine--enough sleeping already happened during the last eight years.
What an amazing day.
I try not to be a cynic, but I've seen enough promises broken, heard more than my share of lies, and live in a city where survival means never really trusting most people who share your sidewalk, that the tendency lurks in my psyche. But tonight I'm filled with as much pure, simple hope as is possible for any person. We really do learn from our mistakes, and this country is capable of erasing boundaries and joining hands with our neighbors. Today is more astonishing to me than setting foot on the moon. I never thought I'd type these words again: I'm proud to be an American.
After I voted, I forced myself to ignore CNN for most of the day so I could get some actual work done. At 6:00PM I left for my writing class, obsessively checking iPhone-optimized news on the Times website every few minutes. Things looked a little too close for comfort by 9:00, but when I got out of the subway the streets had already begin to fill with tentatively happy faces. I decided to pick up a few groceries and then noticed crowds at the Democratic headquarters, so crossed the street and craned my neck to watch a little portable TV in the company of a hundred others on the sidewalk. Struck up a wonderful conversation with the 60s-ish woman standing next to me, who was born in Georgia, voted in Queens, volunteered all day in Manhattan, was on her way to the Bronx, and could give Rachel Maddow a run for her money. Ran into two friends from my synagogue and decided to go across the street to a restaurant, eat sinful desserts, and watch the returns on a wide-screen TV.
And that's where I sat, savoring the last few crumbs of chocolate cake, when MSNBC called it and cheers and tears erupted all over the place. We hung out for awhile to email from our phones--psychic communication couldn't have been any faster--and then tried to get back across the street to the Democratic club. But by now hundreds and hundreds had descended upon the little storefront, dancing, crying, yelling O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!--an explosion of completely spontaneous, communal joy. As if we all just woke up from a nightmare and needed to give each other a hug of relief. I stood on the corner in front of my building for many astonished minutes, every once in a while sharing a laugh of disbelief with another immobile stranger. Broadway buses tried to squeeze past the crowd, who parted only after everyone inside stuck their heads out the windows and waved. Cops arrived, got out of their cars, and just stood and smiled.
Finally I shook myself out of a state of shock and came back upstairs to watch the midnight speech, and cry some more.
Wow, and hallelujah.