It’s been a little over eight years since the night Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, and the memory of exactly how I saw it happen (on CNN, where the race was called as soon as California’s first polling results came in), where I was when seeing it (sitting on the couch in the living room, at my apartment on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside), and how I felt immediately afterwards (disbelief, mostly) remain as fresh in my mind as the day after it happened.
It was also a particularly bittersweet time for me. Earlier that day, I visited my mom at West Penn Hospital, where she had been for a week while dealing with a life-threatening bout of COPD. And the joy of seeing Obama elected could only exist after etching and carving out some space within both the anxiety I possessed about my mom’s health and the sadness of not being able to watch it with her because visiting hours ended before the results came in. (My dad was at work, so I couldn’t watch with him either.)
But nothing I experienced that day or that evening was as awkward and surreal and disquieting as the pasticcio of feelings rushing through me later that night, when Obama gave his acceptance speech. I felt warm. And proud. And giddy. And energized. And vindicated. And I also felt an emotion the English language hasn’t yet created a word for; a feeling that can best be described as “HOLY SHIT THEY’RE GOING TO ASSASSINATE HIM RIGHT NOW BARACK AND MICHELLE IF YALL CAN HEAR ME GET THE FUCK OFF OF THE STAGE BEFORE ONE THESE WHITE PEOPLES KILL YOU!”
This melange of competing feelings would grow to be consistent. I felt them when President Obama was inaugurated. And during his first State of the Union address. And any other time he made a public appearance. Fortunately, as time passed, the intensity of that emotion began to subside. By 2010, HOLY SHIT THEY’RE GOING TO ASSASSINATE HIM RIGHT NOW BARACK AND MICHELLE IF YALL CAN HEAR ME GET THE FUCK OFF OF THE STAGE BEFORE ONE THESE WHITE PEOPLES KILL YOU was no longer a present and prominent feeling when I’d see them. But it never quite went away either. It lasted, in some form or another, for the the duration of his presidency. And extended to Maila and Sasha and even the fucking dog.
Of course, I live in Pittsburgh, which is 245 miles from Washington, D.C. And while I possess an affinity for the Obama family, they are not my family. So while I definitely worried about their safety, I’m certain my level of concern paled in comparison to how they felt while under that international spotlight for eight years as both the most famous family on Earth and the most disrespected family to live in the White House maybe ever. Can you imagine the stress of waking up every day and knowing that (at least) a million or so of your countrymen wouldn’t terribly mind if you or your wife or your kids were murdered?
With this in mind — and despite whichever fantasies of the Obamas somehow rescuing the country from Darth Cheeto that continue to persist — I want them to get (and stay!) as far away from here as possible. They already gave us enough. I want them to deep-sea dive and spelunk; to para-sail and learn to practice Kundalini yoga; to spend an entire year milking cows in Aruba and eating fistfuls of Frosted Flakes straight from the box; to binge-watch The Young Pope and BBQ butt-ass-naked. The paparazzi photos and Instagram updates of them doing exactly that are nice, but I don’t even want that. Fuck a postcard, I don’t want to know where they are. Shit, I don’t even want them to know where they are, because they’re too gone off the genetically engineered molly Barack has access to and they’re finally allow to take to give a damn.
I want to feel like Ben Affleck at the end of Good Will Hunting. I want to pull up to the Obama’s driveway, climb up the steps, and knock on the door, and I want no one to answer. I want to peek through the window and see tumbleweeds and hangers and maybe a discarded package of Swisher Sweets. And I want to know that they got the fuck out and away from us and didn’t bother leaving nan note or voicemail or telegram or text.