My feet are cold. Hell, everything was cold. My fingers felt as if someone took tiny icicles and pricked each one of my fingertips with the cold point. Standing still does not help heat circulate, but I feel like I can’t move in fear of a part of me becoming colder. I stuck some hand warmers into my boots hoping to bring life back to my feet, but to no avail. The “Why am I putting myself through this?” is the question that keeps circulating through my head on repeat. “To see history.” Right. I am here to witness history. Hopefully, I won’t freeze to death first.
No alarm should go off before six in the morning. A rule of mine that I have lived with for the short, seventeen years of my life. I take pride in not getting up before the sun does, and yet, here I am, breaking my rule for a man. The one. The only.
Mrs. Delbert has drilled in everyone’s head to be up and dressed by three. Not three in the afternoon. I’m talking three in the morning, when even the birds are still sleeping. Four different alarms had to go off before I registered I was the one who had to get out of bed. My roommates from Georgia are still sound asleep because they don’t have to get up till ten. Lucky girls. I look to my left and see Emily is still asleep. Loser. I get the bathroom first. Four girls and one bathroom has definitely not been one of the best experiences Washington has enlightened me with.
Two pairs of pants, three shirts, long socks, boots, and one jacket later, I finally feel like I can survive through one of the longest days of my life. I wake up Emily after I finish in the bathroom. I probably should have woken her sooner, but I like how quiet the room is without anyone else awake. I pack the necessities: gloves, hand warmers, Purell, chap stick, my phone, a water bottle, and, last but not least, the brown knit hat with “MCA” embroidered into it with bold, white letters. The clock on the nightstand reads 2:45. Emily is still in the bathroom, and I have little patience. I grab my bag and my giant all-weather coat and leave the room.
I am the first person in the lobby. Not surprising, since I am ten minutes early, nut I wanted to be ready. The Marriot has been nice enough to set up a doggie-bag buffet for the inauguration expedition in the lobby. Lucky me, I get first pickings. I stuff an apple, a banana, and an egg breakfast sandwich into one of the bags, then put the food bag into my backpack. No one else is in the room except for me and a hotel worker. I head towards the wall and put all my stuff on the ground. I sit on the ground and debate taking a nap. I decide even an extra minute of sleep will make my day a little bit easier, so I close my eyes.
“Wakie, Wakie, Scarlett.”
I wake to see my friends, Eve and Katie, standing above me. They are both smiling at me. Glad to be of entertainment. Katie kicks my leg.
“Stop sleeping. We are about to go. Everyone is going into their groups now. Since you were one of the lucky ones, you’re with Miss Tatum.”
I stare at her for a few seconds, repeating her words in my head. She sounds slightly annouyed at me, and I know why. A few people were slightly mad at me for being chosen for a ticket for the Inauguration, especially Emily. I know Emily would rather me give her the ticket, but I decided Donald Trump’s Inauguration was a once in a lifetime opportunity. If I have the choice to being closer to the Inauguration, then I was going to take the opportunity. Probably the reason why she is currently ignoring me across the room, but I know she will cool down eventually. I look for Miss Tatum and find her close to the subway entrance in the hotel. I stand up and grab my stuff and walk over to Miss Tatum. She notices me and checks my name down on a paper she is holding.
“Okay, girls, everyone’s here. It’s 3:15, so we’re going to start heading down to the subway. Everyone stay together in this group. We have assigned each student to a specific group to make this process easier. If you get lost while we are heading there, call me right away. Although, you will most likely be by yourself when you are going through security, so try to find either me or Miss Allerton once you are through. If you can’t, wait till the end of the Inauguration to call us. Okay, let’s go.”
My group starts heading towards the subway. Students and staff are the only beings that can be heard or seen in the subway station. The place looks like a zombie apocalypse went through it. Everyone passes through the pay machines, and then we wait for the next subway train to Huntington to show up. I stand as closest as I can to the tracks, on the yellow line with the lights on it. I can hear Miss Tatum and Mrs. Allerton talking about the directions to our gate, the silver gate. Judging by their confusion, I could tell finding the gate was going to be a problem. The lights along the path start to flicker, signaling a train was coming in. I look down the dark tunnel and see the first remnants of the yellow headlights, then I hear the roaring of the subway. The train comes to a screeching halt in front of us. Surprisingly, there are a few people waiting inside. We all look back to the teachers for clarification to make sure if we are allowed to board the train. The teachers nod their heads, and we all pack into the subway car.
I like the subway. I do not understand why. I think I like the fact it is underground and different from transportation in Louisiana. It might be because the subway is so punctual and efficient. Either way, I was glad to be on it. Miss Tatum starts to pass something out to all of us, while we wait for our next stop. Pilar, another friend, walks over to where I am stand by the door, analyzing a subway map on the wall. I am only assuring myself we boarded the correct train. There were past incidents on the trip, and I do not plan to be in the wrong place once the Inauguration begins. Fortunately, we are on the right train. Pilar tugs at the coat I am holding.
“You should probably put your coat on now. Once we get out of the subway station, it’s going to be freezing.”
I already have on my fleece and hoodie, but you can never be too safe. I put my coat on, and I feel like a giant marshmallow.
“Yeah, thanks. That’s a good idea.”
“Oh, I forgot. I bought two of these yesterday, but since I am not allowed to bring them past security, there is no way I can finish both. Do you want one?”
