Going into the election night party, there was no clear frontrunner. We knew it was going to be a long night with the final tally coming late in the evening. The staff and I were throwing back shots of ice cold Jack Daniels in a back room tucked away from the high falutin party. We were all sick of one another and yet were in this life situation together and wanted to succeed together. A collective sigh of relief and cheers occurred when the local news station predicted our candidate as the winner. More shots were taken in celebration and then we all went home to pass out from weeks of campaign exhaustion and copious amounts of bourbon.
The next week was a total whirlwind. All of the campaign staff were given immediate positions in Washington, DC. Since it was a mid term special election, we had exactly eight days to pack up, find an apartment, and get moved. I had never even visited DC and here I was moving to it. As I wrestled with what to pack and what to leave behind, I also realized I needed to break off my relationship with my college boyfriend. I knew that my new job in a new city would be a lot to handle and balancing a long distance relationship on top of that was going to be too much. I climbed into the passenger seat of the U-Haul moving truck with my anxious mind and grief as I mourned the end of a loving relationship. The tears just started flowing and my dad, the driver, didn’t even ask because he just knew.
Adjusting to the DC political culture was especially difficult for me. The attitude of everyone being so important and demanding respect was exhausting. I had been raised in the deep south and taught that you were only as good as your word. In DC, people were fake, full of lies, and ready to backstab their way up the political ladder. That’s probably why I was drawn to him in the first place because he didn’t subscribe to this power hungry culture. Politically, Kevin was very important as the Chief of Staff for an Illinois Senator. But, he did not take himself too seriously and he enjoyed poking fun at those who did. There was something different and relaxed about him that I couldn’t ignore. He was laid back and drank PBRs after work when everyone else sipped more pretentious drinks like dirty martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives. He also wore a nicely trimmed beard when most young men on Capitol Hill were clean shaven. My southern parents would have died knowing that I enjoyed the company of a midwestern man. To them, everyone born outside the South was a yankee or a Californian. That was probably another reason I liked him.
Whenever we were together, he never checked his phone. This was unheard of in DC. People would dine on $50 steaks and $400 bottles of wine at The Prime Rib with phones littering the table for the entire meal. He’d invite me to VIP cocktail parties in DuPont Circle and never leave my side to go mingle with others. We’d attend stuffy corporate suites at the Nationals game and after 20 minutes he’d whisper to me, let’s get out of here and do something fun. Knowing both sides of Kevin was addicting as I felt like it was our little secret of what he really enjoyed doing with his time versus what his colleagues thought he enjoyed.
After four months of dating, I was shocked when he got down on one knee during our weekly Wednesday night karaoke outing. We’d be been drinking a $5 pitcher of Miller Lite and enjoying the people watching and singing. The DJ was blaring Beyonce’s Single Ladies and a few drunk sorority girls were trying to put on a show. I had no idea that we’d be the main event for the evening. As he yelled over the music about how much he loved my zest for life, how I made him so relaxed and happy, and how he wanted that to be his forever, I couldn’t help but think, what if we had lost the election?