Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The View From The Street

Crowds lined every available vantage point in the city to watch for the arrival of the next President. Despite the cold, people had been lined up since early morning, eager for a view of the man who would hopefully make their lives safer and more financially secure.

Gordon Thompson watched all this from the shadows of a shop awning, knowing full well he wouldn’t be accepted by the masses. No, he wasn’t a Republican, nor was he a criminal, (although, to Gordon’s mind, these were one in the same). He was just a man who had had a hard time under the soon-to-be ex-President. He had lost everything he owned during the financial crash – his wife and three young children had left him when he lost his job, he lost his house and car as well. He, too, should be lining the streets, flag in hand, cheering on the coming of the new Messiah, for that was the feeling here on the street, an almost religious fervor swept up and down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Suddenly, a mass of arms were raised, fingers pointing down the Avenue, as a few vehicles were able to be made out in the distance. People crushed forward, testing the strength of the barriers that had been put in place and the young and the weak were being crushed under the weight of the shifting mass. Gordon stepped back into the mouth of an alley, to keep his distance, to be away from the possible stampede that surely would begin at any moment.

As the vehicles, and now what appeared to be the President-in-Waiting and his entourage, neared the juncture where Gordon was standing, a crescendo of cheering, whistling and screaming reached its peak, and no sooner had the crowd begun, he was gone – hurried back into the waiting armored car to whisk him away further down the Avenue. The spectators started separating and following the vehicles down the street, now wanting to get closer to the Capitol Building to watch the ceremony, or at least find a place along the National Mall to view the Swearing-In on the giant screens that had been displayed there. A sudden hush had come over the street, although Gordon knew it wouldn’t last – he could see more people venturing down the Avenue, like sheep, to fall down to their knees at the feet of their Savior.

Gordon watched proceedings for a few more minutes, then grabbed his shopping cart from behind the large bins, and headed back down the alley. No one would want him down at the National Mall. He just wouldn’t make good copy for the media. This is not the America that the new President would want to be televised on the big screens, that is, if he could get past security. He knew that a man dressed in rags, with unkempt hair and pushing a large shopping trolley wouldn’t make it any closer than Osama Bin Laden would. These were facts.

As he made his way down the alley, he found the doorway that he had called home for the last four months, removed the fresh newspaper that he had found out on Pennsylvania Avenue and lay down. Will this man help him, Gordon Thompson, out of the dire predicament he finds himself in now? No, he can’t, thought Gordon.

This piece originally appeared on my friend Michael Solender's blog page as an invitation to write about being an outsider. Check out his other work at Not From Here, Are You?

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