The morning after the election I didn’t really want to leave my bed. Even though I am not an American citizen, the happenings of the night before shocked and numbed me so much that I couldn’t find the power to face the day. I wanted to stay where I was and try to forget about what was going on elsewhere in the country. I logged onto Facebook, only to be faced with my friends’ updates about the anti-Trump protest that was being organized to Union Square Park. I put down my phone and went back to bed, absolutely sure that I didn’t need any more political drama in my life.
But in the end I went to the protest. As I was smoking my cigarette that morning, something didn’t feel right with the city around me. I tried to pin down the feeling, and I realized I was mourning. Mourning in the same way I did when my grandpa died, and when one of my friends died. And when in mourning, one must find ways to ease their pain. I personally think about the protests as funerals. People do not go to funerals to resurrect the dead. They go to funerals to grieve.
That’s how I ended up forcing my way into the crowd at Union Square that night with some friends, a “Free Hugs” sign duct taped around my chest. It was raining, so the piece of paper I had used became useless rather fast—and no one seemed to be in the hugging mood anyway. By 6 pm, the original start time for the protest, the crowd had unified in chants. On my right, people shouted, “Donald Trump: go away, racist, sexist, anti-gay!” On my left, “My body, my choice!” Signs that had been hastily made after the previous night’s shocking results were raised up. Some of the slogans on them turned into more chants, and soon the crowd started marching their way uptown, shouting, “Love trumps hate,” and “We reject the President Elect.”
After the rain had stopped, we marched up Fifth Avenue to the Trump Tower, accompanied by rhythmic honking from the cars stuck on the street and by the stares of people watching us from upper-level fitness centers and stores. Some people leaned out of their cars to share high fives with as many people as they could, like they didn’t mind being stuck in traffic at all. Reporters with cameras and notepads made their way through the crowd. One of my friends wore an Anonymous mask, and the cameras loved it. I was jealous. As we passed 30th Street I heard a painful scream from behind. I turned around to see a man holding his bleeding head, the remains of a glass bottle on the ground, and a car speeding away. “Asshole!” someone cried out, this time not referring to the President Elect. I took a last glance at the bleeding man before walking away, now surrounded by more worried looks and a sense of growing rage. It was a strange, hopeless mix of emotions, but one I found fitting.
The crowd became even denser as we arrived at Trump Tower because the avenue was blocked by the police ahead. People climbed on traffic signs and moved up as far as they could to give space to the stream of newcomers. The chanting continued, louder now, as a figure appeared in one of the windows around the tenth floor. A helicopter crossed the sky above us. Middle fingers were raised up in the air as the line of police officers blocking us from the tower drew a second line of cordon. Representatives from a socialist group shouted into a megaphone. Their agenda was different from that of the rest of the crowd but still, we repeated their chants. The speaker spoke against the results of the election and demanded alternatives. He demanded change. He gave a quick elevator pitch for the cause of socialism. Then he encouraged us to follow them on Facebook and Instagram, before finally turning off the megaphone.
A woman with dreadlocks started passing out eggs. I reached out and, in a second, one of them found its way into my palm. We all stood there in suspense, excited, waiting for the first person to throw their egg at the tower. But no one had the courage. Suddenly, the tower seemed to be farther away from me than it was five minutes ago, even though I hadn’t taken a step. The police started to seem more menacing. I realized I wasn’t really looking for trouble. My friend walked up to me, still wearing her Anonymous mask, and put her egg in my hand. “You have better aim than I do,” she said. I gave her a look that she probably couldn’t catch through the tiny eyeholes of the mask. In the end, none of the eggs were thrown. I couldn’t help but detest this off-putting manifestation of group mechanics—being the first one to step up, the first one to be brave is hard. Following others in a crowd is easy. I looked around myself and felt a bitter ambivalence at the sight of the people shouting together. It dawned on me that we were not going to make history today, that our display of rage and dissatisfaction was less against Trump and more for ourselves. We needed it like mourners need a good cry at a funeral.
The crowd marched on to the Trump Hotel at the southeast corner of Central Park. Halfway there, I accidentally dropped one of my eggs. I didn’t care. The group divided into two parts at the hotel, each standing near a different exit, each chanting on their own. A vocal Trump supporter marched between the two groups, calling us cucks and whiny liberals and other names borrowed straight from Martin Shkreli’s Twitter feed. After enough people yelled back, he walked away. The protest was over. People started dispersing, and I headed for the subway. The feeling of ambivalence that took me over seemed like the necessary act of sobering up after being intoxicated by all the chanting and marching. I knew that the protests would go on the next day, but I was done mourning. It wasn’t until I was on the train back home that I realized I was still holding the other egg in my hand. It didn’t even have a crack in it. I thought about what could have happened if I were the one to throw it at the tower and smiled.
When I arrived home, I put some oil in the frying pan, turned on the stove, and cracked the egg open. I decided to make an omelet.
Mate Mohos in an NYU Shanghai student from Hungary, majoring at Media. He spent the first semester of his junior year in New York and is currently studying abroad in the Czech Republic. He is an aspiring journalist and creative writer who writes mostly personal essays and speculative fiction. He is currently an editorial intern at tol.org and hopes to publish some of his short stories soon. More of his work can be found on his web page matemohos.com.