Yes, he was eccentric. Yes, he marched to the beat of his own drum. Yes, these are characteristics I cherish in the men close to me.
But no, Edward Gorey is not the man I love.
This journey onto the campus of Columbia University accidentally brought me into the closest proximity I’ll ever come to the man I love.
I fell in love with him on January 20, 2009. On that day he told me that for change to happen, it had to come from me, from everyone listening to his voice and from everyone in the country. My heart thrilled at the challenge and vowed that where he led, I would follow.
He has disappointed me now and then since that day. I’m getting used to being disappointed by men. But he still can make my heart pound faster and send a current of energy coursing through my veins.
So, even though he disappointed me again on May 14th because most the campus was cordoned off, including the Butler Library, due to his visit, I got to hear his voice and the exuberant cheers of young women rising from under the peaks of the tents crowding the main quadrangle of the campus.
President Obama was addressing the graduates of Barnard College. My companion and I stood yards away, behind barracades, under the watchful gaze of a New York City police woman. She googled CNN and let us listen to his talk on her cell phone. I heard him tell this optimistic crowd of young women graduates much the same message he told the whole country back in 2009.
Don’t accept somebody else’s construction of the way things ought to be. It’s up to you to right wrongs. It’s up to you to point out injustice. It’s up to you to hold the system accountable and sometimes upend it entirely. It’s up to you to stand up and to be heard, to write and to lobby, to march, to organize, to vote.
Then I heard, in live and glorious joy, their young women’s voices rise up from the tents, roaring up and across the quadrangle to assault my happy ears. My companion smiled at me in indulgent good humor when I insisted that we stand there as long as possible so I could be this close, the closest I will ever be, to this man I love.
I’ve never loved an American president before. This is an unexpected phenomenon in my life. My love extends to his entire family. I adore Michelle and their two daughters. I embrace what each of them represents individually and what they stand for as a family.
The police woman lost the CNN signal on her phone. The cheering subsided. My companion took my arm and led me away, across the campus, down the steps where we had to navigate a circuitous route around city streets blocked off for his trip back to the airport.
But I had heard the live, real voice of President Barack Obama rise from the tent and bounce off the buildings of Columbia University. What a perfect day.