I Lost Her at the Voting Booth — a short story

Posted on 2018 November 4

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"i lost her at the voting booth" ballot-box-isometric-WITH-HAND.png

Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule. — Friedrich Nietzsche

Politics can be hard on relationships. Take me, for instance. I had a girlfriend who broke up with me on Election Day.

We’d been together only a few weeks. Already some of her stuff was at my place. We didn’t agree much about politics, but in the heat of courtship we’d set that aside.

She wanted us to vote together. Said it’d be romantic. Okay, sure. 

I met her at the polling station at lunch. The place was crowded; we had to stand in line.

Ahead of us was a young woman who was frowning. When she looked up, she saw me staring at her. She said, “What are you looking at?”

“A woman who’s angry?”

“Well, why isn’t everyone angry these days?”

“You tell me.”

“It’s the people who are running this country! They’re horrible! I despise them. Can’t wait to vote them out of office.”

I said, “You’re not supposed to campaign inside a polling station.”

“I’m not campaigning. I’m…”

“Complaining?”

“Huh?”

“Campaigning, complaining, kinda similar.”

She glared. Oops. I’d gone too far. Quickly I said, “What don’t you like about them?”

“Wait a minute, you like them?!”

“I didn’t say—”

“They’re EVIL! They’re selfish. They’re ruining our country.”

“Um, a lot of people, maybe half, will vote for them.”

She huffed. “That’s because they’re stupid. And their leaders are evil.”

I thought for a moment. “I’ve talked with a lot of folks on the other side, and you know what’s funny? That’s exactly what they say about your side.”

She snorted. “Like I said — stupid.”

“That’s what they say about you.”

“Well, they’re wrong.”

“They say you’re wrong.”

“Well, they just don’t understand.”

“They say about you, too.”

“You sound like you’re eight.”

I shrugged. “Monkey see, monkey do.”

She turned to my girlfriend. “How do you put up with him?”

My girlfriend said, “With difficulty.” She looked at me and half-smiled.

The woman said, “Well, your boyfriend sounds like a sociopath.”

I said, “Aw shucks, thanks.”

“What?”

“Most people think I’m just a mild-mannered nerd who happens to practice law. I admire anyone who can see through the disguise to the wicked soul underneath.”

She rolled her eyes.

“What’s more, I assert that you and I have more in common than you think.”

“What, I’m a sociopath? No way!”

“Hear me out. Your side hates the other side. You think they’re stupid and evil and unworthy of respect. It’s as if they’re not fully human. Your side believes it has the right answers and the other side should do as you say or face the consequences. But the other side feels the exact same way about you. You each think your opponents are stealing resources, and it’s your right to take them back, by force as needed. And you’re both willing to lie and cheat in order to do that. It’s pure tribalism, something humans have been doing since forever.”

“We’re just trying to get back what they took!”

“That’s what they say about you. Now, I don’t belong to either of your parties. My tribe has only one member — me. And I deplore all of you equally. As far as I’m concerned, you’re all stupid and evil and unworthy of respect, and that makes you my prey. I can hurt you or take what I want from any of you, whatever I can get away with. And I sleep just fine. Here’s the only difference between you and me. You’re a sociopath toward half the population, while I’m a sociopath toward everyone.”

“You’re awful! You’re disgusting! I can’t be here anymore.” She stomped off toward the back of the line.

My girlfriend watched her go, then turned to me. “That was mean.”

“She started it.”

My girlfriend looked at me hard for a moment. “Were you serious?”

“About what?” 

“About being a sociopath?”

“Maybe.” I grinned. “On the other hand, a sociopath probably would never admit it.”

“You’re very clever. Suddenly I don’t know if I trust you.”

We got to the registration table. She went first, then it was my turn. I signed in, received my ballot, took it to a booth, fumbled with the machine, and punched in my choices. Not that voting matters. There’s a bigger chance of dying in an accident on the way to the polling station than of your vote changing the election.

I emerged from the booth, dropped my ballot into the box, and looked around for my girlfriend. She was nowhere in sight. Couldn’t find her in the parking lot, either. I shrugged, got in my car, and went back to the office.

When I got home that night, she wasn’t there. Her stuff was gone. I walked into the bathroom: even her toothbrush was missing.

I leaned on the counter and stared into the mirror. Finally I said, “Nobody has a sense of humor anymore.”

.

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Posted in: Fiction, Humor, Politics