It’s surprisingly quiet throughout the hall. A few murmurings here and there. College girls giggling under their masks. They look so young, it could be their first time. The line snakes along, around tables and between chairs. Someone rushes the door to the men’s bathroom, he probably drank too much coffee to wake before a normal alarm.
Messy buns and yoga pants litter the gymnasium, or is it a sanctuary? It looks like perhaps both. Bleary-eyed men, necks bent at an unnatural angle staring at phone screens. Some slowing scrolling, others frantically tapping. Most adhering to the rules, only a few, no more than fingers on a hand, acting like their needs are more important than the safety of others….all women. That’s disappointing.
Two thirds of the way through and things seem to be going faster. Probably not due to people being more prepared or rushing, but simply a line spread further apart – more distance in between cautious people. I’m longing for my cup of coffee or a hot tea, not for the boost, but the morning feels so incomplete without them. I take a couple sips of my water and store the bottle in my purse. It feels strange to slip of the mask in the midst of so many people, if only for a few seconds. A few stare, most likely bored or transfixed on the day that lies ahead. It’s doubtful they’re really staring at me, but rather a fuzzy focus on something that lies ahead.
I start to click through the masses of email, making sure there’s nothing notable inside, but quickly lose interest and click play on the audio book. We’re getting to the soul of it now. One third of the way “read” and initial questions about each woman are being answered. It’s yet to be discovered whether either is a true heroine.
The book plays on and almost two hours have passed. Grumblings are heard from the entrance. The room glances back, but quickly loses interest. New people complaining about the line, as if it was different for anyone else. Another doorway gets closer, people around me start to shuffle through wallets and bags. The handing over of an id; the nervousness that boils up. Is this the right place? Should it take this long? What if something’s not right? Then the names are found, signatures made, and this “first sheet is front and back miss.”
Standing in the small cube, it feels like a test. Studying and preparing, knowing the answers, yet still an anxiousness rumbling below… Maybe it’s just time for more water. Maybe it’s taking to long to read the questions. Why aren’t these ovals? Research says mistakes are made with rectangles, ovals would be better. What if the color reaches outside the lines? Double checking selections. Everything’s done.
Another line to turn things in. A small hitch in breath as each paper is slowly fed through the machine. The observer says it’s done, but we all linger a few more seconds, making sure the machine agrees. No glitches. It’s ready for the next ballot, and the air escapes from my lungs.
It’s difficult to know how things will turn out in the end, but that’s just the sort of year we’re in. Research and questions, research and questions, repeated round and round until time is out. Sometimes we have to find peace in simply knowing we did what we could, and then the wait to see what happens next.