In the days since the unthinkable became undeniable, since the mocking jack-in-the-box lurking within the American electorate sprang forth Tuesday, I've been trying to find the words that fit this moment.
Let's use Lincoln's: "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies." And Donald Trump will be our president.
He stands before us all as living proof that the system is not rigged. The results may confound, may disappoint, may shatter sacred personal beliefs in the meaning of America to ourselves and to the world.
But it is in service to those personal beliefs about America that most of us approach our daily lives. Not consciously, of course, but genuinely and recognizably.
Our actions speak for themselves. And so do our votes, or lack thereof. I doubt that people who don't vote wake up on Election Day thinking, "I'm living the American dream."
As I stood in line at 7 a.m. as the polls opened at the Second Ward, Division 14, in South Philadelphia, I could see the same patient, resolute look on the faces of my neighbors as I saw on my wife and daughter.
We are the people. And we were about the people's business. And as President-elect Trump said in his acceptance speech the next morning, it is "Complicated business. Complicated."
As we stood in line outside the front door of the activities center at the former Southwark housing project at Fourth and Washington, a tiny, stooped woman carrying two plastic bags appeared.
She was hunched over, and her upturned face was no more than three feet off the ground. Her ancient freckled Asian face looked up at my wife pleadingly. She spoke no English.
She gestured with her bags that she wanted to put them down in front of us. She wanted to vote, and the back of the line now stretched down Fourth Street.
She winced as she slowly stood up and held her lower back with the palm of her right hand. At full height she was inches shorter than our 8-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, standing behind her.
My wife, Sara, offered to carry her bags. She shook her head, no. Two young women standing in front of us offered her a chair. She refused.
The tiny woman wore sandals and a black woolen flannel jacket. Her hair was tied in a bun held together by a plastic ballpoint pen. There was a ring on her wedding finger and an earring in each pierced ear.
Each time the line inched forward, she agonizingly picked up the bags, moved them a foot or two, and then squatted on her heels.
At each interval she massaged the swollen joints of her pained fingers. Once she wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket.
When she arrived at the election judges' table, they asked her name. She didn't understand. They repeated, then gestured. Finally, the word ID animated her.
She pulled everything out of her pockets, including her Social Security card and a Pennsylvania non-driver identification card.
Her surname is Thieu (pronounced two). She signed her name next to her upside-down signature in the voter registration book. She was voter No. 35, casting a ballot for her American dream.
I was number 36.
And as I watched her bent figure disappear behind the curtain, I could feel the swelling of what Lincoln called "the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and every patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land."
As divided as we seem, we've survived worse times as a nation and emerged stronger and better people. There's no place I'd rather be.