Here I am, on a charter bus to New York City, trying not to let the stranger next to me see me cry. I’ve already totally embarrassed myself thanks to the aggressive screams erupting from my stomach. I’m leaning against the window, stifling my sniffles. Anderson .Paak’s “The Dreamer” comes on, which is a dope song but makes it impossible for me to keep my cool.
On my way to the city, there are two stops at Metro stations in northern Virginia. The line to just get into each station wraps around the entirety of the terminal like an overeager boa constrictor. It’s awesome. Like, not “haha bro your yeezys are awesome,” but literally awesome. It’s not just the number of people, though I’ve never seen this many people line up outside the Vienna Metro station. It’s the palpable excitement, the accumulation of the quivers of anticipation forming a kind of sonic boom.
I’m a bystander here. And even though I’ve been a little skeptical of the march as a parade of white feminism, I’m upset that a commitment hundreds of miles away is keeping me from this movement in my very backyard. But as I sit uncomfortably on this bus which claimed to have power outlets (My phone is dying as I write this. Where are the outlets?!), I can’t help but become consumed by the sheer power of the image in front of me. The pre-march.
By the “pre-march,” I mean the preparation and the waiting in line. The rainbow of sneakers that line the curb. There’s a woman clutching an apple and another searching for a trash bin for her banana peel. A group of young women are clutching their water bottles and dropping their cell phones into a friend’s bag. One woman stops by a translucent window to adjust her pink knit beanie, making sure the ears are perked up. Another presses a poster against her friend’s back as she finishes coloring in a massive female symbol.
The implied preparation is what really gets to me. I find myself inventing stories about these people. I imagine them up late finishing up their posters and packing their bags. Many of the marchers I see are predominantly white, and by virtue of living in norther Virginia, likely predominantly affluent. But I imagine many others gravely fearing for their own safety I imagine them all fearing a little bit for each other’s safety. I envision first-time marchers reading the same things online on what to take with you and what to be weary of. Beware of doxxers, my friend writes in a Facebook post. Write important phone numbers on your body in Sharpie. There are tips on what to do if you’re pepper sprayed. What to do if you’re tear gased. These people are packed and ready to go.
I’m overwhelmed by the image of hundreds of people waiting in line to do something historic. The unity of their patience is amazing. The work that goes in beforehand is breathtaking.
I see the Metro train is nearly overflowing with people. The platform is slick with the perpetual Virginia mist. A family of five, pushing two strollers with posters firmly attached, squeezes in. The marchers turn their posters to us and wave as we drive away.