Chapter Excerpt

“I can’t believe there’s going to be a gay Jewish president.”

As my mother said this, she looked at my father, who was stillstaring at the screen. They were shocked, barely comprehending.

Me?

I sat there and beamed.

I think it was the Jesus Freaks who were the happiest the next day at school. Most of the morning papers were saying that Stein’s victory wouldn’t have been possible without the Jesus Revolution in the church, and I don’t think Mandy or Janna or any of the other members of The God Squad would’ve argued. Mandy was wearing her JESUS IS LOVET-shirt, while Janna had a LOVETHYNEIGHBOR button on her bag, right above the STEIN FOR PRESIDENT sticker. When they saw me walk through the door, they cheered and ran over, bouncing me into a jubilant hug. I wasn’t the only gay Jew they knew, but I was the one they knew best, and we all had been volunteers on the Stein/Martinez campaign together. After the hugging was done, we stood there for a moment and looked at one another with utter astonishment. We’d done it. Even though we wouldn’t be able to vote for another two years, we’d helped to make this a reality. It was the most amazing feeling in the world, to know that something right had happened, and to know that it had happened not through luck or command but simply because it was right.

Some of our fellow students walked by us and smiled. Others scoffed or scowled–there were plenty of people in our school who would’ve been happy to shove our celebration into a locker and keep it there for four years.

“It was only by one state,” one of them grunted. “Only a thousand votes in Kansas.”

“Yeah, but who also got the popular vote?” Mandy challenged.

The guy just spat on the ground and moved on.

“Did he really just spit?” Janna asked. “Ew.”

I was looking everywhere for Jimmy. As soon as the results had been announced, I’d gone to my room to call him.

“Can you believe it?” I’d asked.

“I am so so so happy,” he’d answered.

And I was so so so happy, too. Not only because of the election but because I had Jimmy to share it with. I had two things to believe in now, and in a way they felt related. The future–that was it. I believed in the future, and in our future.

“I love you,” he’d said at the end of the call, his voice bleary from the hour but sweetened by the news.

“I love you, too,” I’d replied. “Good night.”

“Very good night.”

Now I wanted the continuation, the kiss that would seal it. The green states had triumphed, the electoral college was secure, and I was in love with a boy who was in love with me.

“Somewhere Jesus is smiling,” Janna said.

“Praise be,” Mandy chimed in.

Keisha and Mira joined us in the halls, fingers entwined. They looked beamy, too.

“Not a bad day for gay Jew boys, huh?” Keisha said to me.

“Not a bad day for Afro-Chinese lesbians, either,” I pointed out.

Keisha nodded. “You know it’s the truth.”

We had all skipped school the previous two days to get out the vote. Since most of us weren’t old enough to drive, we acted as dispatchers, fielding calls from Kennedy-conscious old-age-home residents and angry-enough agoraphobic liberals,making sure the ESVs came to take them to the polls. Other kids, like Jimmy, had been at the polling places themselves, getting water and food for people as they waited hours for their turn to vote.

I felt that history was happening. Not like a natural disaster or New Year’s Eve.No, this was human-made history, and here I was an infinitesimally small part of it.We all were.

Suddenly I felt two arms wrap around me from behind, the two palms coming to rest at the center of my chest. Two very familiar hands–the chewed-up fingernails, the dark skin a little darker at the knuckles, the wire-thin pinkie ring, the bright red watch. The bracelet with two beads on it, jade for him and agate for me. I wore one just like it.

I smiled then–the same way I smiled every time I saw Jimmy.

He made me happy like that.

“Beautiful day,” he said to me.

“Beautiful day,” I agreed, then turned in his arms to give him that
this is real kiss.

The first bell rang. I still had to run to my locker before homeroom.

“Everything feels a little different today, doesn’t it?” Jimmy asked.

We kissed again, then parted. But his words echoed with me. I was too young to remember when the Supreme Court upheld the rights of gay Americans, and all the weddings started happening. But I imagined that day felt a lot like today. I’d heard so many people talk about it, about what it meant to know you had the same rights as everyone else, making anything possible. I knew that this time it was just the Presidency, and that Stein was likely to become more moderate to get along with Congress, especially since we’d only won by the margin of Kansas. But still . . . everything did feel a little different. Yes, the kids walking the halls around me were the same kids who’d been there yesterday. The books in my locker were piled just the way I’d left them. Mr. Farnsworth, my homeroom teacher, waited impatiently by his door, just like he always did. But it was like someone had upped the wattage of all the lights by a dozen watts. Someone had made the air two shades easier to breathe. I knew this feeling wouldn’t last. As soon as I realized it was euphoria, I knew it wouldn’t last. I couldn’t even hold on to it. I could only ride within it as far as it would carry me. The second bell rang. I sprinted into class, and Mr. Farnsworth closed the door.

“I expect to see you standing today,” he said to me.

This was the deal we had: If Stein won the Presidency, I would stand for the Pledge of Allegiance for the first time since elementary school. Even back then, I hated the way it seemed to be something rote and indoctrinated–most people saying the words emptily, without understanding them. I didn’t want to drone it unless I meant it. I’d always said the six last words, though. And today I said them extra loud, standing up.

With liberty and justice for all.

Excerpted from Wide Awake by David Levithan
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