The American Odyssey, 40.7359° N, 73.9911° W
By Kayla Herrera-Daya
Resist the Dismantling of the Republic. On a sweltering day in August, I was walking to return a book. Across the street I saw a young woman standing on her fire escape, wrapped in only a towel, yelling at a man on the sidewalk to look up. And what, I was expected to keep my gaze ahead, walk to the library, and go home. Perhaps it was this afternoon that summer ended for me – and I, held up by routine, inevitably collapsed into fall.
Enough is Enough. On a Saturday in October, the wind erupted through my open window. The plants I had on the sill were whipped to the floor. Succulents fell and dirt was everywhere. There was a chill to the room that, even when I salvaged what I could of the plants and shut the window, could not be evicted. It was the same morning a man shot up a synagogue in Pittsburg. I felt as though I had nothing to do with it. I felt as though I had a cactus needle in my foot.
You scared, bro? You sound scared. I can’t remember what all I did that day, but that night, to get some air, I went for a walk. I stumbled upon a vigil held for those killed in the morning. Nobody was scurrying around, and even those walking with other people were silent. The only sound was that of someone reading from the Torah and then faint singing. The stillness was eerie, as if I was the only live person walking through a diorama of Union Square.
The Eyes of the World are Watching You. On the night of November eighth, through the cracked open window, there was considerable noise from outside that was ultra-distracting once I noticed it. I found #UnionSquare trending and put together that those were resistors through my window. It was a protest. I could not rest, I just had to be a part of it. I marched out the door to hear my roommate’s words of concern, “be careful,” fade with my footsteps.
If He Won’t Recuse, Democracy Will Lose. I was standing adjacent to Mohandas Gandhi when a news reporter’s face was lit up by a television crew. His body looked uncomfortably close to the camera. I was uncomfortable at the prospect of being on television, so I maintained my position of being in front of him and at the backs of the camera men. The people, as I heard on the news that night, were protesting Jeff Sessions’ abrupt resignation, which was at the request of the president. The president then immediately hired Matthew Whitaker, a loyalist of his, who would then oversee the special counsel probe into Russian interference of the 2016 presidential election.
A Government of Law, Not of Men. I never had the words to articulate my lack of confidence in other human beings until one day, a good friend of mine told me I was cynical. On Sunday evenings, this friend would go to church, but only “to please [her] parents,” as she would defend herself. I don’t understand why she ever did that. I have faith in nothing, no one, and that’s something never worth pretending. I’m validated on the front page and by breaking news that the world is a toxic place and it’s worthless to believe in other people. People have a tendency to bang on my window to prove me wrong, and at night I think they’re right, but then in the morning, we’re back where we started. I’m not friends anymore with the person who called me cynical. It’s not because she called me cynical though.
Trump is a Danger to Us All. The toxicity that infects America seems to, for an evening, alleviate the suffocating competition that gives purpose to New York City. It takes the suffering of innocent people to bring New Yorkers together. Only when somebody dies do the rigid class differences and boss-worker dynamics seem to pause. The heartbreaking news, the frontpage that makes you cry: these are endorphins that redeem the reputation of the city. Walking from 42nd Street to 14th Street seems to serve as sufficient collateral to maintain the sentimentalization and romanticism of New York despite its everyday. Do forgive me.
Ballots, Not Bullets. I step over the shiny penny on the sidewalk, not convinced of its luck, and laugh softly as I look back to see someone pick it up behind me. And so I continue on, stumbling gracelessly back home, and at night, I shut the window to get to sleep.