I snuck up the stairs to our apartment, sweating, dripping with shame. I had committed the darkest possible sin: I had voted Republican.
Never had I imagined it would come to this, but one fine day, it happened—I couldn’t handle yet another tax hike. A new campaign was going on to increase the alcohol sales tax to help the schools, and as much as I loved schools, I loved beer more. At this rate, I soon wouldn’t be able to afford my drinking habit. So I voted against the tax measure and for the Republican candidate.
Even though our town was under liberal rule, it allowed the continuing existence of the local Republican party, mostly due to the smug knowledge that almost nobody would vote for them.
This was my one comfort. No matter how guilty I felt about my vote, it would be a minority voice, to be swept away by the election winds. None of my loved ones would be any the wiser.
Still, my conscience weighed me down. I had nausea and panic attacks when I went to bed. I felt as if I had, in some indirect way, raped somebody.
And then the tax measure failed. The Republican candidate didn’t get elected, but fifty-five percent of our town residents quietly voted against the tax increase.
My friends gathered to mourn at our place, ashen-faced. They were in shock.
“How could people be so short-sighted? So selfish? I mean, really?” Nova wondered.
“I feel like burning something down,” Julian stammered.
“Maybe the voters like to get drunk,” I suggested.
“I guess so. I’m glad they’ve got their priorities,” Nova said angrily.
“I wish I knew some Republicans, so I could argue with them right now!” Julian said.
I refrained from comment, at least until later that evening.
“Ah, so how does it feel to be me for once?” RedGirl asked.
“Go ahead, you can gloat,” I said.
“I can’t believe that you actually did vote Republican. What happened? What made you see the light?”
“Not so fast. I still plan to vote Democratic in the general election. It’s just that our local lefties are so inept.”
“Sure. Well, being a political minority isn’t easy. But remember, you’re strong. You can survive being a social pariah.”
“You’re not very good at the comforting thing.”
“Would you like to come to a Whiskey Party rally with us?”
I had seen what the rallies against the local government looked like: lots of waving of tri-cornered hats, guns and American flags. “Er…no.”
“Okay, but you’re always welcome if you change your mind.”
It was when I made the fateful decision to check my Facebook that the temptation appeared. My sister had Liked the I’m So Happy Measure 569 Didn’t Pass! page. I knew it was a bad idea, but here was the chance to assert a different opinion for once, and it was so deadly easy—all I had to do was click.
I moved the mouse back and forth nervously. The word Like glowed and danced before my eyes. I felt as if I was about to climb the barricades.
I clicked Like, turned off the computer and rolled into a ball under my bedcovers.
An hour or so later, Julian came into the bedroom. When I peeked out from under the sheets, he backed away in horror.
“Don’t do that, baby.”
“I don’t understand what you’ve changed into,” he said. “I thought I knew who I was sleeping with. Now it turns out I’ve been having sex with a…a conservative.”
“You haven’t. This was only one issue, one election.”
“One issue ruins everything, Blue. You’re not pure anymore.”
“Are you serious? Where are you going?”
“I need to be alone so I can deal with this Like thing.”
“Will you be coming back?”
“I don’t know.” I heard the living room door close behind him and then the sofa squeaking underneath him.
At work, all my stuff had been packed up into a box.
Leah was tense. “It’s too bad. We could have been sisters in the struggle…”
“Maybe I can Unlike the page.”
“No, it’s too late now. You’ve crossed the line and you can’t go back again.”
Jobless and possibly single, I went to the only place I could think of where I could express my powerless rage.
A large man in a tri-cornered hat bumped into me and my cardboard box. “Get a job, whiner!” he bellowed before joining the rest of the shouting throng.
The Whiskey Party rally in front of City Hall. Small but loud, with a whiff of insanity. It fit my mood perfectly. I strained my eyes until I found RedGirl. She was lifting up a sign which read “Arrest The False Messiah,” referring to the President.
She wagged her sign at me in greeting. “Hey,” she said. “I Liked your Like on Facebook.”
I nodded. “Thanks. You’re the only one who did.” I hesitated. “After all this time we’ve spent fighting each other, you may have been the one who was right.”
She gave a sideways glance at the protest. “Can we walk away from here for a few minutes?”
She let her sign slump at her side as we walked. “You’re the only person I can talk to about this… I think I’m going to vote Democrat in the upcoming election. I’m scared of the cuts in retirement and Medicare and everything…”
For a moment, we faced each other in silence. “It sounds like we’ve both secretly sinned against our ideologies,” I said.
“Ideologies can get so difficult,” RedGirl sighed. “So now what? Which side am I on again? And what are the sides?”
I pondered it. “As horrible as the realization is, we may be on the same side.”
“I know, I know. But when it comes down to it, we’re both getting screwed.”
“Well, I am, at least…”
“Whatever. My point is, take a look at the Squircal guys and how their approach to life works. No matter which political group is in charge, they’re always in power. They have no problem with being the government or a corporation, depending on which suits them better.”
“Yeah…but that’s how the world is.”
“Really? Why is it that they get to do all the things they get to do? Why do you have to spend your life doing what they tell you to do?”
“Fine, fine, it’s true and it’s painful, okay? What do you want me to say? It’s not like I can do anything about it.”
“By yourself, you can’t do very much…but what if we joined forces?”
RedGirl was quiet for a while. Finally she said: “You know how you could never fly, and I could?”
“Yeah, I’m kind of a lame superhero.”
“Let’s try holding hands.”
I wasn’t at all sure this was going to work. RedGirl took off, pulling me along with her at first, but as we went on, I felt it happening—I became lighter, and then we were flying together.
We didn’t have to say anything to each other about where we were going. We sped as one in the direction of the tallest skyscraper in town.
The Squircal men were none too thrilled to see me on the top floor of their building.
“Not you and your democracy crap again. We don’t have time for this,” one of them said. He saw RedGirl standing next to me. “Oh, good. Take her away,” he ordered.
She refused to move. “Boo-Boo, you’ve been lying to me about the economy. I don’t believe you anymore.”
He groaned in annoyance. “Look, there’s a nice fat bonus in it for you…”
“No. We’re sisters,” she said, and took my hand again. Now that we were united, our energy was finally strong enough to defeat Squircal. It grew into a giant ball of purple light and shot gleaming rays into the sky, piercing the clouds.
The executives squealed like a herd of pigs. Exposed to our light, their skin burst and the air escaped out of them, until they crumbled and there was nothing left of them except a few shriveled lumps of charcoal.
As the dust cleared, the sound of fluttering wings was heard. The Bat briefly perched on the remains of his followers, sniffed at them with contempt and then flew away again, no doubt to search for new and better minions.
The fight was over. The skies were clear. My sister and I stared at each other across the empty Squircal offices.
“Yay us!” She pumped her fists in the air. “So, what happens now? What kind of political system do we have now?”
“Um…I think it’s up to us,” I said. “We build it.”
“Oh.” She leaned against the wall, the first traces of fear and regret in her face.
I looked down at my hands.
THE END (FOR NOW)