The governor and the glove
Received photo and following email from Ted Ganchiff, a friend in Chicago:
Yes. That is now ex-Governor Blagojevich holding my glove. I took the photo myself.
I took a train back from a physical in the north suburbs. On the train, I read that the now-Unhonorable Rod Blagojevich would be holding his final news conference outside his home, just an hour after the first impeachment in Illinois history and months of global head-shaking at how this man could have behaved so immorally.
Having lazily waved off the opportunity to experience the inspiration and hope of Obama’s recent acceptance speech just minutes from my home, I decided I would certainly not miss out on the grand finale of the soul-crushing Gubernatorial tragedy. Where I had missed serving witness to the culmination of a bold dream, I would avenge the mistake by serving witness to the death of a twisted and sad nightmare. A fair trade.
I walked from the train stop to his home, and found it besieged by news vans and klieg lights through which I soon delivered myself within arm’s reach of the man. It reminded me of sneaking to the front row of a general admission concert. I took off my right glove, and began snapping photos with my iPhone.
As the conference progressed through its predictable blather, a surprising thing happened. Rod Blagojevich began shaking hands, coming into the crowd as if campaigning for a position, instead of being voted out of one.
I would not participate in the banality. I would not shake the criminal’s hand, though my own hand was gloveless and shake-ready. So I backed off, evading him like a running back evades a linebacker, but in slow motion.
And in the process, I unknowingly dropped my damn glove.
He bent down, then stood as if addressing the citizens who had once been his to lead. “Did someone drop a glove?” I took a picture of him, holding up the glove, because it seemed such a hypocritical thing for him to do – as if he was the sort of civil person who just goes around picking up people’s gloves, out of the kindness of his heart.
My hand was really cold, so I started patting my coat pocket for my glove, and had the paralyzing thought: “Damn – that might be my glove.” I went up to him – his arm was relaxed now, at his side, but he had the glove tight, holding it as if it were his own. I knew he had stolen before – the Senate seat, medical care from needy children – so I was very much on guard. I bought that glove in Manhattan from a street vendor, perhaps a thief as well. Replacement was not a likely option.
Certain as I was about the identity of the glove, I felt, too, a creeping sense of uncertainty. As the now ex-Governor has said before the state Senate just hours before, “Have you proven a crime? Have you truly PROVEN a crime?” This man had fallen so low, and I was faced with accusing him yet again of wanting to possess that which was not his. But my glove was an icon of his civility – was it impossible to envision him in front of the court, testifying, “Would a man who returns the glove of a stranger steal so much from so many?” Could I play a part in his acquittal, by leaving him with evidence of his benevolence?
I had read on the train that his security detail had been stripped away with his governorship. I am a small man, but he is too, and I wondered if the physical struggle would go my way. But so many cameras! I would not be able to escape cleanly. And I could not say with absolute certainty that the glove was mine.
Be calm, I told myself. Convict, then punish. I taxed myself to play judge and jury all at once. I had heard him say, “Did someone drop a glove?” which suggested that he had found it. But perhaps this was a figure of speech? Like him, I work at home, and am not always quick on the uptake of new turns of phrases. A joke, perhaps it was a joke that I failed to understand? The setup had happened too fast, the klieg lights and media crush had been too disorienting. I could not hold court in this place.
Court, I thought, clawing my way through the logic. Evidence. OJ Simpson. The glove itself! Exhibit A was right before me – and it was more incriminating than any wiretap.
I took a step towards him, stood just off his right cheek, so close we could have embraced. I stooped, dropping my head, my eyes closing in to meet the glove, looking like a man trying to read a street address in the dark, if the address were a few inches from an indicted ex-governor’s crotch.
I rose. I have never felt the satisfaction of identifying a lost glove clutched by a global villain during a major press event. But I can tell you it was powerful.
We were now face to face, and our eyes met. He, who had fallen so far and stood as an example of the greed of our times, had become a worldwide whipping boy, had schemed to sell the soul of the nation. Me, a man who had suddenly found himself with only one glove. In a way, and for a moment, we were equals.
I raised my hand, but not in anger. I had learned a lifetime’s worth of lessons in an instant. There would be no violence, no accusations. There had been enough suffering.
I tapped his shoulder.
“I think that’s my glove.”
He squared his shoulders to mine. He, too, was learning from this moment. But would it be enough?
“Is this yours?”
I knew the answer to his question, and so did he, but we both knew a much larger question had been asked. And while I could not be his teacher for what was to come, I could give him one answer, one answer of which I was absolutely and completely certain.
This was the first time I had ever felt that I did not take a glove – but instead, that a glove was given.
I didn’t turn to look back, as I walked away, but I knew. I knew he was watching, this man who had said too much, and only now, too late, was throttling his speech. “Wait!” he wanted to cry out. “Please, wait!”
But he and I had come too far, and, perhaps, had come together too late. He did not speak. I stayed my course.
In China, a glove might symbolize hope and renewal, but this was not China – this was Ravenswood. The night was cold, but my hand and heart were warm.