I unzip my tent enough to stick my hand out and feel around for my boots. I shove my feet through and unzip the tent some more to slide my whole body out, then zip it back up before mosquitoes get in. I stretch my headlamp around my neck and leave it off. An amorphous blotch of stars covers the sky. I can see my breath. I pause to consider my physical reality: I’m a man wearing long underwear, a longsleeve shirt and hiking boots, standing on the shore of a pond deep in the Minnesota north woods. I haven’t seen my face in a week; I last bathed three days ago, in the river. Or was it four? My muscles are taut, strong. I’m walking ten miles a day, sawing and chopping wood for fire. My mind is clear. I meditate during my daytime walks, read and write at night. Everything’s in sync; if the mosquitoes are biting me, I can no longer feel them.
November 8, 2016, 4pm. My boss swings by my desk. She’s smiling, putting her coat on, talking of champagne with neighbors. She leaves, I check Facebook. Lots of selfies. One from Liv- white pantsuit, red ‘I voted’ sticker, red lipstick to match. It’s all planned. I close it. I flash back to 2004, downtown Hilton, DNC headquarters. A young democrat plays a hopeful melody on the lobby piano while we all get drunk in the ballroom bracing for victory, which never comes.
I take two steps away from my tent straight into a branch – it scrapes my forehead. There’ll be a gash there. I walk the other way and find the opposing tree line. That’s far enough. I can tell as it leaves me I’m well-hydrated. As I’m shaking out, I hear a rustling in the woods. Bigger than a chipmunk. It rustles again, closer. Is it actually big, or is my mind amplifying? A third sound, no, it’s real, bigger than a rodent. A bear? A deer? I pause and wait for another sound. Nothing. I kick at the brush to instigate – it moves again. I start clapping, loud and fast. It rustles away into the woods. I walk back to my tent. My eyes have adjusted now. I can make out details – the beaver dam across the pond, the dim moon’s reflection on the water, the horizon of trees against the black sky. The air is cold and still. I clap a few more times, say aloud “fuck off, bear,” stare at the water. I think of life back home – what it was about, what I was working on – but I can’t place it. I’ve shed the rhythms of civilization. There’s no ambition here except to survive and, occasionally, to experience pleasant moments. Accordingly, there’s no great mission to contextualize my existence. I’m just here, for no reason, alone, in the cold night, like the animals.
5pm, I leave the office, thinking of my Brexit night tweet – a link to CCR’s Bad Moon Rising. Proud of that one. Nobody cared. No favorites, no retweets. What’s the point if nobody’s listening? I drive home, spinning a cycle of self-pity – they’ll congratulate me when this is over, care about my opinion next time. Traffic is stopped. I check Twitter on my phone. Why am I doing this? My gut hurts. I don’t like this world or the way I am in it, and I know what’s coming. Bad moon rising.
The woods stretch for miles behind me; in it are black bears and deer and toads and moose and mice and— A wolf howls from across the water. Or is that an echo? Did it howl from my side of the pond, its direct path obstructed by woods? I’ve never seen a wolf out here, but I picture one each time I pass a deer skull or feather pile on the trail. And I can feel one now, creeping up behind me. I turn and look and it’s standing next to my tent, its golden-green eyes lighting the inner contours of its face. It stares me down; I’m frozen. A wave of certainty floods my chest – that I can’t clap it away. Is this what knowing god feels like? I stare back at his eyes, and feel the ground start to crack beneath me. I’m not scared. It’s all quiet. My body knows: the next thing to happen is the earth is going to swallow me while the wolf watches.
9pm, a few states go blue early, but the margins are too small – we’re fucked. 10pm, it’s over. Midnight, a dark, despotic cartoon figure speaks and I can feel it slipping away from me, from us. The earth moves below. I don’t want to tweet about it. I can feel the wolf’s eyes on me, waiting.
November 9th, 4pm. My boss swings by my desk. She admits she was naive. I tell her I wasn’t shocked – I’ve been listening to conservative talk radio, plus Brexit, and Berlusconi, and – it was in the wind. She leaves and I try working but can’t focus, assaulted by thoughts of democracy and our constitution and the founders and how we were closer to perfect than ever before and I can feel it slipping. I can feel it, I can feel it… I bring up “Lightning Crashes” on YouTube to see if it explains anything – “I can feel it, coming back again, like a rolling thunder chasing the wind.” It doesn’t. I read all the takes – the polls, the bubble, Germany 1930s. Theories, forecasts, next steps. How the sun comes up. How the world keeps spinning. I meditate, eyes open, between my physical and abstract realities – my purpose at work, the walls of my house, the safety of my relationships, my online bank statement. Centralized heat, the constitution. My ergonomic chair, democracy. It all could slip at any time. Was it always slipping? I turn back toward the pond, eyes open, looking, listening. I start to clap, fast and loud, the eyes of the wolf upon me.