Back in June, on the day of the California Primary, I rode my bike down Micheltorena Street to Sunset Boulevard into the heart of Silverlake, and I caught Bernie Sanders giving out handshakes like they were going out of style.
Turns out they were… Going out of style.
That’s odd, I thought, but much moved, I wandered towards him.
“Get off the bike!” a chubby secret service clown yelled at me.
“Yes sir!” I gave him a salute and swerved towards the sidewalk because I don’t like guns to my head in the early afternoon.
Ringgg ringgg, I rang my bell and skidded to a stop.
“Excuse me,” I hopped off my old steel Raleigh, made in Nottingham, England, and used it as a bayonet to maneuver through the crowd, “Excuse–.” The people were rabid. Selfies. Elbows. Yelling. Mass hysteria. Violent limbs with democratic fantasies.
“Excuse me,” I said again and elbowed a bearded man in the gut who was trying to move in front of me. I planted my Raleigh firmly and set up shop right in Bernie’s path, using my bike for protection from the pushers and shovers.
Get the fuck out of my way, everyone thought.
Everyone needed a picture with the old wild haired man so they could check in with the public cloud – to let their friends know they were doing something remarkable at the moment.
Here I am! Taking a photo with our dying dream.
I felt the same way at the time. Just as a falling tree makes no sound without you there to hear it, Bernie Sanders makes no difference without a herd to shepherd.
“Jesus Christ,” I mumbled and jabbed my handlebars into the same guy’s rib cage.
Everyone felt more important than everyone else, and just like our country, there was plenty of room for us all, but not an inch where anyone else was already standing.
“BERNIE!!!” a young Latina girl yelled and kneed a slimy hipster in the crotch as someone behind me swung their iPhone into my green Bern bike helmet.
“BACK UP!!!” the S.S. barked.
No, we all thought and everyone moved forward.
He and I needed to talk. Right then. And I felt compelled, and ready to drive my tire over anyone who got in my way, including the Secret Service.
“Hello. Thank you. Vote. Make sure to get out and vote,” Bernie repeated in his tired gorilla way, big shoulders sunken forward, too heavy to hold up on his own – always leaning forward onto his fists – ready to pound his chest, even when there’s no one in front of him. His back muscles preoccupied with keeping his head from bobbing up and down, as if there’s some imaginary podium in front of him that the DNC keeps pulling away.
“VOTE!!! VOTE!!! VOTE!!!” he barked and stumbled forward. Bernie’s like a super-intelligent ape with a body one or two hominids behind the rest of us, vocal chords too strained to sound pretty any longer, and a brain a couple hundred years ahead. He’s part of a dying breed. A last great American. Too stubborn to give up, but too old to keep kicking.
“Did you vote?!”
It’s too bad Bernie’s done for. It’s too bad this year’s presidential election unfolded the way it did. It’s just all too bad.
“THIS WAY!” the S.S. man yelled, but I held my ground.
I had calculated my position well. Bernie was on his way directly towards me. I reached one of my hands down into my pocket and found a note I wanted to give him. It was something my grandfather always says to me on the phone when he’s recollecting his tour in World War II.
“Here’s a trick I learned in the Orient, Will,” he says every time we’re on the phone and he tells me about island-hopping towards the Japs, and though I’ve heard it all before, I love listening to him. I never know when will be the last time I get to– “What was I saying?”
“A trick you learned in the Orient–”
And I get this sad pit in my stomach every time and I think about my grandpa dying soon and some terrible resolve inside me just clenches hard on my adrenal glands or lymph nodes and some holy pump squirts white blood cells into my neck and the fear in my stomach subsides before it shoots up through my esophagus and I burp up a thick bile of existential panic.
I burped something electric and suddenly felt scared standing there near Bernie. He was wandering towards me and so were his Secret Service men.
What’s going to happen?
I started thinking about the other two presidential candidates and my fingers started to shake and I pulled the note out of my pocket. It was a quote painted on the wall of an Air Force mess hall in Saipan – words meant to motivate the soldiers:
On the planes of hesitation,
Lie the bleached bones
Of those who at the dawn of victory
Sat down to rest, and while resting, died
A little dark if you ask me, but I guess the U.S. Military isn’t exactly light. Plus, good truth always comes with a warning.
“BACK UP!!! BACK UP!!!” the S.S. screamed.
And I ironed the crumpled note between my palms and got ready to hand it to Bernie.
“BACK UP!!!” This time he screamed directly at me. It was the chubby bald guy again but I didn’t hesitate to apologize and do what I was told. He didn’t look terribly threatening, but he had this red pin on his lapel with a gold symbol on it that looked Illuminati-esque and scary.
“Sorry,” I said and dragged my bike back, pulling four or five people with my tires. I’ve always been terrified of symbolism.
Everyone was still yelling in my ears and it was making me paranoid. My mind started racing as I looked down at the ironed message in my hands and began thinking about a million things.
Fuck… Is it weird if I pass him this note? Will I get thrown in a van and water-boarded? Will they mark me as unstable and haunt me for the foreseeable future?
I quickly ripped my backpack off, pulled issue six of Sheriff Nottingham out and tucked my note between the pages.
This is less weird, I thought.
And as I looked up, Bernie was standing next to me, shaking hands with the Latina girl to my right and the S.S. officer was standing in front of me, looking at my hands. Making sure me and my magazine weren’t dangerous. He didn’t like me. I could tell. And he definitely didn’t like that I was holding something besides a cell phone.
“Go and vote,” Bernie said and turned to me, “What’s this?”
I shoved it in his hands before I could convince myself not to and started yelling directly into his ears at the exact measured pitch that old people can hear. Shriller than normal, but at a level decibel.
“What’s this about?!” he screamed back, thinking that we were conversing at a normal volume.
“Revolution,” I yelled again, and at that precise moment, a bee stung me on my ankle. “FUCK!”
The S.S. man lunged towards me.
“THANK YOU!!!” Bernie yelled and then just stood there, taking a breath and staring at my writing for a while. “I’ll read it,” he muttered. But he looked disappointed. He knew the truth about our revolution. And I could tell he wanted to warn me that it was over, and that it had been over long before today.
“Okay,” I answered and felt my shoulders get heavy and shrink forward as my bleached bones tried to collapse. “Thank you!”
He closed the magazine, gave me a hug and handed it back to one of his minders. And as he passed it, my note fell out and to our feet.
Oh no… I thought. This is it. We’re stuck in this spin cycle forever. Things will never be different.
“BERNIE!” another young Latina girl yelled and Bernie moved on to her and all hope drained from my eyes and limbs.
I felt the burn. And it hurt. We didn’t stand a chance. This was his retirement tour. And the hope in the herd around me smelled repugnant and I got that dark feeling of failure again. I could feel our collective shame creeping into my intestines and metastasizing into whatever precedes cancer.
November 8th, 2016… I predicted.
What a loss.
What a failure.
Lazy and afraid and incapable of change, we hesitate.
Donald or Hillary…
The dawn of defeat has crept over us and we’re preparing to die now. No more hope. No more courage. Just a deeper status quo and a darker future. Just bleached bones, death, and defeat.
So we beat on, boats against the current. Borne back ceaselessly into old habits. No one strong enough to stop us from drowning.
Read the rest of Chris Blim’s mournful musing in SN8: Nightmoon, available November 12th!