Pilar is holding a Starbucks frappe drink. I love all forms of coffee, even ones filled with more sugar than coffee. I practically rip Pilar’s hand off while I grab the drink.
“Yes, I’ll take it. I’m going to need all the caffeine I can get.
“No problem. Have you gotten your ticket yet?”
“For the inauguration. Miss Tatum is handing out the tickets. They look really cool. You should go get yours.”
I find Miss Tatum towards the back of the car, seating next to Miss Allerton. She hands me a ticket. Although, whatever I am holding does not look like a ticket. The ticket is bigger than the size of my hand but smaller than a sheet of paper. The paper material is thick. The ticket is engraved with silver, script letters, detailing the Inauguration. The Presidential seal is the located at the center of the card. I carefully store the ticket into an inner pocket of my coat. I can already imagine my mother framing the ticket and hanging the ticket on the wall like a shrine.
We reach our destination in about nine minutes. I decide to stand the entire time because I am weirdly energetic. I finished drinking the coffee in about two minutes, but I imagine I am mostly jittery with nerves. The subway doors open and all of the girls file out of the car and find her way outside. I stay towards the front of the group. I think several people walk way too slow, and I’ll become annoyed at the back of the group. When we reach outside, I thank God Pilar told me to put my coat on. The air is freezing, the coldest it has been the whole trip. I look up at the sky. I imagine the coldness may have something to do with the sun missing from the sky. I forgot for a few minutes that it is four in the morning. I begin my mental countdown till the Inauguration. I hope the countdown will somehow make the day go by quicker. Eight hours. I have eight hours to withstand the weather till Trump becomes President.
We are lost. I do not know how. I do not know when. All I know is we are lost. Miss Tatum will not actual use the word “lost” but I am not naïve enough to think we are heading in the right direction after our third turnaround. We have been wandering around the empty city for about forty-five minutes and nada. Nothing has changed. I look at Pilar. The poor girl looks like she is about to keel over. I really hope we find our gate soon because I do not want to be around if someone passes out.
Currently, we are in the middle of an intersection. Miss Tatum is on the phone with Mrs. Allerton. Mrs. Allerton ditched the group earlier to find the correct route to the gate. I wish I went with her. I do not like being stuck in a group of complain girls for long periods of time.
Miss Tatum’s face brightens up. Mrs. Allerton claims she found our gate. Miss Tatum beings to walk, and we follow. A helpful thing about the Inauguration is there are no cars to run anyone over, so we walk in the street instead of the sidewalk. We take a left at the next intersection. Hallelujah! Mrs. Allerton found it. Our gate has a silver banner with a hundred or so people crowded beneath it, huddling together for warmth. The more I stare at the mob, the colder I become. I do have to say all the walking did distract me from the chill of the air. I stuff my gloved hands into my coat pocket and pray for a good day. After finding Mrs. Allerton, we all head towards the gate.
My phone says it is around 5:30. I have been waiting under the gate for about an hour. This is torture. I hate lines, and this line seems to be endless. People continue to show up, but the appears to be going nowhere. Suddenly, little by little the pack of people begin to move forward. I look ahead and see people going through a door one by one, holding their tickets up for a police officer to look at. I unzip my coat and grab my ticket from my pocket before I make it up to the cop. I clench my teeth together at the new burst of cold air. The task of staying in an orderly line seems to be a struggle as hundreds of people try to pushing through one door. A few long minutes of pushing and shoving go by before I make it to the door. Once I show my ticket to the officer, he waves me through. I stick the ticket back into the pocket and walk through the door.
On the other side of the door is security. I am by myself, as previously warned by Miss Tatum. I look at the line choices in hope of seeing a familiar fast, but, alas, I find no one. I guess I am on my own for the rest of the Inauguration. I try to find the shortest line to go through. The man asks for my bag and for any electronic devices, so I hand him my phone. He looks my phone over, then puts rests it back of the table. The security officer rifles through my bag. He throws out my banana and apple. Great. There goes half of my food supply for the next six and half hours. I ask why he had to throw my fruit away. Apparently, security is slightly afraid of fruit flying at people’s heads. I, frankly, do not perceive the danger of fruit. I walk through the security detector and, luckily, I do not set the alarm off. A woman pats me down, and the man hands me my phone and bag back and sends me off.
I found a nice spot in front of a giant, plasma television. I can see the Capital Building from where I am sitting on white plastic that covers the ground. The sun rose about four hours ago, and I stared, mesmerized by the colors. Soon after, rain began to fall and ruined the blissful moment. I ate half of my sandwich and try to not think about the hunger taking over my body. Instead, I think about the excitement building up inside of me. I have been waiting to witness this one moment for months, and now I am finally here. Granted, I am sitting alone, and I could try to find someone else to enjoy it with but watching the Inauguration alone somehow feels right to me. 5 more minutes. It’s Donald’s Trump big day. I imagine he is experiencing more anxiety than I am right now. Music begins to circulate throughout the area, and I stand up as the television is turned on. My stomach is full of butterflies, and my excitement practically becomes alive. I am bouncing on my toes, watching the television broadcast important people. I continually remind myself of how I will remember this day forever, and I will. How could I forget the hell I had to go through to reach this moment of witnessing history being made?
I will never forget the day Donald Trump becomes President of the United States.