January 21st 2017

We board the bus in the pre-dawn darkness

Fortified by loose leaf tea

Ferried by the cab driver who had been eating 4am pizza live parked outside Big Nick’s.

We settle in for the long drive.

I listen to the newer Mindy Kaling book on tape

And drift in and out of sleep

Opening my eyes at one point to see the Alexander Hamilton rest stop

I think it must be a good sign.

I open my eyes again and

We’re stuck in traffic in the fog and

We’ve just crossed the Delaware.

Again, it feels like a good omen — these historical sign posts.

There is one man on our bus

the rest of us are women of all ages,

mostly white.

I don’t see any pussy hats.

We write phone numbers on our arms in sharpie.

We make contingency plans.

We learn the chants we might need to know.

I have to stop during one of the chants,

It may have been,

“Show me what democracy looks like!”

“This is what democracy looks like!”

because we’re driving past neglected rowhouses somewhere in DC and I think to myself “Ugh, this country” and I want to cry.

I calculate whether I would rather risk getting tear gassed with contacts in or have my glasses fall off while running away from the police.

I decide to wear my contacts.

And then the subway car is filled with pussy hatted people and and we’re barely moving because of train congestion which feels like New York congestion but better.

We walk to Woolly Mammoth and use their bathrooms and buy their coffee and thank them for being a welcome station. We take a picture and get to walking — following the crowd — not really sure where to go.

I catch myself about to cry, again, but I don’t.

I bottle up these forming tears.

I am overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people with their signs,

their pussyhats, their passion, their outrage, their wonder.

It is a thing to stand between the Capitol building and the Washington monument and see hundreds of thousands of people marching

and chanting

and taking pictures of signs they like.

We wonder out loud if this is what the March on Washington was like in 1963,

a bunch of polite people milling about while historic speeches were being made out of earshot.

We decide that yes, it must have been similar.

But without cellphones.

I don’t try to find anyone else I know,

hoping instead that the universe will send them to me.

I wonder if a particular ex-boyfriend is there

And if I will run into him.

And what I would say if I do.

We make friends in the portopotty line,

We smirk with

and at

the young anarchists who think that attacking Melania is anti-feminist

“Feminism is about choice!”

We roll our eyes.

And then we hear the news that the march route has been scrapped.

That we must get to the White House through any means necessary.

Marchers stream down the Mall.

Down Madison.

Across bridges and under tunnels.

Past the Old Post Office

Where we yell “Shame!” at the curtained windows like a naked Cersei is walking through the streets of Kings Landing.

We walk along the inaugural parade route with bare-chested breast cancer survivors and old ladies who nod at our signs with approval.

I catch myself again about to cry.

Thinking about all these people with their stories

and their struggles

and their determination.

But I bottle it for later.

It is hard to tell whether the men wearing Patagonia are with us or against us.

So clean cut and neutral looking

as they watch the stream of us coursing down Pennsylvania Avenue.

We realize we probably don’t have time to get to the White House and back to our scheduled bus departure.

We shrug.

In the Intercontinental Hotel we see our first Trump supporters.

They look fake.

Equal parts well-heeled and obscene.

Unsophisticated and fancy.

They look at us with disgust

We look at them like we’re smarter than they are.

A helpful man behind the desk tells us where the nearest Metro stop is and we walk past a private reception for Women’s March supporters and an Ivanka Trump jewelry line advertisement as we leave the hotel.

Outside a float (or truck) of Trump supporters speeds past and an angry man shouts at them.

I experience my first flash of panic.

“This is when the violence starts,”

I say to my friend

and we head to the metro.

Which looks impenetrable.

So we keep walking.

We are welcomed into a Congregational Church by the nicest people ever

And I wonder how we can take our country back while also reclaiming Christianity as something that isn’t always fundamentalist.

We use their bathrooms and make some tea and head back to our bus parked at Howard.

We share stories with our bus companions.

One woman’s son flew out from California to be there and she found him in the crowd.

I wonder again if a particular ex-boyfriend was there.

It’s still foggy in Delaware when we drive back to New York

The rest stop is teeming with women in pink hats using the mens’ room because the rules don’t apply today.

When we arrive back on 34th Street it looks the same as it did 14 hours earlier.

But we know, we hope, that something has changed.

And the bottled tears stay bottled.

For next time.

Like what you read? Give kate mulley a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.