I stared down the young woman standing less than a foot in front of me, gauging her seriousness and her authority. She was, after all, the Vice President of the Student Senate. I supposed I owed her allegiance, even beyond the fact that we were roommates and were friends.
Into that paper-cut sized sliver of consideration, she drove the wedge against which I had no defense–certainly not in college and rarely in my time since then. “Andy,” she said. “We’re all going to do it.”
Crap. The Vice President of the Student Senate (the next in line in the unlikely event of collegiate assassination or impeachment) and also all the rest of them were going to do it. She looked at me, a hard look that was not unkind. “Browers,” she said. “Just do it.”
And with that–a Nike slogan of all things–I joined the conspiracy. Suddenly, I understood how Brutus must have felt back when Rome was where it was at. I mean, I had worn a toga before, yes, but now I had met my Cassius and her lovably persuasive nature was just too much to deny. So I prepared my metaphorical dagger and imagined stabbing the right to vote three and thirty times, leaving it a whimpering mess in the wake of our revolution. “Rosco with an ‘O,’” she said, slowly and not for the first time. “Coltrane with an ‘E’. Don’t let me down, Browers.”
If there had been any resolve left in my spirit, the potential guilt of letting down my friend and Vice President destroyed it forever.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll do it.”
I’ll just do it.
Hours later: the moment of truth. Which is not, in fact, the most accurate word to use in this situation.
I filled out my ballot to the best of my ability, which is another way of saying not very well at all. I could identify the Senators that year, sure–one had been a cast member on SNL–but after that I felt a little like Caesar (wait…wasn’t I just about to metaphorically fill him full of knife holes?), wine drunk and power drunk, giving the thumbs down to city council members and other gladiators on the ticket who were probably doing the actual best of their actual abilities. But I filled in the little circles based on how much I liked someone’s name, for example, because I was twenty-four and decidedly not The Vice President of anything. Thank goodness.
I came at last to the empty circles that awaited the fulfillment of my end of the bargain—the circles for Sheriff. I took a brief inventory of what I knew of Sheriffs. It went kind of like this: if the story of Robin Hood is to be believed (and let’s face it, IT IS) sheriff was a job for d-bags. Heck, an anthropomorphic wolf voiced by Pat Buttram could do it. I passed over the incumbent, if that’s even the right word for current sheriff, and passed over his opponent, too.
Carefully, in my best (but altered slightly in case they tried to trace it back to me) handwriting, I took my democratic stand for Rosco P. Coltrane, fictional arm of what little law Hazard County had to offer. Rosco with an O. Coltrane with an E. Abuse of the Democratic Process with an A. Somewhere, the Duke boys of Beltrami County were having a hoot and probably a holler at my expense. E tu, Andy? Yes. E me.
I returned home feeling like I’d somehow both stuck it to the man and exercised my inalienable right to be young and hilarious. “I did it,” I reported upon seeing my roommate.
“Did what?” she asked.
“I wrote him in,” I said. I probably sounded proud. I probably was proud. “Do you think he’ll win?”
“With one vote? Uh, I doubt it.” I felt her next words form in my ears before they even spilled past her lips, already cocked into the crooked smile that made her one of the most irresistible friends I have ever known. “Did you think I was serious?”
I didn’t answer her. I didn’t have to. I spent so much of my time in seriousness, always looking for moments to break away and act my age for once. Where did it get me? The badge on my shirt–the red bullseye telling everyone I voted–was the color of my face I am sure. I voted, all right. Oh, I voted.
I’m sorry Rosco, I’m sorry people running for sheriff that year, and I’m sorry America. I tried. But the best part of democracy is there is always next time, a time to be better and wiser and more true, and I will try again.
That election was many years ago. But here we are, in early November of 2016. On the final day of what is simultaneously the most ridiculous and the most critical election I could probably imagine, I will try again. And though comedians have been given the king of all satirical goldmines this year, I know now that it’s really not a joke—not this act, this right, this privilege. Not everyone in the world has the chance to shape the future, and even if many people are disappointed with the results in the present, the mere act of voting helps ensure that we all will have another shot to try again.
They didn’t get a vote in Nottingham. They probably wished they had. Lots of people suffering injustices have wished that. We don’t have to make that wish; we don’t live in Nottingham. So let’s do this. Let’s lend a hand to the leader we believe in most.
See you at the polling place. I’ll race you there.
Andy Browers is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Aqueous, The Talking Stick, Cleaver, and Drawn From Marvel: Poems From The Comic Books. He writes regularly for the website Book Riot and also acts, directs theatre, and is generally ridiculous. Andy grew up in Cloquet and currently lives in Minneapolis. He would probably love to write something for you.