I wake up at 4am, start my laptop and wait. Most polls have closed in the U.S. by now. Despite the 6-hour time difference to the American East coast, there must be some semblance of a projection out there, I think. There isn’t. Romney is ahead but not by much. None of the swing states have been called. I find livestreams of CNN and C-SPAN and NBC News online, mute them, and watch and wait. For a terrible 15 minutes I entertain the possibility that Americans may actually vote Romney into office, and I’m surprised that this turn of events never seriously occurred to me before. From over here in central Europe – from almost anywhere else in the world – the choice seems so devastatingly clear.
“Don’t forget”, my mom likes to say, “This is the same country who voted Bush in for a second term.” But it’s not the same country at all, is it. Too much has happened, and a younger generation is making their voices heard. It wasn’t that America in 2008 and it sure isn’t now. It’s past 7am when they announce that Obama has been re-elected. The First Family looks beautiful; his speech is disappointing, recycled, same old same old. Maybe I’ve just been watching too many rallies over the past few months. I close my eyes for another half an hour. I breathe a sigh of relief.
I sip my cappuccino and put on some mascara. I have yet another appointment at the social services agency. These are check-up meetings, usually, but this time I’m also finally turning in the paperwork of my welfare application. It’s not the happiest feeling. But it’s cold and windy and rainy outside – that fine November rain that seems to go on for weeks and creep into every crevice – and it’s 9am and rush hour no longer crowds the subways, and I’m just happy to be out in the real world. I love this weather. I love this city. In all its gray and dirty autumn sadness, I love it.
I hate Lana Del Rey’s dumb face plastered all over everything. It’s an H&M campaign. She needs to GTFO of town. Give us David Beckham back. Or, you know, someone who’s actually naturally beautiful and normal.
The guy at social services grins as our appointment is over. “I hope to never have to see you here again”, he says. He says that every time.
I dread having to come up with ideas for food. I sit at home for two hours, growing hungrier, Googling ideas, avoiding the issue. I finally walk to the grocery store across the street and roam the isles, and my stomach needs something but nothing looks good because everything has too much fat and too much sugar. No taste is good enough to justify its calories. I’m in this rut again, and I can’t get out. It makes me wish I would never have to deal with food at all. I end up buying a ready-made pasta thing; small portion, just 99 cents. Add hot water, stir, enjoy. I stand in my kitchen and I look at it, the plastic-y sheen on the sauce, and I can’t eat it. My body won’t benefit from processed food. I can’t remember why I bought it.
I start from scratch, and my stomach protests. I find spaghetti in our pantry, left-over pizza cheese and left-over mini tomatoes. I steal an onion from my roommate. I boil the pasta, cut everything up, pre-heat the oven, add olive oil and spices. The tomatoes bake for 35 minutes; 10 more once the cheese is added. It’s delicious. It’s late now.
I stop at the hair dresser to make an appointment. My short do needs a trim. The girl behind the counter is all hipster: ironic tshirt, big glasses, asymmetrical bob of straight black hair, cherry red lipstick, immaculate make-up. She speaks with the thick dialect of the Cologne region. It makes me smile.