7 a.m.: Alarm. Snooze. Sleep.

7:10 a.m.: Brief nightmare of my name being eliminated from the registration roll, then my provisional ballot being rejected because the volunteers at my polling place convinced themselves that I was a male and I was committing voter fraud by having an ID saying I am female.

7:20 a.m.: Wake up to extra loud ranchera music streaming across the alley like it’s the aroma of a fresh-baked apple pie on the windowsill.

7:25 a.m.: Shower. Bike to Covenant House Manor’s lounge (two blocks from my apartment), weaving between children and mothers hustling to the elementary school across the street.

8 a.m.: I have been in voting precinct 3850591A for nearly two years and have never had the pleasure of casting my ballot with another voter in the room, so I graciously wait in the long line winding through the apartment building lobby. Somehow, I start making small talk conversation with the older Hispanic woman and paraplegic in front of me, laughing about the downtown library closure and gossiping about “that empty lot on 6th St.” like we were on The Truman Show. There’s something undeniably American in the air, and it’s making me talk to strangers.

8:30 a.m.: I’m in! Man, I love actual, tangible, verifiable paper ballots. I take that pen-looking thing with a hole-stamper on the end and punch away like it’s Saturday night bingo. I vote like I mean it because, dammit, I do. And sliding my ballot through the counter and getting that little sticker that tells the rest of my finally-motivated, minority-dominated congressional district that “I Voted” is one of the most exhiliarating things I’ve ever experienced. An hour ago, I was depressed about my nightmare, but voting is such a self-esteem booster.

8:40 a.m.: Outside, the air feels thinner, more crisp, alive. Election Day is different in my neighborhood, where families of eight live in a two-bedroom apartment next door and sirens are more routine than ice cream trucks. People are smiling; children are laughing. I tip my head to two wheelchair maidens zooming towards Covenant Manor, and when they nod back, I swirl in the feeling of being endlessly and infinitely connected to everyone in this crazy country we’re trapped in. I feel so patriotic.

8:50 a.m.: Bike to my local Starbucks – the one by the Blue Line station – to get a free “Election Roast” coffee. The line is out the door with people like me, brandishing their red, white and blue badges of courage for a tall cup of joe. The woman in front of me explains to the only non-voter in line (a pregnant 14-year old) about the electorate process. The positivity is palpable in my inner city hole. Everyone is bundled up like the early-morning mugginess might rain again and it feels like Christmas morning except we all have to go to work.

9 a.m.: Finally succumbing to real life, I get on the Blue Line and trek to school (with what I’m sure would be a smug look of self-accomplishment washed across my face). Leaving the re-enfranchised streets of downtown Long Beach behind, I start in on the normal Tuesday routine, but this time, I’m sipping on free caffeine. Mmmmm. Tastes like liberty!

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