There are hundreds of people already here, shuffling socially distant, the line stretching around three sides of the building when we take our place at the tail end. This looks like a Walking Dead episode, I joke to my husband and our daughter. Something about the backdrop of an old shopping center, the people staggering past in their masks.
We're moving fast, everything orderly. An hour wait, someone tells us and we're okay with that. This is the only early voting place in our county--potentially for 800,000 people. I am prepared to stand here all day if I have to. In other parts of the country people have waited twelve hours.
The man behind us is quiet, looking at his phone. The women ahead of us joke and laugh. As we move forward, more people join the line. Old people. Young people. Black and white people. Couples. Families. A mom holding a child's hand. She reminds me of myself years ago, toting my toddlers along to vote.
Of course, back then we didn't discuss our voting plan, didn't worry about security or the integrity of the ballot. I went to the precinct up the street. There was no line. I didn't give much thought to voting except that it felt like something I should do and so I showed up. My life, other people's lives didn't seem to depend on it.
This year, we could've gone to my neighborhood precinct on election day, I suppose. But we didn't want to chance it. Clearly other people around here have the same idea. There's a stream of cars pulling into the parking lot. Some are parking. Some are headed toward the one designated absentee ballot drop off box in the county.
A sign on the wall tells us it's a 45-minute wait from this point. We shuffle on, rounding the corner. Volunteers hand out sample ballots. We take the Democratic ballot. Nearly everyone in line that I can see takes one too.
We round the next corner. A volunteer thanks us for being here. A woman wearing a MAGA hat stands by silently. No one takes a ballot from her. Another MAGA woman says, Let's Keep America Great!
I catch the eye of the man behind us and we both laugh.
I confess that there is a part of me that wants to scream at the woman, that wants to scream at everyone. Some days I seethe with so much rage that I feel like I am shaking apart. I look at strangers with suspicion. Do they support the monster in the white house? Even worse is how I've come to feel about old friends, family members, people I once respected and admired. How will I ever forget this awful thing I know about them?
How will I ever forgive it?
The women in the laughing joking group call to a man who's sitting on a fold up chair under a tree. Join us, they say. I can feel the line shifting around us. Are they asking this man to cut in front of us? The women seem to know what we're all thinking.
He's our friend, they announce. He had open heart surgery. We've been saving a place for him.
We all make way and let him in.
Only an hour and we've reached the entrance to the building. The voting itself is easy. After I turn in my ballot, I see another line forming ahead. What's this line for? Who knows, but I dutifully take my place in it. I smile when I realize it's for a sticker. We're waiting in line for an I Voted sticker.
I paste one on my sweatshirt and find my husband and daughter outside. The sky is so blue and the cars are still streaming into the lot, the line still swelling. The masks hide the people's faces but I would like to think their expressions mirror mine, filled with determination. Exhilaration.