“Honey,” I say to the Avatar, “look at this.”
It is an extraordinary time that demands the relief of extraordinary imagination. I have never before called the Avatar “honey” nor, for that matter, any other pet name. And it is only recently that I have even ventured to address him by the name of the man he stands in for. But… well, what the hell? The country is hitting hard times, obviously, and has been in hard times for a long time. The harsh reality is that, even though time has marched forward, that despite many good things that have happened, we never fully recovered from 9/11. The change was irrevocable. We became a different nation for good, in which good is often threatened. If I can’t be cheesily affectionate toward my imaginary husband in my imaginary sanctuary, then there ain’t much in life to look forward to. I may as well be hopeless.
Once I have secured the Avatar’s attention, the scoreboard fades and scrolls according to the pace of our mutual reading. The web page materializes. and then the headline and, finally, the central text.
Following our mutual conclusion to reading the article, a heavy silence. The night is made thick with rumination. We are chilled, both by the article and the air, in which our spectral breaths emerge.
“Nothing,” I say, finally, followed by a bitter whisper of a laugh.
The rest of my words are delivered with such heaviness that they emerge as barely a whisper. “No apology. Not a single admission of complicity, even implied. No ‘All right, I’ll admit that maybe the crosshairs were a bit much’. No discussion about language: about how politics is always about going to war somehow, about how life is one endless war against some perceived wrong, about how everyone is right and no one is wrong. Afghanistan, Iraq, our own streets. Doesn’t matter.”
Exhausted, I duck my head to the ground and take a breath.
“Do people like Sarah Palin think about things like that?” I ask the Avatar while staring numbly at the ground. And then with a scoff, I add, “Endless wars. They’ve never walked through my neighborhood. They’ve never seen people waiting an eternity for the train so they can get to work. They’ve never seen kids who weren’t raised by anyone but themselves, growing up with no boundaries, wandering the streets and then colliding into the rest of society. Nothing. They’ve seen nothing, and all she —” here, I point at the scoreboard so accusingly that my hand trembles “— all she can say is… what? What is it exactly that she’s trying to say? That Congress is like some old couple that yells and screams at each other but in reality is completely in love with one another? That they just happen to express their love in a loud way? What, they’re supposed to be Lucy and Ricky Ricardo? Is that it? Oh, yes. That’s all Congress is. Debate and rhetoric, harmless debate and rhetoric. ‘Common ground’? Excuse me, id she really just say that?! They’re out to divide society so that each of them can keep their positions of power!”
And now, the anger in my voice forcefully emerges. “Because you know what the truth is, Tim? Unity: unity doesn’t get votes. Someone tried it once, back in 2008. Barack Obama. President Barack Obama. And then what happened? Someone else said, ‘Let’s break up the union’. Oh no, not in those exact words, but that same thought recycled into… into —”
I falter tremblingly, staring back and forth between the ground and the scoreboard, for some reason unable to face what should be the loving, supportive, and safe visage of my well-imagined boyfriend.
“Rhetoric,” I spit. “They use rhetoric to break up the union. The President, President Obama, uses compromise and debate — real debate, not name-calling, he doesn’t draw crosshairs! — to preserve the union! Preserving the union isn’t supposed to feel good! It’s gonna hurt because not everyone gets what they want and he said that! He has said that verbatim! But that’s a different kind of hurt from drawing crosshairs. A person like President Obama is like a parent. He aches to see his kids learn the hard lessons, but he knows they’ll be the better for it when they grow up. A person like Sarah Palin is like that mom at the PTA meetings everyone ignores. She’s the What about the children?! woman. At one point, she may have actually been concerned about the children. She may have even harbored aspirations of power. But suddenly it became her lifeblood to scream and shriek and stir the pot and, you know what, I don’t think she even cares about the power anymore. She just wants to be right.”
Suddenly, I am out of breath. I have participated in a triathlon. I’ve fled my kidnappers. Stormed Normandy. Have been driven entirely by the fuel of adrenaline. Utterly deflated, I sink deeper into my seat and fleetingly think to myself that the ballpark, even Our Ballpark, is no place for this kind of talk. It is a sanctuary. But then I drop my head into the palms of my hands and think to myself that I couldn’t help it, that I needed to get all of this off my chest, and I needed to do it away from the world. I needed to talk to someone who was beyond a friend and beyond family. I needed to talk to my husband, even if it’s just an idea of him.
I drop my hands to my thighs and hungrily gulp an inhalation as if I have held my breath too long underwater. For added effect, I shake my head to drain the perceived water from my eyes and face. When I’m done, I’m staring at the Avatar, and his face is as vivid as it might be in real life. His thick eyebrows are curved upward, softening his long cheeks with boyish sympathy. This look immediately dissolves my frustration, unstraps the burden I’ve carried.
He reaches over the armrest and with the swiftness of a single breath my hand is in his.
I pull back my hair, which has become so long and shaggy over the winter that it easily drapes over my eyes and is an itchy brush against my ears. The Avatar’s grip is so strong and confident that my hand feels threatened with numbness, the circulation coming to a halt, yet it is an action that I do nothing about. I leave my hand in his. I would let my blood stop for him.
My voice has dropped back to a faltering whisper. I look toward the scoreboard, upon which a new web page has emerged.
“If we could all just stop talking about her,” I begin in exhaustion, “if we could just ignore her, then maybe she’d just slink back into her little corner of whatever the hell kind of life she has.”
I take my free hand and massage my forehead. My hand is a visor for my eyes and I can see flashes of the scoreboard between the spaces of my fingers as I try to bring relief to my pounding head, my wounded spirit.
“I hate talking about her, Tim,” I say, dropping my hand from my forehead onto my lap.
We lock gazes. “I feel like every time I do, her whole existence is legitimized. But sometimes she just goes too far, and she keeps going further and further and… where will she stop? Where will any of us stop? When will someone finally say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m so sorry’?”