Yesterday a man asked to interview me. He was referred by an editor I respect and have worked with amiably. I said sure. Before we began, he sent a picture of me posted on my page. I was much younger. He asked where it was taken. I told him. For the interview, I thought we would speak on the phone. He wanted to do it through email. Normally I do not write out answers to questions. It’s work. He told me English was not his first language and asked me to correct his English as we went along. It was a condition. I said okay. He sent his first question: “When I was young, my favorite female name was Laurie. I always wanted to meet Laurie. However, I never met her. She remained to my dream. My favorite band was the Rolling Stones. You are the living embodiment of my youth. Tell me and ours readers a little about yourself. Who you are is Laurie the girl from my dream?” I wrote back, “Have you read my work?” He wrote, “Is that important?” I wrote, “Why do you want to interview me?” He wrote, “Forget it. Sorry about my suggestion” He sounds aggrieved. He thinks something has happened to him. He has asked me to do his work, and he has asked me to enjoy watching him jack off to a fantasy about me. When I decline interest and in doing so call attention to his aggression, I become the aggressor. This happens all the time in large and small ways. No more brushing it off. No more fake smiling. No more quiet.
My friend was holding a coffee from Joe’s. It was noon. I said I wanted coffee from the $2 place. We were on Columbus and 86th Street, heading for the march. At the $2 place, everything coasts $2 plus 18 cents tax. I ordered a decaf cappuccino. My friend said, “It costs $2?” I said, “Yes.” She looked at the pastries and sandwiches and said, “A salmon bagel costs $2?” I said, “Everything costs $2.” She said, “Quinoa salad!?” I said, “Let’s go.” We walked to Central Park West. It was banked with police gates, and the avenue was filling up. There were no sirens or construction sounds. The sun was shining, and we felt good. Two guys in front of us were wearing pussy hats. I said, “Guys in pussy hats are sexy.” My friend said, “It’s hot, or maybe I’m having a hot flash.” She had just returned from a meditation retreat. She said, “I became a hawk. I was looking out through black eyes, and I was flying around. I could feel where the feathers were attached.” By the time we reached the Museum of Natural History, the street was packed. People were feeding in from Columbus Avenue, and no one could not move. I said, “Let’s stand near the edge, so we can get out if we need to.” At the Washington march last year, I had gotten stuck for several house in a crush of people. Finally a woman got sick, and the crowd parted to allow her to leave. I slid in behind her like an ambulance chaser. My friend said, “I can open any police barricade or lift you over.” I said, “I don’t think you can lift me.” She said, “I can.” She is taller than me. Everyone was happy. A woman was holding a little girl in a pink hat and saying, “I believe in you.” I said, “I believe in you, too.” A man was handing out stickers. I took one. It was a drawing of Hillary that said, “You should have voted for me, bitch.” I missed Jessie on Breaking Bad. Jessie called everyone “bitch.” Nothing on TV is that good right now. My friend said, “Let’s walk on the street. At least we’ll be able to move.” I said, “Good idea.” A woman was sitting on a bench with a sign that said, “Impeach this motherfucker already!” A guy was beside her, looking at his phone. I said to the woman, “You are very pretty, and I like your sign. Can I take a picture of you?” She said, “Yes.” I said to the guy, “You are pretty, too.” He said, “Too late.” The park was filled with people. The march had grown fat, like a boa constrictor after a meal. My friend said, “I have to pee.” We were near Tavern on the Green. I said, “Pee in there.” She said, “Do you think they’ll let us in?” I said, “We can say we are getting married and considering it for the reception.” The doorman was young and friendly. He was letting everyone in. The bar was packed with marchers wearing pink somethings and carrying signs. It looked like the cantina in Star Wars. After my friend peed, we rejoined the march. A million people had taken over the center of the city. We were a human carpet, floating along. A woman on Central Park South was carrying a large flag she had sewn. Rows of naked female bodies represented the stripes. Another young women carried a sign that said, “No intersectionality without feminism.” I lifted my fist to her in solidarity. My friend said, “What do you think will happen with all this energy?” I said, “Everyone is saying, ‘No’. Everyone stopped doing what they were doing to show up, and women are leading. We will turn elections. Everything we have fought for about sex and race and gender and social justice now feels normal to these people. They are saying, ‘Don’t fuck with us’.” Police flanked the barriers, chatting softly among themselves. I said to a small female cop, “Join us.” She tilted her head down a little and smiled. I said, “You know you want to.” She said, “I’m enjoying this.” The march turned south again onto 6th Avenue, and we passed 58th Street, where my mother had lived. She was dead. My sister had died in July. I missed her. I said to my friend, “She would have loved this.” She put her arm around my shoulder. I said, “Let’s get a glass of wine when we get to the end.” She said, “Good idea.” We spilled onto 44th and Fifth Avenue, and my friend and I decided to head up to the café at MOMA. I said, “I think I can get us in with my press pass. A young man at the desk said, “Usually you only get one ticket, but since you marched, you can have two.” The museum, like Tavern on the Green, had become an extension of the march. At the café, we sat beside marchers from the Bronx. They were eating crostinis. My friend had a glass of grigio, and I had rosé. A man said, “Everyone has a grandmother from the Bronx.” My grandmothers were from the Lower East Side, but hey. My friend left to see her mother, and I drifted to the Louise Bourgeois exhibit. The happiness of the streets mixed with the happiness of seeing art. They felt like the same happiness, and I was at home. I was in a gallery in a museum, alone in public space. I missed the old MOMA, where I had learned from artists how to see. The new MOMA reminded me of a department store with its swirl of bodies and sweeping dimensions. Never mind. There was Bourgeois’ crazy spider weaving her world out of her body. There were the architectural renderings of Bourgeois’ emotional states. The thin wood towers representing friends she had left behind in France and missed. The fabric collages made from clothes she had worn, each a small memory palace of the life lived in those clothes. “Art is a guarantee of sanity,” she said in an interview, and a moment later, “If you are an artist, you are already cuckoo.” For ten years, her father had installed his mistress in the house to live with his family. Her father had been critical and hard. She said she made trauma visible in order know it and move on. She said, “I transform hate into love. That’s what makes me tick.”
The reason Oprah’s words resounded Sunday night is because we have been waiting for 16 long, terrifying, inconceivably vicious months for someone of stature, coherence, and heart to speak passionate truth about the values being shredded to corrupt power. She had a world audience, and she had us. No elected Democrat or other politician has had the clarity and willingness to stand up like that. They all need to. If she opened the floodgates, bring it on. What are they waiting for? Why are they so scared, so willing to shave off a commitment to gender and race equality? Let every fucking elected Democrat outshine Oprah in their visions and plans.